The surroundings of our iconic Old Court House, Round Tower and Pavilion building ensemble, Kuching, are evolving fast. They are increasingly neighbour to a denser, concrete and steel landscape.
Radiating from the Old Court House, Round Tower and Pavilion buildings…
[A mini photo gallery intended in particular for our distant readers familiar with the Kuching’s ‘heritage square’]
To the South, almost within hand reach, the high walls of a new hotel, leaning on a large, also recent, shopping complex act as even mightier barrier between the heritage buildings and the open space of the Padang (Kuching’s historic central playing/parade field).
Further South, just beyond the Padang, the ex- ‘new’ wing of the Sarawak Museum (previously Sarawak Assembly building) -which was, indeed, devoid of memorable architectural value-, has been demolished to give way to the site for the new Museum campus project.
To the West, the massive steel and glass covered arcade over India Street has become reality and approaches completion:
Beyond India Street and the Open Market area, the roof of the Brooke Dockyard, a not-to-underrate heritage asset slated by the Sarawak Government to be turned into a maritime museum, seems to be in want of gentle care:
North, next to the Square Tower, which received a facelift in 2013 and is now a restaurant, works for the construction of the pedestrian ‘Golden Bridge‘ have started:
Nearby, upstream, foundations have been laid for the construction of a new mosque on the Sarawak river:
Across the road, the Gambier Street entrance of the old Indian Mosque, designated to be listed as a heritage site, has a modernized look:
Across the river, a sloping corridor below Fort Margherita have been cleared. In its heydays, the surroundings of the fort must have been cleared to enable surveillance of the the river traffic. (The construction of a waterfall feature and illuminations has been announced for the area).
To the East, just next to the arch marking the entrance of Carpenter Street, the recently modernized facade of a shophouse does not go unnoticed. The cube dresses a new multi-story bar.
The several new bars that opened in the old town in recent times illustrate the slow but deep change of the shophouse landscape of the area. This transformation warrants in itself a specific future article on this website.
Slightly downstream the Sarawak river, the construction of a new high-rise hotel building close to the waterfront has progressed.
The Old Court House complex itself is being prepared for a new lease of life under a new management which has announced café, restaurant, art gallery, retail, functions and live music facilities. End of 2015, the pedestrian passage linking Carpenter Street to India Street through the ‘Japanese building’ is now obstructed by the access road to the new hotel and by a (temporary?) barrier at the limit of the Old Court House grounds.
Here and there, street art continued to sprout in Kuching with blessings of the local authorities. Some is of quite good quality.
No doubt that opinions on the above changes are diverse.
Heritage fans’ and conservation specialists’ opinions will most likely be guided by beliefs in the need to preserve the ‘breathing space’ that may exist around heritage buildings and, for new architecture in the vicinity of heritage places, in the quality of its blending with the surroundings.