Wednesday, October 21, 2009


One of the main attractions that draws both foreign and local tourists to Kuala Lumpur is the rich diversity of our architectural heritage found within the city itself. Our architectural heritage buildings are those that we inherit from the past or defined as at least forty years old buildings.

The best part is that all these architectural heritage are within walking distance to each other!This is especially so in our heritage square where the buildings are mostly distributed around the Sultan Abdul Samad building and also around the Malayan Railway station area

However I cannot help being sad when I see all the tourists coming all the way to Kuala Lumpur just to look and appreciate at all these wondrous buildings without knowing the history of such buildings and the glory of times past. All these buildings are frozen footprints in the sand that marked the progress of the city to what it is today. Sadder still is to to see some of the famous heritage buildings being demolished and even left as derelicts. This is the fate of the Hotel Majestic and the Main Railway station. I doubt such things would have happened in United Kingdom where the society and even Prince Charles believe in the conservation of past heritage buildings. Sometimes I feel our government is not serious enough or is whole hearted in trying to conserve such heritage. There are many buildings in the University Malaya which holds so much history for the nation have been demolished to make way for poorly designed buildings. Gone are the classical concrete lamp posts which are replaced with cheap aluminum street lights, gone are the original Chemistry building,the Student Union building and even the classic bus stops of the past. Even the Great Hall or the Dewan Tunku Chancellor now looks more like a discotheque rather than the serious solemn hall where graduates of the past have lined up to earn their degrees.

Unless something is done properly it is a matter of time when all our heritage buildings will be gone and developed into shopping complexes, apartments and hotels.

In order to appreciate the existence of these beautiful architecture in Kuala Lumpur, we need to know important historical developments of Kuala Lumpur and how factors of history such influence of the colonizers influence the architecture of Kuala Lumpur itself. In this aspect we can divide the architectural heritage into three main phases:
1 British influence- Role of British architects
2 Early Chinese influence- Traditional Chinese architecture
3 Merdeka era buildings- the search for national identity

The selection of these three groups of influences are attributed to their significant contribution to the heritahe architecture of Kuala Lumpur and also these groups build buildings out of brick and concrete that can withstand the test of time compared to wooden buildings. In a way it is sad to admit that despite the country Malay population dominance, it never really leave any significant architectural heritage impact in terms of genuine Malay buildings to be appreciated in Kuala Lumpur.The best example of Malay architectural heritage is probably the Istana Lama in Seri Menanti in Negri Sembilan and not in Kuala Lumpur. Even that, requires the nod from the British architect :)

While it’s true that the Portuguese and the Dutch exert their influence earlier on Peninsular Malaya, but most of their architectural influence are just restricted to Malacca. They have no interest in exerting their influence beyond Malacca. The British have more interest in administering the whole nation as shown by their involvement in governing the country through their British resident advisers. This also explains why the British stayed long enough in the country until Malaya achieved her independence in 1957

It was the British that encouraged the migration of Chinese and Indian workers to run their business interests in Malaya. Historically that the development of Kuala Lumpur at the muddy confluence of the two main rivers; Sungai Klang and Sungai Gombak. The river confluence is the heart of the city and till today the point of meeting of the two rivers is still there, although now it looks more like a concrete monsoon drain.

It was at this confluence that led Yap Ah Loy to develop the area into a thriving business area which in years become the city as we know it today. The influence of the Chinese business community and their tradition could still be felt in the rows of two storey houses built by the Chinese all over Kuala Lumpur. It is a architectural sight to behold although not enough publicity is given to it except in the famous water colours of Victor Chin

Despite the contribution of Yap Ah Loy in the founding of Kuala Lumpur, we must show our gratitude and appreciation to the British who left their marks in the design and construction of the various buildings which lasts till today due to their use of mortar and bricks. Wooden buildings would not be able to withstand the ravages of time!

The British have a long traditional history of architecture as early as the Medieval ages in Britain. Throughout the time of their architectural evolution they have not only influenced their colonies but are also influenced by the nations they colonized.The British architects too are influenced by the knowledge of architecture established in other countries such as Roman and even Grecian influences

The impact of British architecture is seen by the rich varied tapestry of British architecture are still to be found in Kuala Lumpur. Typical of the British they will try to transplant their lifestyles and architecture into mini England in the lands they colonized

