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KG. LAUT : A modern kampung house with a traditional touch ..
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Tuesday, 13-Feb-2007 10:19


I have this in mind for already quite some time but only now, after having read about the very recent floodings in the Malaysian southern states ( mainly Johor ), the global warming induced freakish weather, the melting polar ice caps etc, I decided to write this down.

Read : http://www.met.gov.my/Banjir110107.pdf(The Malaysian Meteorological Dept Report on Johor Floods)


I have this tendency to pass my time looking through ( yes, just looking through ) printed materials, especially of those with lots of photos / images in them.

( and no. Not the skin stuff .. ha ha )

Often, by doing so, I found various useful stuffs or even interesting points to ponder.
I remember one side-note from a book ( a 1965 edition of http://www.life.com(LIFE Science Library) series ) on " Health And Disease " :

While the author didn't elaborate further the manner of the dwelling, I managed to find an article on the net that explains more :

The best feature of East Coast Malay houses, like other Malay houses, is their good ventilation. Building wooden houses on stilts, and creating huge windows and small gaps in between the strips of wooden flooring encourage good airflow and reduce heat. Air-conditioners are not needed and it is more environmentally friendly.

From : " http://allmalaysia.info/services/printerfriendly.asp?file=/2005/7/4/state/11246152(Marriage of old and new) " by Loh Foon Fong ( AllMalaysia.info )

* A pre war, perhaps 90 years old Malay traditional house at Kubang Pasu, Kota Bharu. Click image for more details.

Our forefathers engineered a comfortable living space that blends harmoniously with the elements, based only on a simple know-how of the natural surroundings. No academic papers or journals, just actual presentations from real life experiences. Indeed, they have proven themselves competent in both architectural and engineering fields and for that comes such recognitions.

Pretty amazing I think.
But what amaze me the most, are the stilts.
Aside from contributing to good ventilation, they also help to keep off terrestrial creatures and not to forget - the FLOOD too !

The Stilt Factor

I noticed from the telly and newspapers that many if not all of those forced to seek shelters during the Southern Big Floods, were those whose houses / premises ( both living & commercial spaces ) were built with floors very close to the ground.

The flood was disastrous and it happened twice in less than a fortnight, the second hit with the same destructive force as the first. To the extent that the government decided to relocate villages with the highest risk of future floodings to higher grounds :

Flood-hit village to be relocated to higher ground

By Marsha Tan and Md Hanafi Hanafiah

KOTA TINGGI: Kampung Tembioh, one of the hardest hit villages in the recent floods, and other high-risk villages here will be relocated to higher ground.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Johor government would identify the other villages and residential areas that were prone to floods and submit a proposal to the Federal government for allocation.

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/2/4/nation/16780656&sec=nation(©The Sunday Star ( Sunday February 4, 2007 ))

In the US, people do relocate their houses and properties away from the Mississippi flood-plain after years of losing battles with Mother Nature. Like this dude who http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/1/31/nation/16732498&sec=nation(came up with a " better " idea, but not for long as the Big Brother quickly had it gunned down).

I do think however, that relocation is not a great solution.
http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/2/4/nation/16780872&sec=nation(Other than the need to overcome personal problems ( accesibility, livelihoods, sentimental values etc )), our country being small and with ever expanding population, suitable spaces should be very few. Besides, at times when rising sea level becomes a clearer threat and more global-warming-induced unpredictable weather patterns are showing up at our doors, who could simply assure the new site would be safer anyway ?


So, in this case,
instead of seeking refuge, why not adapting ?

Our forefathers did,

by having an invention as simple as the STILT !

======= ## ======= ## ======= ## ======= ## ======= ## =======

Every year we hear stories of how Kelantan is badly hit by flood.
Behind those well spinned stories from the media, there is a fact that many have yet to understand or have under estimated, which is the local's ability to cope and adapt with flood.

Kelantanese living on the flood plain are of flood-hardened breed.
They had learned to adapt rather than escaping from it.
Take the people of Kampung Laut ( in Jajahan Tumpat ) and Kampung Penambang ( in Jajahan Kota Bharu ) as examples.

Though many had resorted to modern style dwellings and building materials, they would still build elevated houses, often supported with concrete stilts in respect of the annual flooding. Those who do not wish to have stilts, would have their houses built with daily activities centered mostly on the second floor while leaving the ground floor less furnished to give room, funny it may sound, for the flood.

Thus, even in the event of great flood, few feel the need to seek higher ground and most choose to remain in their houses. Most even have boats long prepared ( under their houses ), to ease in moving around in such times. In fact, people still live there comfortably with large traditional populations of Tumpat and Kota Bharu still congregate within and around the areas, for generations.

And no ... no one think of relocation.

