Being a Johorian and a JB-boy (should I say ‘man’ instead?), born and bred, I must admit to a tendency to take the sights and sounds of JB for granted.
It’s not because I do not appreciate Johor Bahru as much as the visitor from out-of- town or from out-of-state even, but I guess when you grow up with these sights and sounds as being part of your everyday life, it does require a little bit of effort to pause the clock of everyday life, step back and take another look at these sight and sounds to re-discover what is it about them that makes them unique in the first place.
Johor Bahru is a young city but it is not THAT young. Hence, you can definitely say that JB, as we JB-ians lovingly call our city (and home), it is not short of landmarks, landmarks that are of historical, cultural and architectural significance.
One of the more significant landmarks of JB is that unique and majestic of a building, the Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim (The Sultan Ibrahim Building). Perched on top of Bukit Timbalan, the glory and majesty of Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim can be seen clearly as you approach the city and especially if one should take a cruise along the JB waterfront on that body of water separating Johor and Singapore, namely the Straits of Tebrau.
Built between 1936 and 1939, Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim was re-named, in 1982, in honour of the then reigning Sultan of Johor, AlMarhum Sultan Ibrahim ibni AlMarhum Sultan Abu Bakar, the great-grandfather of the present Sultan, Sultan Ibrahim ibni AlMarhum Sultan Iskandar, who reigned from 1895-1959.
Prior to that, the building was more popularly referred to as either SUK (short for the Pejabat Setiausaha Kerajaan or the State Secretariat Building) or just as Bukit Timbalan.
The latter was more commonly used though, compared with the earlier. If you were to say that you are going to Bukit Timbalan, everyone would know what you are referring to.
The design of Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim was by a renowned British architectural firm, Palmer and Turner and it incorporated Saracenic, Malay and British influences. Construction work on the building was completed in 1940, before the outbreak of World War II in the then Malaya on the 8th of December 1941.
During the pre-independence days of the then Malaya, the Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim was easily the tallest building in Johor Bahru and in Johor state, so much so that the tower block of Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim was used by the commander of the Japanese invading forces, Lt General Yamashita Tomoyuki, for reconnaissance purposes whilst planning for the invasion of Singapore in 1942.
Legend has it that when General Yamashita was in the tower, he was shot at by the British and Malayan forces then defending Singapore and to this day, it is said that the bullet marks can still there on the outside walls of the tower.
Personally, I haven’t seen them as I never have at any time gone up the tower myself nor am I sure whether they will let me venture up there.
That Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim was the proud symbol of the Johor State government was never in any doubt. It was the seat of government and housed the various organs of the Johor State government ie the office of the HRH The Sultan of Johor, the Johor State Legislature, the office of the Johor Chief Minister as well as offices of the different departments of the Johor Civil Service (JCS).
Although the various offices and departments of the Johor State government as well as the Johor State Legislature have since been relocated to a new and spanking government complex in Kota Iskandar, Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim still retains its majesty not only as building of history and a symbol of the progressive state that is Johor but also as a building of architectural significance.
Personally, having walked the corridors of Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim when I was a child accompanying my late father and again later as an adult (on official business no less), I must say that the building has a presence that is both impressive and imposing.
Impressive in that you can’t help but be impressed that a building such as Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim can exist in JB back then, before World War II and later before Independence. As the saying goes, what would the locals say when they see Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim being constructed, taking shape before their very eyes and then to finally see the end product that is Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim.
Imposing, due to the nature of business of Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim and secure in the knowledge that THIS was where the seat of the Johor State government lay, where important matters of state affecting the State of Johor, before and after Independence, were discussed, managed, and accordingly administered by the Johor Civil Service (JCS).
Impressive? That it is. Imposing? Aye, and that too. Word has it that there are plans to convert Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim into a state museum.
Should it be true, then it would have made perfect sense as Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim would make for an impressive museum, what with its own historical and cultural significance. It would definitely be a must on anyone’s itinerary.
For the state of Johor does have its own ‘jewels’, historical artifacts (Johor wasn’t built overnight, you know), priceless collections (seriously!) and works of art that would make any museum proud. Either way, the unique and majestic building that is Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim is definitely a visit, even if it’s just to appreciate the building’s history and its architecture and to soak in the atmosphere that is Bangunan Sultan Ibrahim.
Date : 26 January 2013