Why did the British colonisers built such fine architectural buildings in the first place. Definitely it was not for the gracious presentations to the locals or the countries colonized. The British in the first place were not keen to relinquish their empire or colonies. The main reason they came here in the first place was to exploit the wealth and economics of the nation. It was most probably the design of such fine buildings are for their own comfort and administration. They would probably were not keen to give this country her independence. It was never for the sake of bequeathing the buildings to the locals! In India the presence of the British and the design of such beautiful buildings are more symbolism of the British Masters to be regarded as the Great Rajahs

Some of the finest heritage buildings in Kuala Lumpur are the products of the design of British architects. These public buildings are constructed under the supervision of British architects who were attached with the Public Works Department or PWD. Among the most noted British architects were Arthur Charles Alfred Norman, Arthur Benison Hubback and Charles Edwin Spooner and RAJ Bidwell.It should be noted here that although Frank Swettenham is not an architect but he left significant impact on Kuala Lumpur architecture by insisting certain building rules be followed such as the compulsion to build brick shop houses and government buildings and the provisions for walkaways of at least a few feet to provide shelter against the sun and the rain

Norman was responsible for buildings such as Sultan Abdul Samad Building , St. Mary's Church, Selangor Club Building, Victoria Institution and Carcosa. The architectural style of Norman’s works are more of hybrids reflecting Moorish, Tudor, Neo Classical and Gothic influences

Two forms of pure British architecture; Tudorian and Victorian styles are easily found in Kuala Lumpur. While the Tudorian architecture showed distinctive styles and characteristics, the Victorian style is more representative of buildings built during the Victorian era

We have uniquely British architecture shown by the Tudorian style Selangor Club as well by St Mary’s Cathederal. The St Mary cathedral architecture includes Gothic infusion into the Tudorian design

It should be noted that the original Selangor Club was razed by fire in the 70’s. The existing Selangor club is a mocked Tudorian Selangor club of yester years. The original Selangor club was a unique place where British expatriates and planters retain their unique British lifestyle

The characteristics of Tudorian style shown by the Selangor club includes Tudorian features such as:
• Decorative half-timbering
• Steeply pitched roof
• Prominent cross gables
• Tall, narrow windows
• Small window panes
• Massive chimneys, often topped with decorative chimney pots

The St Mary's cathederal although is basically a Tudorian in style but is with the infusion of English Gothic elements such as its pointed arches, vaulted roofs, buttresses, large windows, and spires.A.C. Norman,was the government architect responsible for the design of the St Mary's cathederal

The other popular forms of buildings which are commonly found in Kuala Lumpur are those buildings which are beautifully Victorian. Examples of Victorian style buildings in Kuala Lumpur are famous school buildings such as Methodist Boys School, Convent Bukit Nanas, the Victorian Institution. Other Non school buildings exhibiting Victorian style includes Industrial Court Building and the old Coliseum Theater.

The British architects even went further in designing buildings which have inputs from India as well the Moorish architecture. This type often called as Indo Sarcenic influence could be seen in a group of beautiful buildings in Kuala Lumpur such as the Sultan Abdul Samad building, the Kuala Lumpur Railway station among others.
In choosing the Indo Sarcenic architecture in their buildings, the British have directly or indirectly pleased the majority of the Malay population of the country. The Malay population are mostly Islamic and easily accepts the Islamic form of architecture of the Arabs. The fact that the majority of the mosques in the country with minarets and domes is the proof of such architectural affinity
The buildings designed and built by the British which exhibit Indo Sarcenic sty;e are typified by the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the Kuala Lumpur railway station. These beautiful designs are more like buildings that emanate from the Tales of 1001 nights where we have beautiful onion or bulbous domes coming complete with tall minarets that reach skywards. The buildings too often come with pointed arches, over hanging eaves and balconies.
Most tourists find it almost unbelievable that such beautiful palace like buildings are in fact a railway station. The Sultan Abdul Samad with its huge black dome and large round face clock is Kuala Lumpur’s equivalent to the Big Ben of Westminster Abbey in London. The Sultan Abdul Samad building was initially a town hall built in 1897. The Sultan Abdul Samad building inspired the design of other buildings in this heritage zone.


The importation of Chinese labour or workers to open and operate the tin mines not only develop the economy of the nation but also influence the architecture of Kuala Lumpur. As the Chinese are not only powerful economic dynamos, their culture and beliefs are brought to the fore front in the design of buildings in Kuala Lumpur.The role of Feng Shui and the accommodation to the hot and humid tropical climate influence the kind of buildings in Kuala Lumpur

The input of chinese architecture into the architecture of Kuala lumpur ranged from ornate mansions, clan houses, temples and the humble shop houses. This is especially seen in the early years of Kuala Lumpur where the streets are lined with shop houses which are uniquely Chinese in design, Some of these shops still exist especially around Petaling street.

