The Malaysian state of Pahang has always been a very popular escape with its tropical green jungles, famous hill stations and glorious coastline. In particular, there is one historical town whose museums have recently undergone a steady revamp and restoration. This is none other than the royal town of Pekan, with its historic buildings and landscape steeped in royal history so relevant to Malaysia.
An example of the historic colonial styled architecture in Pekan
On first glance, Pekan is not a town that most people are familiar with. It lies off the beaten track, as visitors from Kuala Lumpur normally take the East Coast expressway, passing through Kuantan before travelling up north to visit the tropical islands that beckon many a visitor from wide and far.
Majestic wooden sculptures "guard" the landscape gardens in front of the Museum Sultan Abu Bakar
Batik&Bubbles is convinced that Pekan is definitely one of Pahang's most hidden treasures and without a doubt has numerous reasons to visit. This small heritage town is graced with a handful of museums to explore; the two most exciting museums are the Museum Sultan Abu Bakar and the Muzium Masjid Sultan Abdullah.
A commanding entrance complete with water feature welcome the visitor to Muzium Masjid Sultan Abdullah
More examples of the water garden features resplendent at Museum Sultan Abu Bakar
We spoke to Mr Nagata Temegoro of Nagata Arch, the architect selected to refurbish these existing monuments, which have been designed and built with so much talent and creativity. Mr Temegoro, who hails from Japan and who resides in Kuantan, completed his work on the Museum Sultan Abu Bakar museum in 2012 and the Muzium Masjid Sultan Abdullah last year in 2016.
B&B pictured with Mr Nagata Temegoro, at the opening of Muzium Masjid Sultan Abdullah. (Farena & Yiga wear beautiful sarongs by BatikabyHudaa)
Batik&Bubbles (B&B) : What is your formal background in architecture and design? How did you start your work in Malaysia and Pahang?
Nagata: After my architectural profession experience (including museum design) at a Japanese architect office for 22 years, I came to Malaysia in 2006 to establish the architectural section in my friend's landscape design office at Kuala Lumpur.
In 2009, we (my wife and I, who is also an architect) resigned from my friend's office and came to Kuantan, Pahang to concentrate on the architectural design and supervising on the site of the resort project at Gambang. This was the starting point of our professional service as "NAGATA.ARCH".
Then our friends (A batik artist and his Japanese wife) at Cherating introduced us to Dato' Farid of Pahang state museum. He asked us to propose the concept design for the museum improvement of Museum Sultan Abu Bakar in 2010, including the Masjid Sultan Abdullah and the Water Craft Gallery.
Polished hardwood floors, high ceilings and long grand hallways grace the interiors of the building
B&B : What was the extent of the renovations to the Museum Sultan Abu Bakar to bring it to its current state?
Nagata: The renovations included all of the new landscape and gardens, changing of the original building interior including new air conditioning system, building exterior refurbishment and display design including display cases and shelves.
New display shelving holds some of the ornate royal ceramics at the museum
B&B: What was your design inspiration for the Museum Sultan Abu Bakar?
Nagata: The main inspiration was generated by the impression of Pekan town. We found many gentle verdurous scenery such as the riverside trees, the Royal Palace, Royal Polo field, kampung (village) houses with their gardens and so on.
Pekan gave us the impression of "Garden Town Pekan", a natural element that Kuantan or Kuala Lumpur does not have.That is why we came to have the main concept "Garden Museum" for museums in Pekan. Also through our experiences, we believe that museums should be the "REAL PUBLIC SPACE" for citizens , and that this concept should be applied to this museum.
The museums are located alongside the Pahang river and it is a common sight to see the local fisherman casting their nets at any time of the day.
B&B: Is there any particular aspect of the museum design at Museum Sultan Abu Bakar that you are especially proud of or are interested to share more of?
Nagata: We are very happy if the visitors feel the "The harmony between the Architecture, Exhibits and Gardens (Front garden and court yard)" and also the "Affinity as real public space open and close to citizens". The front fencing wall has been removed so that the visitors can enjoy the front garden anytime, even at nights.
An internal courtyard inside the Museum Sultan Abu Bakar provides a quiet respite
Majestic wooden sculptures "guard" the landscape gardens infront of the Museum Sultan Abu Bakar.
B&B: What was your experience as a Japanese architect to work with a sacred Islamic space, in this case a traditional mosque, the Masjid Muzium Sultan Abdullah? Did it pose any challenge as compared to other projects?
Nagata: We started the design from the viewpoint of creating an Islamic museum rather than as the renewal of the mosque, because we believed it will still be very Islamic if we would not change the original building so much. We also worked with a local architect office for this project and we often asked their advice, as well as the Museum staff, on many aspects during the design process.
Someone told me that the Islamic Mosque is a very social facility and I thought the museum should also reflect that. We were excited about the Islamic museum in the actual Islamic mosque, and it would be the first of its kind in Malaysia.
A charming replica of the Masjid Muzium Sultan Abdullah
B&B: What was the extent of the renovations to the Masjid Muzium Sultan Abdullah mosque to bring it to the current state?
Nagata: The renovations involved restoration of the damaged parts in the original building, changing the floor material, re-painting for all area, improvement of the opening area at exterior walls, new air conditioning system, new office, new toilet and ablution spaces, as well as new landscape and gardens.
A beautiful dome with stained glass windows are one of the most distinctive features of the Muzium Masjid Sultan Abdullah
B&B: What are some of the key elements that you maintained from the Muzium Masjid Sultan Abdullah mosque, and were there perhaps some elements that you decided not to keep?
Nagata: I think we have maintained most of architectural elements but we removed the aluminum windows and repeated original design arches in exchange for those windows.
The water features, some trees and gazebo are totally new elements for newly designed landscape and gardens. For this particular garden, the front public road has been removed!
One of the many distinctive Moorish-styled arches at the Muzium Masjid
B&B: Where did you get your inspiration in the development of Muzium Masjid Sultan Abdullah - is there any Japanese touch or inspiration from other mosques in the world?
Nagata: The basic concepts of "GARDEN MUSEUM" and "REAL PUBLIC SPACE" were taken from the Museum Sultan Abu Bakar. The image of repetitious arches might be from the impression of Masjid Jamek at KL. Furthermore, I learned about the important elements of the Islamic garden which are " Water features, Tree and Shade" by other Islamic gardens and books.
A call to prayer at the main minaret of the Muzium Masjid during the grand launch
The Muzium Masjid Sultan Abdullah at night!
Batik & Bubbles highly recommends you visit the Museums in Pekan; Arts and culture lovers will truly appreciate the classical and elegant architectural designs of the Museums along with the unique and tranquil surroundings of the landscape and gardens - an experience quite unmatched in any other place in Malaysia.
- We would like to thank Dato Ahmad Farid bin Abdul Jalal of Muzium Pahang for providing us with this unique opportunity to review the museums and Mr Nagata Temegoro of Arch Design for providing us with the background context of the museum design and refurbishment.
- Do check out their new website at http://pahangmuseums.com for more details
- The Museum Sultan Abu Bakar is in Pekan, Pahang and is located at Jalan Sultan Ahmad, Pekan. Tel: (09-422 1371, 09-422 1459).The entrance fee is only RM 5 for visitors from outside Pahang and RM 4 for locals. Entrance is free for children aged 12 years and below!
- The Muzium Masjid Sultan Abdullah is also located at Jalan Sultan Ahmad, Pekan. Tel: (09-422 1371, 09-422 1459). Entrance is free!
- A big thank you to Batika by Hudaa for the stunning batik sarongs !