The Main House


Rimbun Dahan is the home of architect Hijjas Kasturi and Angela Hijjas, in the village of Kuang outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The 14-acre site was alienated from the Crown in 1926 as Malay Reserve when it was cleared and planted with coffee. Rubber planting was prohibited for fear that small holders would compete with British owned estates. Hijjas bought the land in 1969.

The main house was completed in 1991, after staff quarters in 1989. The basement gallery was built in 1995, the classic car gallery, dance studio and artists studios and apartments in 1997. The move and restoration of the village house from the state of Perak was finished in 1998, and the Penang house in 2007.

Although the main house is built of steel and concrete, its form relates to traditional Malay timber architecture. When the security shutters at the ground level are open, it replicates a Malay house on stilts, except for its transparent contemporary character, unlike kampong or village houses that are completely closed at night to keep out malevolent spirits. The pitched roof and deep overhangs are another obvious similarity to traditional architecture.

The avoidance of timber as a building material was to make a statement about finding alternatives when Malaysia’s forests are so threatened.

catwalkThe main house and guest house are linked by a covered loggia that overlooks the water garden and cascade to one side. The 500 square meter gallery is underground on the other side, beneath the entrance plaza. The gallery is enclosed and dehumidified, and can be air conditioned when necessary. The rest of the house relies on through ventilation and ceiling fans.

The steel structure extends beyond the roof line to create an architectural form that refers to traditional buildings, even though they do not create useable spaces.Chosen materials were local wherever possible: traditional finishes like Shanghai plaster and terrazzo were used for structural concrete and floors, but the original copper roof was an innovation that attempted to provide permanent color. Unfortunately it had to be replaced by aluminium as it didn’t weather well.

The house and gallery are at the centre of the artists’ residency programme for ASEAN, Australian and Malaysian artists that is supported by the Hijjas family and the architectural practice, Hijjas Kasturi Associates.