Dwellings and villages are amongst one of the important cultural tools in a society. They also act as fundamental elements to the socio-cultural study of a society.
A dwelling and its construction can reflect the culture of its occupants. In Negeri Sembilan, the design of a traditional Malay house is very unique as it symbolises the adat perpatih practice exercised by the people of Negeri Sembilan.
The traditional Malay house has its own attraction, where each component and basic structures such as the pillars, roof, bendul (doorsill), windows and staircases are said to be built with various distinctive meanings. The architecture of a house is often associated with Malay creativity and their intimate relationship with the environment.
If we venture into Negeri Sembilan we will surely encounter many Malay houses with very similar forms. At Taman Seni in Seremban there is an antique Malay Negeri Sembilan model house. However, despite its age, many secrets of the past are preserved within it.
The Malay Negeri Sembilan model house was built in 1921. It also portrays the architectural design of a Negeri Sembilan Malay house as a whole. The Malay model house was originally located on a high ground at the intersection of Jalan Tasik and Jalan Dunman in the town of Seremban before being transferred to Taman Seni Negeri Sembilan.
Like any typical Negeri Sembilan Malay house in general, the Negeri Sembilan Malay model house resembles the Minangkabau vernacular dwellings design. Its influence greatly impacts on Negeri Sembilan Malay houses as a whole. The significance of its influence is undeniable since most of the Negeri Sembilan Malays originated from Minangkabau.
If a refined and in-depth scrutiny are executed upon the construction concept of the Negeri Sembilan Malay house, its arrangements and planning is flawlessly complete. By focusing on the Negeri Sembilan Malay model house,we find that it emulates the Minangkabau design form. It has a long and curved-shaped roof with both ends of the roof pointing slightly upwards Just like other Malay houses, it also has the main house (rumah ibu), or a central house with a veranda and attic and fascinating carvings on the walls. Among other prominent features include the raised suspended floors and timber staircase.
This Negeri Sembilan Malay model house is made of high quality wood and the roof is also made of wood. This house is also of average size at 2.7 metres x 17.8 metres long and 7.8 metres x 0.9 metres wide. It has 16 main pillars, hence known as the 16 Pillar House.
Similar to any other traditional Malay house, this house is also graced with carvings at the main facade of the house. This adds artistic quality to the built structure, which is not only sturdy in construction but also exquisite and invaluable in terms of artistic design. For this reason this Malay Model House was exhibited in London in 1924 at the Great Wembley Exhibition. Currently the Negeri Sembilan Malay house model is still intact in the Taman Seni Negeri Sembilan as a historic building for future generations to witness.
Near the Negeri Sembilan Malay Model House , there is another old built structure known as the Istana Ampang Tinggi. Istana Ampang Tinggi is a timber palace with a Minangkabau design influence. It has a long and curved roof. In addition to the design, its uniqueness lies in the intricate woodcarvings found on the walls, doors, stairs and other parts of this palace. This palace was also built without the use of any iron nails.
Most of the carvings found on this Palace have specific motifs especially the awan larat (arabesque), semantung flower, mangosteen calyx and a wide variety of floral motifs. Indeed, these carvings represents a distinguished level of the art of woodcarving and the Malay culture itself.
This palace also has a loft, one of the features of a traditional Negeri Sembilan Malay house. This is usually a place to store valuables and also the sleeping area for princesses.
Istana Ampang Tinggi was built during the reign of Yamtuan Ulin (Yamtuan Imam), the fifth Yang Di Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan, between 1861-1869. This palace was once the residence of Tunku Muhammad, the Seventh Yang Dipertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan. However in 1928, the palace was no longer his residence, and was under the care of other family members. In 1953 this Palace was shifted and relocated to Seremban and made as a part of the State Museum.
Both the Negeri Sembilan Malay Model House and Istana Ampang Tinggi buildings are now major tourist attractions to Taman Seni Negeri Sembilan. Indeed, the buildings are living proofs of Malay creative architectural marvels manifesting the cultural heritage of their ancestors.