I am not saying that the Kelantanese are the only people with such adaptation.
Instead, there are lots of other similar examples mainly among people living by the great rivers throughout Malaysia, and also throughout the World :

Flooding is a huge problem for residents who live around flood banks or otherwise close to the rivers since the all water from the surrounding highlands collects into the Amazon Basin. Resident have had to adapt to the large amounts of rain by making their houses on stilts so that if they are flooded, water passes below their houses. Many build houses on rafts so that the whole house rises during a flood and comes back down when the floods recede.


Nope. I am not against modern housing practice either.
Only that I think it is somewhat regrettable that we still fail to see the importance of understanding and considering the nature of our surroundings when it comes to building a place to live.

We tend to put weight on cost ( profit ! ) and styles rather than practicality in regards of the local climate and condition. When disasters struck, we tend to blame our surroundings rather than blaming ourselves for poor adaptation ( oh yes, bad environmental management too ! ).


Our forefathers lived in the hot and humid belt of the World,
frequently cooked by the steamy tropical sun and frequently washed by torrents of heavy downpours. Amazingly, they learned to cope very well, to adapt and show us how they did by bringing us up in houses built from their ideas on adaptation.

Of course we don't built wooden houses with wooden stilts anymore nowadays like what the old used to build, especially when a kilogram of http://woodwizard.mtc.com.my:8888/report.asp?AttrID=7&ItemID=22(Chengal) these days would cost more than a pile of brick. In fact, cheaper and modern materials and techniques could as well compensate as long as we understand the whole concept that our forefathers wished to convey.

The native people of the Arctic ( the Inuit etc ) don't built igloo out of ice because that is their only material. In fact, they have whalebones and animal hide, simply at their disposal. But from real life experiences, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Igloo(they learned that solid water, being lesser in density, is a good heat insulator thus making the inside of an igloo to be incredibly warmer than the outside.) Which is proven to be much better than hitching up a tent, especially when they also have to deal with the unforgiving Arctic wind. Indeed, they are Arctic masters of adaptation.

But we decided to take a different twist.
Thinking that jumping on the global trend wagon would make us look cool and globally accepted, we chosed to adopt what against our own natural born values.

We go to work under the blazing Malaysian sun, with a choking necktie ( sometimes with a complete suit too ), we gorge down dairy produce which hardly digestible by our Asian stomach, and we built houses by Western standard without considering that their climatic conditions are none like ours -- and we blame our surroundings when they go wrong.

No, not that I am against everything Western or foreign,
of course there are lots of good things that we could learn from them
( should give another meaning to " adapting and coping " )

but isn't it the time for us to be at least a little more ...

... self confident ?

Raja Bahrin lamented that there is a lack of confidence among Malaysians in their own architectural heritage.

“In 1979 and 1980, the government imported a lot of prefabricated materials from Japan without realising that we already had that in our traditional architecture. Why do we have to go so far and not look into our own heritage? There is a lack of attention and self-confidence. We need to change this perception,” .......

From : " http://allmalaysia.info/services/printerfriendly.asp?file=/2005/7/4/state/11246152(Marriage of old and new) " by Loh Foon Fong ( AllMalaysia.info )


An example of how structures in the old days were built in the best possible way of adaptation to local environment - The Old Masjid of Kampung Laut ( *click image for more details )

( as seen here from a photo taken in 1960s as it tilts dangerously into the Kelantan River, at its original site in Kampung Laut, Jajahan Tumpat, Kelantan ).

Thought to be the oldest in Malaysia ( built around 400 ~ 500 years ago. Note that the famous Batu Bersurat of Terengganu is dated 1300s which is long before Melaka ! ), the mosque were built on top of long supporting stilts which helped it survived the annual flood for hundred of years. The stilts however, finally gave way to silt build-up and the whole structure was pulled closer to the ground, exposing it to the damaging floods during the later years. It was nearly destroyed by the elements before the authority decided to relocate it further inland, to Nilam Puri in Jajahan Kota Bharu.

Unfortunately, the reconstruction work didn't take count the soul design of the original craftmanship and had the tall stilts cut short to ease up the relocation work, then had the entire structure rebuilt with floor very close to the ground ( short stilts ).

To me, it is like having the legendary Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Michael Jordan "reborn" with their legs 2 feet shorter .....

The traditional Malay house is an elegant example of indigenous ingenuity, practicality and a monument to the wonders of tropical timber. A seemingly simple wooden structure, it was built to dissipate heat, withstand monsoons and stands as a reflection of Malay living. Primarily made of chengal, a dense rainforest tree, some of these classic houses are over 100 years old.

Quoted from :
(WILDASIA.NET : Rebuilding the Wooden Ways of the Past )

* Click image for original source ( wildasia.net )

" The dead might as well try
to speak to the living
as the old to the young "

http://columbia.thefreedictionary.com/Cather%2c+Willa+Sibert(Willa Cather) (1873-1947)

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