Conservation in Sarawak: The Case of the Old Kuching Courthouse

Mike BOON, John TING

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The Old Kuching Courthouse (1874) was the second of ten buildings to be
gazetted as a Historical Monument by the state government of Sarawak, (in Malaysia,) since the legislation was introduced in 1971. Originally the Public Offices of the colonial Brooke government, it was taken over by Kuching’s courts by the 1970s. In 2000, the courts were moved, and the government decided to conserve and adaptively reuse the Courthouse as a tourism-based facility. This project was completed in 2003, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia. On the face of it, this was a model heritage project – not only was it completed on time, to the client’s requirements, and following the best practice of the time as laid out by the Burra Charter, it also went on to win national and regional architecture and heritage awards. However, its successes mask the relative newness of contemporary heritage practice in the state, as well as a number of gaps and inadequacies in Sarawak’s heritage legislation and administration. This relative unfamiliarity and legislative uncertainty, coupled with the political desires of the client body, created a tension that affected the process of conserving and adaptively reusing the courthouse. This paper explores the successes and failures of the approaches, tactics and strategies employed by the conservation architects in the process of the design, procurement and construction of the project; in the context of a developing conservation
environment in Sarawak.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFabulation: Myth, Nature, Heritage
Subtitle of host publicationThe Proceedings of the 29th Annual Conference of SAHANZ
Place of PublicationLaunceston
PublisherSociety of Architectural Historians Australia New Zealand
Number of pages139
ISBN (Print)9781862956582
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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