These shop houses are often rows of two storey buildings lining the streets. The ground floor is used for conducting business and the first floor for residence. These shop houses are often with covered verandahs to provide protection against the rain and the sun

Most interesting about these Chinese shop houses are that they are built with fung shui in mind and they invest in ornamental appearance. Occasionally they even embed the date of the building was built.
Besides shop houses Chinese architecture are highlighted in the design of their temples and clan houses


After decades under various colonizers, the nation claimed its right to independence and sovereignty on 31 August 1957. In the haste to celebrate its independence the nation rapidly start in buildings that physically manifest the eight identities or symbolisms of the new nation.

While attempting to come up with the bona fide Malaysian design the architects are constrained too by the weather and climate. There are tendency to incorporate sunshades louvres and verandahs in all aspects of their Malaysian design

The buildings were Parliament as monument symbolising parliamentary democracy, the National Mosque symbolizing freedom of worship even though the mosque is Muslims to pray, University Malaya which symbolizes education , Stadiums Merdeka and Negara for healthy body and mind, the National Monument symbolizing the warriors' sacrifices for the nation, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka for the national language and the National Museum for national culture.

In the search for the national identity perhaps only the National Museum passes the criteria. The design of the Museum based on the Malay house is simple, yet it possessed all the qualities of fine architecture.

There are other modern day buildings which still attempt to reach for the Malaysia design such as Menara Telekom, Menara Maybank ,The National Library building and the Kuala Lumpur Istana Budaya . However in my opinion they do not succeed as the Malay buildings are restricted by size and materials of construction such as wood. Building massive concrete Malaysian roofs like Bank Bumiputra and even National Museuem is not really a success

The national mosque is the symbolism of Islam being the national religion of Malaysia. It is located in the proximity of the Kuala Lumpur railway station. In its search to reflect the Malaysian identity it tried not to align with the accepted traditional Moorish design of a mosque. The design of the mosque tries to take a bold and modern approach in modern reinforced concrete.
The unique feature of the Malaysian mosque is the use of close and open umbrella for the dome and the minaret. Sad to say this attempt resulted in futility as mosques which were built later in Shah Alam and Putrajaya still goes for the classical Moorish design.
The strength of the design of the building actually depends on the mural which depicts a Sikh, Indian, Malay, Chinese and Eurasian all united through one language
The Merdeka stadium was especially significant as it was where the national independence was officially declared witnessed by the Sultans of all the states in Malaya and thousands of cheering Malaysians.
The history of Merdeka stadium is quirky in itself. After its construction and over the years it was even renovated and then almost fall into disuse, it was resurrected in its original forms fifty years later by conservation architect to bring back the spirit of Merdeka.
The National Monument or Tugu Negara. was built to commemorate a symbolic victory over the communists guerrillas as the Emergency ended in 1960.
The monument is the work of an American sculptor Felix de Weldon based on Iwo Jima memorial. It is sad to note that the soldiers of the monument reflect a western built body and not the Malay soldier
The parliament building is the symbolism of democracy of the nation and is famous in the pineapple skin design

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Thursday, October 15, 2009


I seemed to feel that the concept of using immobilizing cells for fermentation technology has been over rated. In theory the idea of using immobilized cells in fermentation technology is good. The assumption is that there is higher number of microorganisms per unit volume compared to equivalent volume of the fermentation broth. This tends to give the feeling of advantage of stochiometry that is; more cells means more product and higher conversion of the substrate into the fermentation products.

What is not often taken into view is that:
1 There is the difference in the physiology and metabolism between suspended cells and attached cells. Immobilized cells tend to have higher metabolic rates
2 There are problems of mass transfer of nutrients, waste products in and out of the immobilized cells
3 The immobilized cells are under stress that might lead to different fermentation products being formed instead of the the main product we are interested
4 Most of the cells in the deeper part of the biofilm are not really functioning metabolically or even alive
5 Its difficult to apply the growth curve with fermentation product as function of the growth curve of suspended cells

There should not be a rush into this biotechnology but instead to carry further research in all aspects of the metabolism and physiology of the attached cells before rushing to apply it into the fermentor configuration

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009


For this one instance I am not going to write about fermentation technology. Instead I will be copying one of my daughters' essay. This essay describes her moment of her life before entering Seoul National University. Here goes...

It's snowing again today. And it's still snowing as I'm typing away this post.

