Although the Sabah Art Gallery was founded in 1984, she has not had a permanent home until recently. For more than two decades the gallery has had to share facilities with the State Museum and hold exhibitions at a variety of venues in and around Kota Kinabalu. This year Sabah Art Gallery finally has a home.
Located on Mile 2, Jalan Penampang, Kota Kinabalu on a 1.7-hectare land, the building which is known as the Sabah Art Gallery Conservation Centre (Pusat Konservasi Balai Seni Lukis Sabah) has been the dream of the ex-director, the late Datuk Mohd. Yaman Hj. Ahmad Mus, who was also the founder of the Sabah Art Gallery. The dream was finally realized with the construction of the building which started in July 2010 was completed in Aug 2012.
The octagonal building plan was inspired by Datuk Yaman’s deep interest in geometric shapes in general as evident in many of his artworks. The geometry also makes for a more user-friendly centralized circulation pattern as requested by Datuk Yaman himself. Even more striking than the building’s plan is its form with the walls that taper outward from the base at an angle of 30 degrees giving the Gallery a most distinctive appearance.
The construction of this building is one of the most exciting and unique challenge for the builders. The Gallery’s structure and walls are made entirely of reinforced concrete. Of the buildings four levels, the first two are reserved for the Gallery’s main occupation which is conservation and preservation of the State’s asset – the art collection. The upper levels (level 3 and 4) are reserved for exhibition space, office and library. Entry is at the second level and the main vertical circulation is via lift and central staircase. The light coming from the skylight above the central staircase is one of the most attractive features of the interior space.
Sabahan traditional motifs are seen throughout the Gallery, in particular the subtle floor patterns at the entrance area and four decorative panels on the external wall which encompass the common motifs used by many ethnic groups such as the Murut, Irranun, Bajau, Lotud and Rungus.
The first Green Building in Sabah
It should be noted that the Sabah Art Gallery Conservation Building was awarded Silver classification from the Green Building Index Assessment Panel in 2012. It is the first officially recognized Green building in Sabah and the first Green public gallery in Malaysia, complete with solar panels, passive design, rainwater harvesting system and movement sensor lights.
This unique and special building will hopefully give more prominence to the role of art in Sabah as well as being a talking point and an attraction for art lovers and tourists alike for years to come.