Malaysia is considered a country of the second world

Malaysia: The progress has been breathtaking

Shortly before the Corona crisis, I traveled to Kuala Lumpur. For the first time in 60 years. I had a happy childhood there before I was sent “home” to boarding school when I was ten. Cold, gray England with its cold, gray people was of course never home for me, as it was for many “children of the Empire”. We longed for the colors, smells, the colorful people and cultures of the now “post-colonial” countries from which our parents soon followed us into exile.

The lost paradise often turns out to be a disappointment when they meet again. Malaysia doesn't. Everything was as it was before and almost always better at the same time. I do not misunderstand the problems caused by the government's religious and racial policies; but the progress is staggering. If there is a figurehead for self-determination, it is Malaysia. At the same time, the country is confident enough to look back without causing an anti-colonial furore.

From 1956 to 1961, my father built the country's first architecture school on behalf of the Colonial Office in London. His students became builders of the new Malaysia. Not always in his mind. He suggested using local materials such as wood and studying local building traditions; they were enthusiastic about Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson and built with glass and concrete. Meeting some of these architects was moving. They talked about how my father opened their eyes - and many university and career doors - to them. I was very proud.