Photographer's Note

Malay houses are traditional dwellings, originating before the arrival of foreign or modern influences, and constructed by the indigenous ethnic Malay and Orang Asli peoples of the Malay Peninsula and their related Bumiputra tribes of East Malaysia.

Whereas peninsular Malays have single extended-family houses, many of the Borneo people built rumah panjang or 'long-houses' hosting many families, each in its own 'apartment' with a common wide veranda linking the front.

Traditional architectural forms, such as tropically-suited roofs and harmonious proportions with decorative elements are considered by traditionalists to still have relevance. However traditional buildings require significant maintenance compared to modern construction. These traditional skills are gradually being lost as Malaysia continues its process of industrialisation.
Traditional timber houses incorporated design principals relevant in contemporary architecture such as shading and ventilation, qualities present in the basic house features. A main characteristic of a typical kampung house is its on stilts or piles. This was to avoid wild animals and floods, to deter thieves, and for added ventilation. In parts of Sabah, the number of dowry buffaloes could even depend on the number of stilts there are in the bridal family’s home.
From : Wikipedia

A traditional Malay timber house usually in two parts: the main house called Rumah Ibu in honour of the mother (ibu) and the simpler Rumah Dapur or kitchen annex, which was separated from the main house for fire protection. Proportion was important to give the house a human scale. The Rumah Ibu was named after the spacings between stilts which are said to typically follow the arms-spread width of the wife and mother in the family of the house when being built. At least one raised veranda (serambi) is attached to the house for seated work or relaxation, or where non-familiar visitors would be entertained, thus preserving the privacy of the interior.


Each state or ethnic group has its own regional or group style of house or preferred details. For example, in Melaka the staircase is always decoratively moulded and colourfully tiled. In Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast, many houses have distinctive carved roof gable-end boards akin to those in Thailand and Cambodia.

Cultural references

Most of the ancient Malay peoples of South-East Asia maintained a form of self-regenerating environmental culture.

Early Malay houses can be described as raised on timber stilts and made of materials which were easily available from the tropical forests such as timber, bamboo, rattan, tree roots and leaves. Usually the houses have pitched roofs, verandahs or porches in front, high ceilings and lots of big openings for ventilation purposes. Although these characteristics are particularly common in all Malay houses throughout the Peninsular Malaysia, their shapes and sizes differ from state to state.

Through many decades, the Malay architecture has been influenced by Indonesian Bugis, riau and Java from the south; Siamese, British, Arab and Indian from the north; Portuguese, Dutch, Acheh, Minangkabau from the west; and Southern Chinese from the east. Due to this fact, the Malay vernacular architecture have modified their styles in order to adapt to these influences. For example, some houses in Kelantan state have a kind of roof which is similar to that of Southern Thailand. This kind of roof style is totally different from the ones in the Negeri Sembilan state which have been greatly influenced by the Minangkabau of Indonesia.

gombak.jpg (142738 bytes)

Factors that govern the styles of the Malay vernacular architecture:

Malaysia is situated in the central part of the Southeast Asia, it is bordered by longitudes 100 degrees and 120 degrees east; and by Latitudes of the Equator and 7 degrees North. The country is sunny, hot anf humid all year round with temperatures range from 25 C to 34 C. It has an annual rainfall from 80" to 100". Due to heavy monsoon rains, the roofs of the Malay vernacular houses are very steep. In some places, flooding occurs after heavy rainfalls. To solve this problem, some houses have used timber stilts to elevate the building above the ground level. The warm climate also effects the style of the Malay vernacular architecture. For ventilation purposes, many buildings have large openings on the sides and grilles are provided at high level in gable ends. Houses raised on stilts are provided with better natural ventilation.

Kielia, PaulVDV, subhendu_bagchi, KateinDenmark, shevchenko has marked this note useful

Photo Information
Viewed: 6945
Points: 24
  • None
Additional Photos by Foozi Saad (foozi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 966 W: 0 N: 1364] (7101)
View More Pictures