Kuching Architecture - St. Thomas Cathedral

Rev. Francis McDougall whom you met in my earlier post on The Bishop's House was the first Anglican Missionary in Sarawak. He came under the invitation of Rajah James Brooke in 1848. He was deemed suitable for the job as beside being a priest, he was also a doctor. The land for the church and mission was given by the Rajah in 1849, and soon after a wooden church capable of accommodating 250 people was erected. It was consecrated by Bishop Wilson of Calcutta in honour of St. Thomas the Apostle. The present St. Thomas Cathedral was completed in 1954.

To me this is one of the finest examples of "modern" architecture in Kuching. Instead of trying to copy the usual neo-Gothic style or create a replica of an indigenous building, the architect designed a very modern building for its time. The basic form was still based on a high-pitched nave typical of a cathedral, but here the architect had consciously made reference to traditional indigenous buildings in the gable and eave design.

The pitched roof of the generous front porch was also a strong departure from the norm, and was an adaptation to the tropical climate. The rest of the building exhibited very creative and practical solutions in designing a place of gathering for a hot tropical climate without air-conditioning. On both sides of the nave, large openings echo the stained glass windows of traditional cathedrals. They let in light, and due to the openable glass panes also provide good cross ventilation for the internal spaces. The light was also tempered with horizontal shutters which gave it a golden glow. At the lower level, smaller windows arranged at an angle let in more light and natural ventilation, but with the clever design block out any distraction from outside. All these design touches seem to work very well, as even on a hot day the internal spaces feel naturally cool inside, with the aide of some electric fans.

Large windows on the sides of the nave lets in ample light and ventilation. The shutters gave the light a golden glow.

The concrete design of the roof trusses are surprisingly slim and elegant for its day. The wooden ceiling which had been painted red recently made a nice contrast with the white trusses.

Openable glass panes on the side windows.

If you are an architecture enthusiast, the St. Thomas Cathedral is a must visit as it is one of the finest examples of modern architecture in Sarawak. The Cathedral is right in the town centre, opposite the Kuching Central Padang (Town Square).


Must have gone past this building so many times, it is great to see the wonderful interior here :) Thanks!
Borneoboy said…
Ya. We tend to take for granted those things around us. There are still so many great places in Kuching waiting to be explored.
CW I think you would have a great time looking at all the different churches and cathedrals in Hawaii.
Borneoboy said…
Hi Nate & Annie. Haven't had a chance to visit Hawaii yet. Would love to go there.

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