Faded splendour


Unlike Penang or Malacca, Ipoh’s old town is somewhat rundown and unattractive. There are pockets of restored and re-purposed buildings, which is encouraging, but many of the architecturally interesting buildings are almost derelict. I came across a beautiful book (in the lovely Gerak Budaya bookshop in Penang!) about the Danish architect B.M. Iversen, who lived in Ipoh in the 1930s. He designed many buildings here, including several cinemas, one of which was the Ruby. We found it and took this photo. It is an attractive art deco building taking up a prominent corner and you can still appreciate its lovely lines. It now houses a downmarket furniture store and the unsympathetic signage and displays of low-cost furniture detract from the Ruby’s charm. B.M. Iversen’s daughter Ruth Iversen Rollitt, who wrote Iversen: Architect of Ipoh and Modern Malaya (Areca Books, 2015), was born and brought up in Ipoh. Recently she said:
“When I go back to Ipoh now, I weep. They don’t maintain it, it’s dirty, it was so beautiful previously … Ipoh is like the old George Town before it was revived. Because of the weather, it’s very difficult to maintain the buildings but the buildings in Ipoh are left to crumble. My father built many cinemas in Ipoh, they were burnt and most of them have been turned into furniture depositories. Ipoh is sad.”

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