Conservation of heritage buildings not solely represents the only most seen facet of our previous historical past and tradition, it additionally offers a way of id and continuity in a fast-changing world for future generations.
This was the rationale behind Encomas Sdn Bhd spending 18 painstaking months to revive the sweetness and nostalgia of a 120-year-old derelict constructing and reworking it into the hip and stylish Caffe Diem @ Pekan Cina, the primary homegrown third-wave specialty cafe in Alor Setar, Kedah.
Its efforts in preserving the character and a dwelling piece of historical past garnered the developer the distinguished FIABCI Malaysia Property Award 2018 underneath the Heritage (Restoration/Conservation) class.
“We are proud to have ‘accidentally’ generated a new lease of life for a historical landmark, which then brought about a domino effect for the entire town,” laughed Encomas managing director Datuk Rick Cheng.
“It has but to completely sink in that Caffe Diem was the catalyst that set off the transformation of Pekan Cina or China City, the earliest city in Alor Setar, right into a vibrant vacationer enclave.
“But now that we have won, we have to perform even better for the recognition comes with great responsibility. The accolade, the first for Alor Setar, is not only for Caffe Diem alone but also for the whole Pekan Cina community,” he stated.
Caffe Diem proprietor Jackie Lavatory added that the popularity would additional encourage different like-minded entrepreneurs to return in and develop the world. This is able to add selection and spark visible curiosity inside the city.
“Like people, buildings too have stories to tell. More so for heritage architecture that form an integral part of a place’s charm and character. We are honoured to have restored the building into a living museum for the enjoyment of all,” he stated.
Wealthy Historical past
The most original half about Pekan Cina is that it’s situated subsequent to Pekan Melayu (Malay City), making it a logo of racial concord the place everybody co-exists peacefully. Having fun with a strategic duo frontage within the coronary heart of Pekan Cina, the stated constructing was constructed by the British Malaya as a jail in 1896.
As the location confronted Jalan Penjara Lama, it was named Penjara Lama (Previous Jail Constructing). Standing regally with beautiful Roman architectural influences, a lot of the double-storey buildings alongside Jalan Penjara Lama have been constructed across the 1800s.
Earlier than the Japanese occupation of Malaya in 1941, the jail was relocated to its present premises at Jalan Sultanah and the previous constructing was bought to a personal proprietor from Penang. The new proprietor divided the bottom flooring into 4 smaller shoplots.
The first and second tons (from the left) have been leased to a salted fish service provider, third to a tobacco leaf dealer and fourth to a vegetable cum provisional store proprietor with the corporate identify Keow Hin & Co, of which the identify continues to be preserved on the entrance of the constructing.
The whole first flooring that used to deal with the three jail cells have been transformed into an opium den, and when opium was banned, the proprietor turned the den into price range rooms. He occupied the main bedroom together with his household and the remainder of the rooms have been leased out to labourers working at and round Pekan Cina.
For the final 30 years, the lot that was beforehand occupied by Keow Hin & Co was rented out as a noodle store whereas the remainder of the constructing was left deserted.
The possession of the constructing had modified palms a number of occasions over the many years till Encomas took over in 2014.
The 120-year-old construction, which had been deserted for the final 30 years, was restored to its former glory based mostly on the sustainable idea of “going back to basic, simplicity and our roots.”
In response to Cheng, the target was to retain the constructing’s old-world appeal as a lot as attainable utilizing conventional craftsmanship for “we want the building to stand tall for another 100 years and more!”
The tedious restoration works commenced in late 2014 beneath the experience of architect cum designer Ar Muhamad Azimin Shafie of Azimin Architect.
The contractor was the daddy and son workforce of Cheng Meng Chia and Cheng Ching. They’ve labored on a few of the store homes in Pekan Cina earlier than and are thus conversant in the architectural design.
Some 80% of the timber was infested by termite, together with the timber louvre window, whereas 30% of the concrete slab on the primary flooring wanted to get replaced. No matter that might be salvaged was recycled into numerous furnishing for the cafe.
The developer determined to cowl the open air courtyard with a laminated low-E glass and metal beam construction to ask pure mild and air flow into the constructing.
The entire premises was put in with 100% LED bulbs to save lots of power and water-efficient faucets and twin flush sanitary ware to preserve water. The inside was “greened” with odourless low VOC paint.
These inexperienced initiatives earned Caffe Diem the excellence of being the primary in Kedah to be recognised with the GreenRE Silver Certification for non-residential class. It additionally gained the PAM Award 2017 (Conservation).
In addition to development challenges, Cheng stated one of many major difficulties was getting the fitting expert staff for the job as craftsmen with conventional expertise are a uncommon discover on this trendy age.