There's just something very peaceful and serene about the falling snowflakes. The way they sometimes swirl around in random motion before finally settling down on the ground. And just as quickly, change their paths into a more direct motion. Falling straight in one direction. Then changing again, dictated by the whims of the wind.

It is a time for reflection. Especially since I feel like I can relate so well to the falling flakes.

Just like that period of time before it's going to snow. The sudden drop of temperature. A strong chill exists in the air. And no matter how strongly you turn on your heater, you just can't get completely warm. In that moment, you just know that it's gonna snow soon.

It's the anticipation.

You feel it in the air. Something big is going to happen. Something you have no control over. And just like how when you're finally greeted by the sight of snow, it is an amazing experience. Because suddenly your world is coloured differently.

Of course, it brings with it its own set of implications. But for the moment when the change is taking place, the only thing that matters at the moment is that change is happening.

You're well aware, hidden in that corner in your mind, that something else would come. That a few hours later when the snow melts away and hardens into ice, the ground would be slippery. You could slip. And you could fall and be bruised.

That's exactly how I feel right now. I can feel that something big is going to happen. Yet another chapter of my life is closing. And as I lift the corner of the last page, I can see random exposed words of the next page. You just can't help but read whatever was visible in that shortest flash of time. The words give you a clue. Random hints.

And your heart skips a little. In that moment, so many things could happen at the same time. In one second, your mind reviews the past, and skips right ahead to the future. You then go on to realize that the past was so cleverly crafted to bring you to where you are right now. That whatever that's happening at this time, may it be good or bad, plays the role of laying down the bricks for the road of what's to come.

It's going to snow soon in my life.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009


Investing into a wastewater treatment system is not really a very attractive option for factories and manufacturing plants. In most cases they have to have the WWTP in order to get the license to operate the manufacturing facility. In other cases they are forced into getting a WWTP due to legislative action and non compliance of environmental regulations

It is a fact that choosing the right WWTP is not an easy matter as it means that the factory have to invest money to buy construct operate and maintain the WWTP

One of the main criteria in deciding the right WWTP is that the WWTP must be able to treat the wastewater to reach the mandatory level of effluent treatment. There is nothing to negotiate on this point.

However most factories would like to cut costs and cut corners to reduce the amount of investment. Most regard investing in WWTP is a non profitable activity which brings no financial returns.

They will call for tenders for contractors that are able or promise to achieve the effluent standards. However, in most cases after the WWTP is completed it only works in the first few months. Then the problem starts……

In many cases these companies do not ask for independent reviews from other consultants to ensure that they are not taking chances. Even their own engineers cannot provide valuable input into the choice of the best WWTP because most times these engineers they employ work on the production floor but not the WWTP

The key aspect they are looking for are:
1 Cheap cost of the WWTP
2 Low utilization of energy

Cheap does not mean it is always good. It just give the contractor a lower profit margin and that their tender have a stronger chance of being accepted

Choosing WWTP that will not use much energy. The factories do not like to pay for high utility bills. This is understandable. However they will end up very disappointed when in the end the WWTP does not live up to their requirements. Then who is to be blamed?

WWTP is not a simple system. It is in fact a very complex bioreactor or fermentor. Anything can go wrong! It is far easier to operate a normal fermentor than a WWTP!

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Sunday, October 4, 2009


Everybody knows why we carry out sampling. We carry out samplings or obtaining samples so that we can have information or data of the system being sampled. The samples obtained are analyzed and the data obtained are used by us so that we can “extrapolate” or “guess” about the composition status of the system being studied.

In certain systems being studied such as fermenters, they are even equipped with specific purpose built sampling ports where samples can be obtained for analyses.

The sampling ports are often designed more for the ease of sampling or aseptic integrity rather than for the purpose of a truly representative sample!

It is very important in any sampling that the samples obtained are truly representative of the system so as to truly reflect the composition of the system. A non truly representative sample will have the tendency to give inaccurate reading. As they often say, the results obtained are as good as the sample itself. Analyses of the sample is only valid for the sample itself and will not truly reflect the status of the system.

Many users of fermentors when using the samplers do not often reflect the weak links in the process of sampling and to put complete trust that the samples they obtained are very accurate and reflecting the real composition of the fermentation process.

It is important that since a lot depend on the samples and sampling process itself that a proper sampling plan be properly prepared to take into account the weaknesses of such samplings.

They need to carry out preliminary studies and validate their sampling procedures so that their data is acceptable and trust worthy. One of the key areas they must look into is the homogeneity of the fermentor content and statistical validity of their sampling

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