As one of Malaysia’s most prominent architects, Hijjas Kasturi is known for his distinctive commercial, civic and government buildings. One reason they are distinctive is that he rejected the fashion for vernacular pastiche. Instead, his buildings are dynamically contemporary, yet still very much of their place
He and his wife, Angela, are also known as highly generous art benefactors and for their work preserving the natural and cultural heritage of Malaysia.
The Hotel Penaga in Penang, which they designed and own, is their latest venture. Located on the edge of George Town’s World Heritage precinct and within walking distance of all the historical sites, restaurants and hawker food stalls, the hotel has emerged from the restoration and development of 15 pre-War terraces and shophouses.
The result is a wonderful evocation of Penang’s amazing cultural and ethnic mix while providing all the amenity of a modern hotel. Once again, Hijjas avoids pastiche. This is an integrated project with Hijjas designing and specifying everything (the rooms include reproductions of traditional Chinese furniture mixed in with modern European classics). Hence, while this is a very modern hotel, it also has a strongly traditional feel.
This feel is complemented by the original contemporary art work throughout, some bought specifically for the hotel, some coming from Hijjas and Angela’s own extensive collection.
While the hotel reflects its cultural context, it is also beautifully planned to connect with its physical context with landscaped public laneways and lush gardens linking it to the surrounding streets.
The accommodation also has a fascinating variety. A row of six, two-storey terrace houses is an opportunity to stay in the modern equivalent of a traditional terrace house. Otherwise, in the main building, there is a range of suites and rooms with all mod cons including jacuzzis. Among the other hotel amenities is a wellness centre offering gratifylngly extended traditional massage.
(60 4) 261 1891, hotelpenaga.com