The Sultan Suleiman Club in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur, founded in 1909, is the oldest and most prominent club created exclusively for the Malay community. The earliest clubhouse, of timber construction and thatched roof, was destroyed in a fire in 1930, and subsequently a new building was constructed in 1932, of bricks and concrete structure, with enclosure of timber panels and clay roof tiles. By the mid 30’s, the club had become a favourite gathering place for various Malay associations and became historically significant when the first Malay Congress that led to the formation of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) was held there in 1946 (This is a subject of debate between Johor and Selangor UMNO around the time of the officiation ceremony of this replica building, but nevertheless, our article refers to Bernama and other official sources). Lamentably, by 1967, this clubhouse structure had fallen into a state of disrepair and was demolished to make room for a new building, a modern clubhouse which is still operational today.
In early 2007, Jafri Merican Architect was appointed by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, Malaysia, to design an accurate replica of the 1932 clubhouse, to be reconstructed as authentically as possible, given the absence of any of the original working drawings, which after consulting with numerous sources, were deemed no longer available. To overcome this constraint, old photographs were studied, interviews conducted with senior citizens who frequented the club prior to 1967, and site visits carried out on various colonial buildings of similar period and construction type. These type of buildings, predominantly located in old towns such as Taiping , Kuala Kangsar, and Tapah among others, were studied and photographed to ascertain the type of materials used, sizes of timber elements, method of construction, and the prevalent architectural style used in expressing building details during the 1920s to 30s colonial period.
Initial working drawings were prepared and presented to the Museum and Antiquities Department of the Ministry, and the Sultan Suleiman Club committee. Based on their feedback, drawings were refined to produce the final agreed scheme, approved for submission to authorities; and due to constraints of a tight construction schedule, the calling of a design and build tender. Upon award of the contract, our firm was appointed to work directly under the design and build contractor to produce details concurrent with the progress of construction work.
During this stage our efforts were directed towards preparing construction detailed drawings and advising the contractor regarding material selection and sizes of timber elements to be used. Timber sawmills which could produce the required plank sizes were sought and identified, as were suppliers for materials such as clay roof tiles of the ‘Marseille’ profile and u-shaped metal gutters and rainwater downpipes similar to those used during the colonial period. Ultimately, It is the selection of correct materials and construction details that gives authenticity to the completed building.
Construction works were certified practically complete in late November 2007, and the building was officiated by HRH The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah on the 8th of December 2007.