Istana Budaya is situated at the junction of Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Kuantan. The building which is home to Malaysia's Panggung Negara (National Theatre) is a 'lyrical theatre of the 21st century'. Its design incorporates elements of the Malay culture with local interior finishing.
Istana Budaya is proud to be considered as the first theatre in Asia to have the most advanced mechanism for stage performances. This accolade places it in the top 10 of the most advanced theatre in the world and at par with the Royal Albert Hall in London.
The Istana Budaya logo is based on the 'sirih' or betel leaves commonly used in Malay traditional weddings, festivities and welcoming ceremonies. It signifies a mark of excellence in the performing art and manifests the role of Istana Budaya in welcoming visitor to its theatrical performances of high artistic standard.
The theatre covers 5.44 hectares with a floor area of 21,000 square metres. The idea for the national theatre complex was first mooted in 1971 during the National Cultural Congress. However, work only began in 1995 after the final design submitted by Malaysian architect Muhammad Kamar Ya'akub was selected through a competition.
Muhammad Kamar's inspiration for the design is based on what he aesthetically conjures as 'wau bulan di udara' (moon kite in flight). Upon this premise, the architect went on to design the main building in the form of the 'sirih junjung' (a traditional arrangement of betel leaves used during Malay weddings and the welcoming of honoured guests).
The building is conceptually based on the traditional Malay house with its three sections comprising the 'serambi' (lobby and foyer), 'rumah ibu' (mother's house - the main section) as the auditorium and the 'rumah dapur' (kitchen) as the stage and rehearsal hall. The steps that lead to the auditorium is inspired by the traditional stone steps of the Melaka House. The design of the VIP viewing areas located on the left and right of the of auditorium is based on the traditional Malay window, which is wide and spacious. The main door, which is wide and prominent, depicts the main entrance to the 'Balai Rong Seri' (Royal Court) of ancient Malay palaces.
The half-moon shaped theatre lobby on the third level is inspired by the 'rebana ubi' (a large traditional Malay drum). The sparkling interior of the theatre derives from the pervasive use of Langkawi marble, while high-quality tropical woods are used for the doors that uniformly spot fine carvings of flowers and leaves. The thick and lush carpets that are laid out all over the foyer and lobby areas are designed with motifs based on the cempaka flower and the beringin tree (a theme always used during the opening of a story in the traditional Mak Yong theatre.
A total of six paintings by National Artist, Dato' Syed Ahmad Jamal adorn the walls of the lobby, and from the first floor right up to the third floor. The paintings, although displayed separately are actually one piece of work that depicts the legend of the Princess of Gunung Ledang.
The Istana Budaya is more than just a grand edifice. Its magnificence and relevance to the times is centred on the high-tech nature of the performing stage. The 28 x 25 metre proscenium-stage is easily adjustable and customised to suit any performance in only a few minutes. And like the traditional layout of other grand theatres, the stage for the orchestra is located right in front of the proscenium - but placed on a lower level to hide it from the audience seating area.
Up front are the Box Office, a rehearsal studio, costume room, 30 changing rooms complete with attached toilets, bathroom, wardrobe and an office for the use of guest theatre groups. A comprehensive closed circuit TV system (CCTV) provides constant monitoring of all areas of the building.
Other facilities include a guest area for VIPs and artistes, a discussion/meeting room, a traditional Malay theatre costume gallery, a restaurant, a souvenir shop and a prayer room. The theatre is disable do friendly, with special access ways and toilet facilities.
The auditorium, called Panggung Sari, can seat 1,301 people - 683 in the Balai Hadapan on the first floor, 286 in the Balai Utama or Grand Circle on the second floor and 332 in the Balai Peninjau or Upper Circle.
The four viewing balconies on the second floor and two on the third can accommodate 22 people. The orchestra stage when unused can accommodate 96 people.
The Istana Budaya as an Organisation
Istana Budaya came into being in 1972.It was then known as Kumpulan Budaya Negara(KBN). Housed in an old colonial bungalow along Jalan Ampang, it was placed under the auspices of the Cultural Promotions Unit of the Sports, Youth and Culture Ministry's Culture Division.
Thriving in the accommodating `70s when the arts, both contemporary and traditional, went through a revival of sorts, the unit was moved to the Kompleks Budaya Negara (National Cultural Complex) at Jalan Tun Ismail. Here, it took-on a more aggressive stance - allowing more emphasis to dances and traditional music.
In 1994, KBN assumed an organisational form. It became known as Panggung Negara. With the transition, the institution, embodying the spirit and philosophy of Malaysian performing arts - flourished and was destined for higher achievements. Finally, on 15th September 1999, Panggung Negara was officially opened by Malaysian Prime Minister and named as Istana Budaya.
In line with its status as a model for performing arts in Malaysia, Istana Budaya strives for excellence in all its performances. The institutional logo in the form of the three betel leaves - each representing language (acting), movement (dances) and rhythm (music), are brought together by a fourth leaf that represents theatre arts. In all, this symbolises excellence in the arts. The logo was officiated on 19th May 1999.
The Istana Budaya has five objectives, namely:
- To increase aesthetical achievements in stage arts in Malaysia
- To create artistic excellence towards achieving a professional theatre
- To create a market for high quality productions
- To help the public develop a higher sense of artistic appreciation
- To help stimulate a sponsorship culture
As a Government organisation, the primary role of the Istana Budaya is to provide quality and affordable entertainment for the community in line with the National Cultural Policy.
The organisation is proud of the National Cultural Group, which is under the Production Unit. The group has graced official functions and also act as the country's cultural ambassador - participating in numerous cultural and tourism missions at the international level throughout the years.
The creation of the National Symphony Orchestra (OSK) in 1993 and the Choir in 1992 has helped to produce classical music of quality for the community. In 1998, the Music Unit launched the Youth Symphony Orchestra along with the Youth Choir as an avenue for youths to improve their musical and singing talents.
The Marketing and Presentation Unit, Design and Technical Unit, and the Financial and Adminitrative Unit support both the Production and Music Units. The Director is in-charge of all administrative matters.
The Box Office is open until 9.00 p.m. only on days where there are performances, and on Sundays and Public Holidays it is open from 2.00 p.m. until 7.00 p.m.
Tickets are only on sale a week before each performance date. Bookings can be made but tickets must be collected at least one day before a performance is scheduled to be staged.
Istana Budaya reserves the right to cancel bookings for tickets that are not claimed on the stated date.
For more information please call the Box Office at 03-4025 5932 or 03-4025 5934.
Sahabat Istana Budaya (Friends of Istana Budaya)
Istana Budaya welcomes the public and theatre fans to register as Sahabat Istana Budaya. For details please contact:
The Marketing Unit, Istana Budaya Jalan Tun Razak, 50694 Kuala Lumpur.
Telephone: 03-4025 2525 (main line) 03-4025 5929 Fax: 03-4025 5975