Sultan Abdul Samad Building – A Peek Inside


The stately, copper-domed Sultan Abdul Samad Building on Merdeka Square is one of Kuala Lumpur’s most famous landmarks. It was the best known symbol of Malaysia until the Petronas Towers were built and still today is one of the most photographed buildings in Malaysia.

Being such a historic landmark it has appeared on numerous postcards and photographs over the years. Some examples are reproduced here.

History of Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Here are some historical facts:

  • Its original name was simply Government Offices, Kuala Lumpur. It was renamed in 1974 after Sultan Abdul Samad who was the Sultan of Selangor at the time of construction.
  • It was built between 1894 and 1897 on the site of a row of former shophouses facing the padang (now Merdeka Square). 
  • The foundation stone was laid on 6 October 1894 above a time capsule containing some Straits coins, a piece of Selangor tin, and the day’s newspaper, the Selangor Journal.
  • It was officially opened on 3 April 1897 by Federated Malay States Resident-General Frank Swettenham.
This postcard from 1910 shows how the Government Offices dominated the city skyline. The Selangor Club is in the foreground.
Cricket was played on the padang situated between the Selangor Club and the Government Offices.
  • Its design was a team effort. In overall charge was State Engineer C.E Spooner who envisaged the concept after visiting similar style buildings in India. Selangor Public Works Department Architect A.C.A Norman was the chief architect with overall design by R.A.J Bidwell Selangor Chief Draughtsman & Acting Architect. Bidwell moved to Singapore in 1895 and was replaced by A.B Hubback who became Malaya’s most eminent architect. The contractor was Towkay Ang Seng.
  • The team must have had excellent project management skills as the final cost of construction (excluding the cost of land) was almost exactly on budget at $153,000 Straits Dollars.
  • Four million bricks were used in its construction.
  • The building’s architectural style is described as Mughal Eclectic and features copper domes and a 40m high clock tower. While the architectural style is not particularly Malaysian and would look more at home in India, it has come to symbolise Malaysia and has played an important role in the country’s history.
  • Over its lifetime it has served as government offices and as a High Court and Supreme Court. 
  • The clock tower was damaged in a Japanese air raid in 1941 and its clock stopped.
The building’s copper domes have to be cleaned from time to time to restore the copper colour. This photo was taken before cleaning.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building Today

It is not open to the public.

Today, like its neighbouring buildings, it is partially occupied by the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture though most of that department’s operations have relocated to Putrajaya. 

Decorated for National Day.

The building serves as a backdrop to the annual Merdeka celebrations held in Merdeka Square.

The building is illuminated at night making it popular with photographers.

Although tourists flock to take photos from the outside, the interior has been off-limits for years as it serves as a government department.

In 2015 the Ministry of Tourism’s Department of National Heritage staged an exhibition in one section of the building, allowing the public (including me) to take a sneak peek inside.  Here are photos I took at that time:

The grand entrance foyer.
A chandelier hangs above the main entrance hall.
An elegant colonnaded walkway opens onto an inner courtyard.
Ongoing repair works. Preserving the building in tip-top condition is a constant battle against the elements.
View of the rear side taken from the new KL River of Life pedestrian bridge over the River Gombak.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building looks great from every angle. It continues to wow tourists from all over the world.

How to Get to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building

The location is marked on this map:

Address:

Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Jalan Raja, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50050 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

GPS Co-ordinates:

3°08’54.9″N 101°41’39.9″E

3.148592, 101.694406

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