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Sungai Lembing Cultural Museum, Malaysia

Part 2 Project 2014
Yao Qing Chia
University of Malaya Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Sungai Lembing, the only underground tin mine in Malaysia was also, the world’s largest and deepest underground tin mine. The mine closed in 1988 and the town was dying. Fortunately, Sungai Lembing being rich in natural resources, gradually developed into an eco-tourism town by 2013.

Sungai Lembing Mill was one of the most efficient mills in the world. After the mine closed, only the cascading concrete platforms remaining. The local authority in 2009 wanted to turn the ruined mill site into a public exhibition gallery. An architectural design solution of a Sungai Lembing Cultural Museum was made to preserve the mining culture and revitalize the town.

The museum is situated adjacent to the site of the ruins with the cascading platforms of the mill turned into a landscaped park. Lalang, a tall grass commonly found on site, is further planted to define edges and pathways. The museum is constructed with recycled local materials of rusted corrugated metal sheets, old timber structural members, waste ore and tin tailings. The new roof forms repeat the former ones as a memory of the past. Special openings and protruding transparent glazed boxes give visual connection to the partly restored mill.

The 4 main blocks comprising a miners’ gallery, a mill gallery, a mining gallery and a temporary exhibition gallery. The temporary exhibition gallery, situated across the main road, is connected via a sunken courtyard and tunnel. Each block has its own ventilation shaft which also provides daylighting. The library and archives on the lower ground, adjacent to the sunken courtyard leads one through a narrow tunnel with small diameter daylight tubes, to enter a voluminous gallery with displays of the mining methods, explosives and underground equipment. The stopes of the former mine are recreated here. The water feature reminds one of the underground flooding of the mine after its closure. A silent underground atmosphere is created for reflection and recalling the memory of tin mining there.

Yao Qing Chia


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