“The two wooden staircases were handcrafted to the exact measurement from 120 years ago. Such were the details and passion that went into preserving the building.”
The first flooring is transformed right into a single huge room – The Tunku Room – to cater to non-public features, and the main bedroom that was as soon as the house of the previous proprietor into a personal eating room – The China Room – since Caffe Diem is situated in Pekan Cina.
The Hanging Perahu Kedah on the enclosed double-volume courtyard is yet one more eye-opener with three giant conventional row boats suspendd from the glass roof.
This room was created in reminiscence of the Founding Father of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah (1903 – 1990).
“As Kedahans, this is a very meaningful room for us. Caffe Diem through the creation of The Tunku Room is proud to present our very own Anak Kedah, who from a humble prince rose to become the Father of Malaysia to all Malaysians,” exclaimed Cheng.
Hanging on the partitions are pictures of Tunku, his framed signature and handwritten article. The cafe had additionally hosted Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, each Anak Kedah, final yr.
The premier used to function a clinic in Pekan Melayu simply throughout the road again within the days.
With its partitions painted China pink to evoke the nostalgic feeling of the great previous days, The China Room is infused with native tradition and modern arts.
All of the work exhibited, depicting the native scenes of our multi-racial society, are by Kedah-born artist Lee Choon Kooi.
Occupying the center of the room is a home made trapezoid desk and hanging above it are 5 superbly handcrafted Chinese language lanterns by Ipoh-born artisan Chuen Mun Wai. The white opium day mattress is now for patrons to take a seat again and loosen up over a superb cuppa and delectable desserts.
The China Room with its native flavours and influences is a transparent reflection of Encomas and Caffe Diem’s unwavering help for the native artwork scene and tradition.
Hanging Perahu Kedah
This masterpiece was the brainchild of the undertaking architect who prompt that “we should hang something meaningful that represents Kedah rather than some expensive chandelier.”
The boats, which have been no less than 90 years previous, have been owned by a pakcik (uncle) who lives alongside Anak Bukit River. They have been utilized by his great-grandfather and grandfather as the primary transportation mode within the early 1900s.
The perahu have been lovingly restored to their pristine situation by former conventional perahu maker Md Amin Bakar. “We not only want to preserve the history of the Perahu Kedah but also the trade of yet another slowly dying craft,” added Cheng.
Everyone seems to be welcome to stroll in and admire the intricate structure and the varied distinctive reveals housed inside Caffe Diem, particularly The China Room, The Tunku Room and The Hanging Perahu Kedah.
“We would also constantly host arts and cultural events such as photography exhibitions and book launches, especially on the works of our local artists and artisans. The back lane that used to be a drug addict haunt has been trans- formed into a safe communal space where we would have local bands and school orchestras performing,” quipped Lavatory.
Cheng stated it had all the time been their intention to make Caffe Diem and its surrounding the focus of the group in addition to selling native artwork, tradition, heritage and historical past to draw extra individuals right here.
“With conservation, preservation and inexperienced in thoughts, we’re delighted to have rejuvenated Pekan Cina via Caffe Diem, which is extra than simply one other cafe.
“It not only upholds the highest form of coffee appreciation but also for architecture and all its processes. It aspires to make friends through a great cuppa and build a community through history.”
Caffe Diem was established by Lavatory in Might 2013 and was beforehand working from its previous premises an alley away. The cafe boasts a powerful clientele comprising royalties, dignitaries and celebrities.
Lavatory shared that the daughter of Keow Hin & Co, one of many earlier tenants of the Previous Jail Constructing, visited Caffe Diem lately.
“The woman, who was in her 90s, began sobbing as she was strolling up the steps and admiring the well-restored inside. She associated how she used to reside right here greater than 70 years in the past.
“She was telling us where she hid during the Japanese Occupation and how Japanese soldiers looted her father’s shop. It is touching stories like this that gives the building life and must be documented for future generations.”
True to its mantra “Inspired by the past, built for the future”, Encomas believes that rehabilitating heritage is a type of architectural expression as a lot as it’s an integral component of cultural safeguarding and group constructing.
A 3rd era household enterprise specialising in development, property improvement and funding since 2000, the Previous Jail Constructing is the Kedah-based developer’s first restoration venture.
“Encomas has acquired one other two heritage buildings in Pekan Cina. Restoration works have began for one of many premises which may even be become an F&B outlet.
“Heritage conservation is a slow and tedious process. We don’t have a blueprint to guide us, we just have to overcome whatever challenges with every layer we unearthed. But we have proven that heritage preservation can be lucrative in the long run,” stated Cheng.
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