Sited beside the Air Itam River in Malaysia’s state of Penang, the Suffolk House, Malaysia’s only Anglo-Indian garden house, was built by Sir Francis Light, the founder of the Penang Straits Settlement in the late 1700’s.
Touted as the first “Great House” of Penang, the Suffolk House was lovingly restored from a complete ruin by Malaysian architect, Laurence Loh.
Funded by the Penang State Government and various sponsors, the restoration works that started in 2000 were finally completed in 2007. The Suffolk House won the Award of Distinction in the 2008 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation. Its restoration has returned this significant heritage landmark to its nineteenth century glory form, based mainly on historic paintings and archaeological evidence. Contemporary additions to the site and its landscaping are in keeping with the building’s original personality, consolidating its historical significance into a restored masterpiece for current use. The restoration, both in terms of its financing, craftsmanship and technical execution, has been hailed as a benchmark for future similar initiatives in the Penang World Heritage site.
Restoration works included the complete reroofing of the central bay; relining of the timber strips on the first floor; replastering the walls and stabilisation of the whole building. New timber roof and floor structures, doors and windows, as well as floorboards of tropical hardwood were installed. Then and now, timber has played an important role in imbibing warmth into an otherwise ‘cold’ interior of a brick and mortar built form.