In case you’re not old enough to remember, Jurassic Park debuted at the REX movie theatre in 1993. As the first cinema in Malaysia to feature Dolby Surround Sound, there were lines around the block several times over by fans eager to savour this aural revolution. But the history of the Rex goes all the way back to 1947 when it was the beating heart of Kuala Lumpur. Folks came from far and wide for the incomparable local food, shopping excursions, or just to take in the bustling sights and sounds.
Today, two iconoclastic architects have turned the building into a pared- down but stylish space for events, exhibitions and gourmet eateries. “This is not Chinatown. Someone decided to stick a label on it for branding purposes but all Malaysians used to walk these streets. We want to bring that back,” they say.
Here are Shin Tseng and Shin Chang in their own words.
Shin Tseng: Architecture is one of oldest creative professions in the world. Before constructing a building, an architect needs to consider the history, culture and politics of the community and country at large. We must balance creativity with the reality that our creation is here to serve the community.
Shin Chang: RexKL is about changing the perception of downtown Kuala Lumpur. We see it as a collaborative effort for all Malaysians to inject new activities, fresh content, and new elements into this space. I grew up here and back when people used to say “Let’s go down to KL”, this is where they would come first. Our vision is to highlight this part of town again. We want to reclaim this space so that Malaysians can be proud of it, not just newer buildings like Pavilion or Mid Valley.
Shin Tseng: It’s about bringing back a very real sense of community, where neighbours would look out for each other instead of relying on CCTV cameras. There’s this perception that Petaling Street is only meant for tourists. But really, it belongs to all of us!
Shin Chang: That’s why we’re not only asking young people to come and share their ideas, but even the people who have spent generations around here, we want to tell them that we’re taking back what is uniquely Malaysian.
On Shin Tseng: Jacket, shirt and boots by Dior men; TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 02 Automatic Chronograph 44mm in fine- brushed, polished stainless steel with pink-gold details, ceramic bezel, black dial and alligator strap; On Shin Chang: Outfit, personality’s own; TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 02 Automatic Chronograph 42mm in fine- brushed, polished stainless steel with blue dial and steel bracelet