An old picture of The Sultan Abdul Samad Building (left) and a recent picture.
The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station
Gian Singh Building
KL Municipal Building and Town Hall.

A banker shares his collection of old and new photos of buildings in Kuala Lumpur and other major cities online, writes Izwan Ismail

THERE are many unique and beautiful heritage buildings in Kuala Lumpur and other cities in Malaysia, built before Merdeka.

Today, these structures like the Sultan Abdul Samad building, the KTM building and the FMS Survey Office continue to be tourist attractions.

For banker and photo enthusiast Mat Zain Abdullah, his passion is to capture images of these buildings, do some research and share the information with the public via his blog and Flickr websites and

“Heritage buildings are precious assets for the nation. They are priceless. If you tear them down, they will vanish forever,” says the 46-year-old father of four, who spends his weekends and free time documenting these buildings.


With the blog and Flickr sites, Zain hopes to fulfil two main purposes. Firstly, to provide accurate information on our various heritage buildings; and secondly, to become a reliable sources of reference for students, tour guides and researchers.

He takes care in ensuring the information provided in the blog is retrieved from reliable sources such as newspaper cuttings which can be retrieved online, and books by recognised writers in architectural heritage.

“Heritage buildings teach us about the history of our nation as they are the only things that remain when those who built them, occupied them and were otherwise involved with them have long left us,” says Zain.

“The heritage structures also provide tangible connections to our past . Moreover, historic buildings provide character and charm to the city . They also become a tourist attraction and can help generate income for the city,” he adds.


Zain’s passion for heritage buildings is synonymous with his hobby in photography. His passion for photography started earlier after he purchased his film SLR Nikon F80 in 2003.

“I started shooting anything that tickled my fancy including beautiful heritage and modern buildings. Later, I discovered that buildings are best photographed under contrasting light to accentuate their three-dimensionality,” he says.

“Over time, my curiosity intensified and I became more keen to dig further information about the buildings that I photographed. That was how I developed the passion.

“In other words, photography has introduced me to another subject of interest, which is architectural heritage.”


The old pictures of heritage buildings on Zain’s sites were either downloaded from the Internet or snapped from books.

“They are for the purpose of comparison between how they look now and how they looked in their original form,” he says.


Through his work, he also hopes to share with international readers that Malaysia has a rich architectural heritage, especially in places such as Kuala Lumpur, George Town, Ipoh and Kuching.

“We have historic buildings inherited from the Portuguese, Dutch and British. We also have our own architectural heritage, which depicts the superb craftsmanship by the various ethnic groups ,” he says.

“This indirectly promotes Malaysia as a tourist destination, especially if potential travellers are interested in architectural heritage.”

Zain plans to expand his work to make it a unique portal or a one-stop centre for people to learn, exchange their knowledge and discuss their ideas on both heritage buildings and architectural photography.


• The Sultan Abdul Samad Building was the first grand public building erected by the British colonial government in 1897 and remains the largest one. Did you know that its 45-metre tall clock tower was built to replicate the Big Ben of London?

• The old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station was voted by the Architectural Digest website as one of the 24 most beautiful railway stations in the world. It was said by foreign travellers of yesteryear as resembling a Sultan’s palace rather than a train station.

• The Ubudiah Mosque of Kuala Kangsar was a grand mosque in its time, not only in Malaya but also in Southeast Asia when it was completed in 1917.

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