Architect and urban planner Dato’ Seri Lim Chong Keat had a vision for
Penang in the eighties and a special one that superseded his past projects
including the Singapore Conference Hall and the Jurong Town Hall. His dream was
to revitalise Penang with an unprecedented mega project that took place in the
very core of the state namely George Town.
Komtar, a 65-storey tower that overlooked the city of George Town was only one fifth of the then-government’s plan to enlivened the sleepy town into a modernised hub for Penangites – that included another Komtar lookalike in Sia Boey, an area located next to the Prangin Canal in George Town. The other phase was a four-storey podium that surrounded the tower and catered to local businesses. Despite a decade spent in executing the first two phases and the million ringgit invested, the mega plan fell through and the land that was cleared out for this project was left empty – only to be taken up by 1stAvenue Mall and Prangin Mall in the years to follow.
‘The Lost Giant’, the brain child of a collective group of Penangites from all walks of life, was an ode to what Komtar could have been and what was left of the tower today. The team included photographer Wei Ming and Xujen Teoh, film maker Boon Huai, designers Alvin, Jamie and Choco, gardeners Vin and Jannminn Foon, musician Cheong, artists Bibichun and Ammar Khalifa as well as entrepreneur Shawn Tan.
Following the opening of ‘The Lost Giant’ exhibition, photographer Wei Ming was overwhelmed by heartfelt responses from Penangites who were hit with similar waves of nostalgia about the iconic landmark. ‘In the ‘90s, people hung out and met their friends at Komtar. It was like a central point for the younger generations then’ said photographer Wei Ming and he added it also attracted real stories that were unheard of. ‘There was an uncle who came and he showed us a 1930s map of Penang before Komtar was built. His school, Chung Hwa Confucian School, was one of the places that was knocked down to give way to the Komtar development’.
Dato’ Seri Lim Chong Keat graced the opening of the exhibition and shared that the Dewan Tunku Geodesic Dome was conceptualised by the late American architect Richard Buckminister Fuller, whom he dubbed as ‘the Leonardo Da Vinci of our time’. It was also known to be his last international project before Fuller passed in 1983. A fact unfamiliar to most, the geodesic structure included a squash court, a badminton hall and exhibition space fit for a game of tennis and futsal. Old Peranakan ceramics and tiles were also found while unearthing the construction site of Komtar.