WIT Press

In Harmony With Nature – The Suckling Elephant House Of Malaysia


Free (open access)





Page Range

137 - 147




2,026 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


A. Bahauddin & A. Abdullah


As the world cries about the global warming phenomenon, designers are looking at ways of constructing better living units. One way of dealing with this problem is by looking at the architecture of the past. This paper explores the traditional Malay architecture of the Suckling Elephant House mainly found in the northern part of Malaysia. This type of house is currently dwindling in number. Steps are required to document this house due to its rich cultural, social and environmental attributes related to its simple timber construction and surroundings. The methodology of this research involves thorough literature review supported by surveys, measured drawings, interviews and visual data collection. History has taught us a lot of lessons through philosophies, customs and rituals; the Suckling Elephant House is no exception. This Malay vernacular architecture has shown many ways of designing a house that is suited to the climate, weather and the environment. Above all, the early builders knew how to construct a habitation for comfort that serves its function as a place for shelter from the elements and safety from wild animals. The Suckling Elephant House although featuring a humble appearance, is rich with traditions that are almost spiritual. It manages to create a more meaningful space for habitation. It is a clear indication that the constructions, the embellishments and the space planning that make up the house strengthen the spiritual being right from the exterior to the interior living space. The history and the heritage of this house must be upheld although Malaysia’s modernisation cries for a better outlook of houses. Learning from the Suckling Elephant House’s history and customs that are associated with it will revive the knowledge in designing and constructing houses in a tropical climate for the comfort of the inhabitants. Keywords: traditional, spiritual, customs, space planning, embellishments.


traditional, spiritual, customs, space planning, embellishments.