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Architecture, Power, and National Identity Essay

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Having a sense of belonging is one of several fundamental human needs and national identity refers to a person’s sense of belonging to one country with its history, values and traditions. Since achieving independence in 1957, the issue of Malaysia’s national identity has been in the spotlight due to its strong social, political and economical factors implication. As a multi-cultural country, the search for a national identity is not an easy undertaking as Malaysians consist of different ethnics such as Malay, Chinese and Indian. Each ethnic group contributes their own unique culture and religion, hence making it difficult to form a Malaysian identity. In fact, in September 2010, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced the 1 Malaysia concept. This concept acts as a call-for-action for the government leaders and bodies to place a greater emphasis on national unity and ethnic tolerance. This demonstrates that even at present day, Malaysia’s national identity remains unsettled. Architecture plays an important role in achieving national identity and this essay aims to discuss the significant events that transpire throughout the history of the country that contributed in shaping and altering Malaysian vernacular architecture as well as to examine why Malaysia’s national identity still remains unsettled.

The role of vernacular architecture in the 21st century has been kept to a minimum, given the practice of modern-day architects placing aesthetic quality above function, comfort, or ecological benefits. Vernacular architecture is defined by the understanding that form follows function and there is a prevalent usage of local materials taking into consideration the manner of how its intended user will utilise the structure. Vernacular ...


... middle of paper ...


...cology and Ethics in Design and Architecture

John Hilley, Malaysia: Mahathirism, Hegemony and the New Opposition (London: Zed Books, 2001). Mahathir’s role in initiating this search for Malaysia identity in architecture was further affirmed in an interview with Tay Kheng Soon, 29 July 2004.

The headman’s house, Chen, Voon Fee “Architecture” The Encyclopaedia of Malaysia (Singapore: Archipelago Press,1998)

Yeang, Ken The Architecture of Malaysia (Amsterdam: The Pepin Press, 1992)

Oakman “Young Asians in our homes: Colombo Plan students and White Australia”p89

Oakman, Daniel “Young Asians in our homes: Colombo Plan students and White Australia” Journal of
Australian Studies | (1 January 2002) 72, pp. 89-98

http://blogs.artinfo.com/objectlessons/2012/05/09/malaysia-looks-to-local-talents-and-vernacular-architecture-to-design-public-transit-system/


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