Carcosa Seri Negara
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|Carcosa Seri Negara|
Undated exterior of the Carcosa mansion.
|Former names||King's House|
|Architectural style||Neo-Gothic & Tudor Revival|
|Location||Jalan Kebun Bunga, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia|
|Construction started||1896 - 1897|
|Design and construction|
Carcosa Seri Negara is a luxury hotel on two adjacent hills inside the Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur. It is owned by the Malaysian Government. The hotel includes two colonial mansions, one named Carcosa, the other Seri Negara.
The Carcosa mansion was built in 1896-1897 as the official residence of Sir Frank Swettenham, the first British High Commissioner in Malaya of the then Resident-General of the Federated Malay States. It was designed by Arthur Benison Hubback under instruction from the State Engineer of Selangor Public Work Department Charles Edwin Spooner, and sometimes also credited to Arthur Charles Alfred Norman, a senior government architect of the Public Works Department in Malaya. It was built at a cost of about $25,000. With the eclectic fusion of Neo-Gothic and Tudor Revival styles, the residence has more than eight bedrooms including master bedroom and guest rooms; and eleven bathrooms.
Governor's Residence/King's House/Guest's Palace/Seri Negara
Seri Negara or Beautiful Country in Malay, was originally known as the Governor's Residence when it was opened in 1913 as the official guest house of Governor of the Straits Settlement. It was later known as the King's House.
King's House was vacated by the British High Commissioner on August 31, 1957, and returned to the Malayan Government. It was then opened as the Istana Tetamu (Guest's Palace), hosting many a visiting dignitary.
With Malayan independence imminent in September 1956, the Chief Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman, presented the deeds of Carcosa and its 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land to the British Government as a gift, a token of goodwill. He moved a resolution in the Federal Legislative Council which read, "That this Council approve of the proposal to make a free gift of the house and buildings known as "Carcosa", together with the gardens and land attached, as a token of the goodwill of the Malayan people to Her Majesty's Government, for use as the residence and office of the future representative of that government in an Independent Federation." Carcosa then became residence to a succession of post-independence diplomatic British High Commissioners.
The Carcosa "issue" was taken up by young radical politicians, in particular Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir Mohamad, his mentor. Tun Daim Zainuddin successfully led the campaign for the Malaysian government to own it, yet again. In 1987, possession of the Carcosa estate was returned to the Government of Malaysia.
Role as hotel
Following the acquisition of the estate, the Malaysian government proceeded to repurpose the estate into a hotel by leasing the estate to hospitality companies: First to Malaysia-based Landmark Hotels and Realty from 1989 to 2010 (with Singapore-based General Hotel Management managing day-to-day operations between 2004 and 2010), and Saujana Hotels & Resorts (the hospitality subsidiary of Malaysia-based Peremba Group) from 2010 to 2016.
Carcosa and the Guest's Palace were to both serve as hotels, with the former rebranded as Seri Negara. Marketed as a luxurious heritage boutique hotel, much of the mansions' colonial architecture and interior designs were preserved, carefully adapted, and complemented with colonial-themed hotel service. In its inaugural year as a hotel, Carcosa Seri Negara served as the temporary official residence for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip when the 1989 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur.
After the lease for the estate was officially transferred from Landmark to Saujana in December 2010, only Seri Negara resumed operation as a hotel, carrying the Carcosa Seri Negara brand on its own. Carcosa was largely vacated, confined to limited uses, and had been reported to receive only basic maintenance. After the expiry of Saujana's lease in December 31, 2015, the hotel is entirely closed for business and the estate is under the safekeeping of the property and land management division of the Prime Minister's Department. Plans have been made to assign management of the buildings to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall, with a currently undetermined hospitality company conducting day-to-day operations.
The building is designated as a heritage building and has been protected under the Antiquities Act (later superseded by the National Heritage Act).
Choice of name
The choice of name was explained by Sir Frank Swettenham:
To the Editor of “British Malaya”
[British Malaya, May 1936]
In the April magazine your correspondent in Malaya asks me, in courteous terms, to tell him why I gave the name “Carcosa” to the house that was designed and built for me at Kuala Lumpur by the late Mr. C.E. Spooner, assisted by Mr. A.B. Hubback – as he was in those days – and I have no objection to answer the question even though the simple truth may spoil a number of excellent stories. When this house was finished and occupied I read a book which interested me. It was called “The King in Yellow” and at the beginning of this book there were some verses with a note explaining that they came from Cassilda’s song in “The King in Yellow”, Act 1, Scene 2. Here are two verses: -
“Strange is the night where black stars rise, And twin moons circle in the skies, But the stranger still is Lost Carcosa.”
“Song of my soul, my voice is dead; Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed Shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa.”
I did not call the Resident General’s dwelling “Government House,” or “King’s House,” because neither seemed an appropriate name in Protected States. I did not give it a Malay name, because it was to be the residence of a British Officer; so I took a book name as has often been done before.
As to the word Carcosa, I imagine it was the Castle of the King in Yellow, but the book explains nothing about either the place or its occupant. That apparently can be found in the play, to which there are only occasional allusions. Probably it is a word created by the author’s fancy, though it looks like a combination of the Italian words cara and casa and would mean “desirable dwelling,” as indeed I found it.
The only curious fact is that this name was prophetic for, as I understand, the house has lost its name and is thus, “Lost Carcosa.” The occupant, I am told, is now styled “F.S,” instead of “R.G.”
19 April 1936.
The Carcosa Seri Negara Logo was designed by Johan Design Associates (JDA) in 1989.
The Logo derived from metaphors (involving natural elements, environment, humanity, charm and beauty etc.), in this case a swan, are quite common, especially in the hospitality-related outlets, exotic resorts, nature’s goodness, romance and gender-enhanced branding, where specific nuances are drawn into play. It exude perceptions of warm hospitality, sense of wellbeing, nature’s exuberance, high society living and dining.
One of Carcosa Seri Negara's trademarks is the English afternoon tea, served in the elegant drawing room, or on the charming wrap-around verandah, overlooking the beautiful gardens. It is served daily.
- 2.^ William Warren, Jill Gocher (2007). Asia's legendary hotels: the romance of travel. Singapore: Periplus Editions. ISBN 978-0-7946-0174-4.
- Similar British colonial residences: