Immortalizing Panglima Lane

Text and photos by Lau Sook Mei

We were pleased with the news that students from Politeknik Ungku Omar, Ipoh, would be making some measured drawings of shophouses in Panglima Lane. To acquaint myself with this method of documentation and to lend support to this important heritage activity, I decided to turn up there to see how they worked. After all, it is not every day that you get to see students in action. It was enlightening.

Measuring the interior of No. 16.

The process: For five consecutive days in January, seven third-year architecture students worked on the measured drawings of shophouse No.16 for their final-year project.

Girls at work.

With the cooperation of the tenant, Hafiz and his friends set up base inside. It turned out that they also wanted to measure the street and the shophouses on it. Unfortunately, they could not access the vacant buildings so they ended up documenting only one row.

Chong, perched on a ladder tracing a metal plate.

Tracing of the metal plate embossed with the logo of Commercial Union, an insurance company.

Armed with measuring tapes they climbed up and down covering every nook and corner. Measurements were taken and recorded on sketches and drawings done on drawing blocks. Accuracy is critical and they would discuss intensely to ensure details are correct before the data went into the computer.

Engrossed in discussion.

An eye-opening experience: I learned from them that the original building had an open plan and no internal partitions. Apart from identifying how spaces were utilized in the old days the students looked for distinctive features, such as the louvre-windows and the profile of the pillars. Confirming the materials used and methods of construction were of utmost importance; they were fascinated with what they found out. The mainly pedestrian “walkway” is cool and photogenic and I could not resist happy snaps while wandering up and down the lane.

Hafiz measuring a pillar.

Happy news: I was informed that more measured drawings were being done by other undergraduates. Three groups were working simultaneously on St. John’s Church; Oversea Building at Nos.12 & 14, Jalan Sultan Iskandar; and Mahendra & Co., the law firm at No.11, Jalan Tun Sambanthan. Incidentally, measured drawings of the townhouses Nos. 28-42 in Jalan Lau Ek Ching were completed in 2010.

Working on the street.

The team from Politeknik Ungku Omar.

Measured drawings: Measured drawings are architectural drawings, accurately done to scale and based on measurements taken of an existing building, site, object and structural detail. These drawings are a form of documentation that not only show the “as-built” condition (as it was found) of a building but also the effects of age and alterations. In old buildings, defects such as uneven floors and out-of-plumb walls (not vertically straight) are measured and recorded as found.

Facade of No. 16.

Just take some photographs and save all the trouble, you might say. But no, photographs cannot show floor plans and sections (vertical slice) of a building the way measured drawings can. Measured drawings are an invaluable resource for subsequent repair and restoration.

Section of No. 16.

Dilapidation survey: This is a systematic study of the building by means of photographic and digital documentation. It contains vital information on the building. It seeks to explain probable causes of the defects found, and identifies appropriate conservation methods and techniques. It usually involves different experts: historians, architects, conservators, structural engineers, mechanical and electrical and quantity surveyors. Microbiologists, chemists, archaeologists and geologists are consulted as the need arises.

Needless to say, for the proud owner of a heritage building it pays to have a dilapidation survey conducted on his property to thoroughly understand the existing conditions and the defects before any repair, restoration or other conservation work. Failure in doing so may result in an inappropriate approach during conservation work which could subsequently lead to disagreements and higher costs amongst parties involved. Improper diagnosis, too, could result in ineffective remedial measures that may pose unnecessary threats to the building structures and public safety. To avoid any undesirable incidents, it is worthwhile for the owner to invest in a dilapidation survey.

Footnote: As the students were working on their project the dilapidated shophouse No.5 was being knocked down. In an incident late last year, its eaves had clashed down to the street below. No pedestrian was injured.

Shophouse No. 5.

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5 Responses to “Immortalizing Panglima Lane”


  1. 1 Ruth Iversen Rollitt February 2, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    I am delighted! When I went to Panglima Street in 2009 (for the very first time in my life) with Hong I was distressed to see how it was unloved and dilapidated! Well done! Keep it up and make sure that the houses are repaired and maintained – they will contribute to Ipoh, my hometown that is in such a terrible state and lacking any love. Woould it be possible to get a good photograph of the Commercial Union plaque?

  2. 2 perakheritage February 5, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Hi, I’ve tried taking shots of the plague but unfortunately they did not turn out well. Will try again and if they look reasonably good they’ll be posted in the blog…

  3. 3 PY September 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    City Hall & tourism board should work together with the owners, as to preserve these heritage. Allocation of funds to help KICK-START the repairs ASAP……. some might not have the $$$ to maintain these sick buildings and their options are to demolish or let it fall…… and down goes all these >100years antique.!!!

  4. 4 Constance Deise January 17, 2015 at 8:05 am

    Hi,
    I love old relics that are pre historic. I found many that I believed to be from the SouthWest Indians in Phoenix, Arizona back in the early 70’s.
    I have been photographing and cataloging the objects found, while studying their uses.
    But, it seems that those involved with the subject of Archaeology in the USA are not interested in these ancient archaic objects, but
    rather seem to be occupied with arrowheads and shiny pottery.
    I really think they are missing out when they do not want to acknowledge the Potsherds, glass, mounds of trash, tools, codices and more )(collected from surfaces) could give them a hint that possibly our indians lived in those fields.
    Therefore, I am left to try and find information through my own research, because arrowheads aren’t everything. In fact, the Hohokams used stones to build our irrigation canal system in Phoenix where I live.
    I love the objects that you have displayed.


  1. 1 Advancing Panglima Lane « Perak Heritage Society Trackback on October 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm

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