Sungai Buloh used to be home to the second biggest leprosy settlement in the world. While a remnant of residents remains, the settlement and its historical significance have been fading into oblivion.
Sungai Buloh Story Gallery was initiated by the Sungai Buloh Settlement Council as a place to house related artefacts and historical materials, as well as a platform for recording, storing and exhibiting the leprosy community’s collective memories—which form an intangible cultural heritage.
The design project was first incorporated as a design studio project at the School of Architecture & Built Environment (SABE) UCSI University in 2016. Students’ designs were seen as preliminary design schemes and then further developed and finalised by professional architectural designers—such as Shin Chang and Penny Ng from MentahMatter, Ng Seksan and Wong Jeh Tat from Seksan Design, and Associate Professor Teoh Chee Keong from SABE—who served as unpaid volunteers for the project. The project raised RM700,000 via crowd-funding, and its construction was managed by Great Substance Sdn Bhd as their corporate social responsibility (CSR) project.
The Story Gallery is located at the former people assembly hall (Dewan Orang Ramai) at the settlement, dubbed Valley of Hope, and divided into several parts—a three-storey gallery space, an outdoor vertical trellis with a fire-safety staircase, a disabled-friendly lift, a canteen-cum-library, and a ‘village green’ garden surrounding the building.
Considering the heritage and historical values of the existing building, the design team agreed that the new facility should adhere to the principles of heritage preservation with minimum impact to the existing structure, using reversible construction method that would allow flexibility in any space adjustment in the future.
The gallery is built of structural steel and light covering, such as polycarbonate sheets, to minimise the dead load of the building. The design optimised the use of locally-available and sustainable materials, such as mild steel, salvaged timber, galvanised chain links etc.
This adaptive reuse project required a creative, brave and thoughtful design intervention to carefully insert new spatial elements into an existing hall, without losing the building’s original function and characteristics. The newly added Story Gallery provides an additional 200 square metres of space without sacrificing the original useable floor area within the community hall.
DOWN MEMORY LANE
Conceptually, the Story Gallery is designed to connect the landscape of the Valley of Hope environment with the community hall building, with a special construction along the walking path designed to bring visitors down the leprosy patients’ memory lane.
The first floor is mainly for display corridors, which leads to the second floor where the main function and activities would take place. The displays include a clear overview about leprosy and the settlement.
The second floor is divided into several sections, including an original film projector room, a main video screening area featuring stories from the survivors, an interactive section, as well as two existing semi-outdoor platforms. These spaces will showcase the settlement’s oral history and the social lives of the residents in the past, giving visitors a closer look at the life and stories in the settlement.
The council hopes the project will enable the future generation to remember the settlement, which provided refuge to thousands of leprosy patients since 1930.
Project Name: Sungai Buloh Story Gallery
Location: National Leprosy Control Center, Sungai Buloh, Selangor, Malaysia
Completion Date: March 2018
Site Area: 2,000 square metres
Gross Floor Area: 450 square metres
Building Height: 3 storeys; 9 metres
Client/Owner: Sungai Buloh Leprosy Settlement Council
Collective design by:
MentahMatter Design; Seksan Design; School of Architecture & Built Environment, UCSI University
Interior Design Firms: MentahMatter Design; LostGen Artspace
Principal Designers: Shin Chang; Wong Jeh Tat; Teoh Chee Keong
Landscape Architect: Ng Seksan
Main Contractor: Great Substance Sdn Bhd
Images: Teoh Chee Keong