Rumah Attap Library & Collective @ The Zhongshan Building, Kuala Lumpur

Hey guys! I recently worked on a story on unique libraries in Kuala Lumpur – which included a Japanese-themed one and a children’s library in a refurbished wooden village house. Being a book lover, it was awesome to be able to share their stories and make sure they got the attention they deserved.

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One of the libraries I went to was the Rumah Attap Library & Collective at The Zhongshan Building in Kuala Lumpur. When N came visiting last year, I took him to visit the building, but we seemed to have missed the library as it is tucked in a quiet corner on the 3rd floor.

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Like many of the tenants at Zhongshan, it’s hard to determine what exactly lies behind each unit’s closed doors – until you knock and take a peek inside. In Rumah Attap’s case, visitors will be welcomed by various posters of upcoming art events, shows and festivals on the walls.

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While it’s not very large, the space is brightly lit and roomy, with plenty of sunshine filtering in. With a cosy couch in a corner and various paraphernalia lining one side of the wall, it feels more like someone’s apartment than it does a library.One of the most stunning fixtures in the library is the wall of books on wooden shelves. The library has over 3,000 books, mostly on art, culture, philosophy and sociology in the Chinese language, and a selection of English and Malay works as well.

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Started in 2017, the library came about as a collaboration between three local arts and culture organisations, namely Amateur, In Between Cultura and Au Sow Yee Studio. It was decided that a physical space was needed for the orgs to host their programmes, such as book readings, film screenings and cultural talks – and when Zhongshan called for tenants to fill up its units, the library was born.

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Brochures for upcoming events and activities.

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Since the space is run by volunteers, it is only open on weekends. They regularly host programmes such as talks by scholars and book reading sessions, so keep updated on their Facebook page.

RUMAH ATTAP LIBRARY AND COLLECTIVE 

84c, Jalan Rotan, Kampung Attap, 50460, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

**While you’re around the area: check out beautiful graffiti art on the walls of the adjacent building. 

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Exploring The Zhongshan Building, Kuala Lumpur

I’ve been meaning to go to the Zhongshan Building in Kampung Attap, Kuala Lumpur ever since I read about it in one of our magazines, but was too shy to do it alone lol.

The chance finally came when the Boy came to visit, so we went there over the weekend to check out what the independent creative and research hub had to offer.

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Run by OURArtProjects Gallery, the building consists of three interconnected shophouses dating back to the 1950s, that once housed the Zhongshan Association, which is a frozen foods supplier. Currently, a dozen tenants call it home, including art, design and fashion studios, research centres, art galleries, a library, record store and more.

Start from the ground floor, which houses OURArts Project gallery. Although small, the place showcases a good selection of curated works by up and coming local artists.

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Just next door is Naaise, which sells gifts, souvenirs and handmade goodies. Founded in Singapore, the shop nevertheless has plenty of items that resonate with local tastes , since Malaysia and Singapore share many cultural traits. If you fancy some kuih-shaped pillows and T-shirts with Singlish/Manglish phrases, then Naaise is the place to go.

Some of the quirky things you can find here:

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Unique card games with names like “The Lepak Game” – lepak being Malay slang for ‘chill/hangout’.

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Cutesy dish scrubbers

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Pop-up cards depicting typical street scenes in Malaysia/Singapore – especially the pre- colonial shop houses unique to this region,

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Wooden cameras

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These pretty cards that are a throwback to the 60s – not sure if it’s a Western thing but we had this Hong Kong Chinese show that was very popular in that era, called “Black Rose” – a crime fighting femme fatale that wore a mask – so I imagine the characters in the cards are an homage to that.

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It took all my willpower not to buy some of these gorgeous looking notebooks – there were even hand-marbled ones!

Other stuff you can get at the store: everything from perfumes and fragrances, oils and candles to soaps, batik and accessories.

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After you’re done at Naaise, exit through the back into a well-lit courtyard, where you will find Tommy le Baker, a popular bakery-cum-cafe. Waiting times are pretty long, but patient patrons will be well rewarded with delicious sandwiches and tartines, featuring freshly baked sourdough bread + ingredients such as cured salmon, rotisserie chicken, an assortment of cheeses, and more.

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Cured salmon sandwich which came chock full of ingredients. Th  salty goodness was balanced out by the bread, which was soft on the inside but with a crispy crust.

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Garlic cream cheese spread on sourdough bread + a side of tomato with relish = divine.

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New to Zhongshan is Bendang Studio, a handmade ceramic and pottery store. They also organise pottery classes, but visitors should register in advance coz they get sold out quickly!

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The layout at Zhongshan is reminiscent of a flat, with narrow stairways, as well as little nooks and crannies to explore. While some are retailers and open to the public, others are private studios so it’s a good idea to knock /seek permission if you’re curious.

(Above) lining the walls in one of the corridors are single pages torn from books.

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A must check out for book lovers is Tintabudi, an independent bookstore that carries vintage and second hand books, and sometimes rare restored classics. The small, cosy space is bathed in a yellow light and has a rustic, homely feel to it  – more like someone’s personal library than a bookstore.

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If you exit through the back, you’ll come to PiuPiuPiu, a hole in the wall coffee bar that serves cakes alongside pale ale and lagers. Seats are limited, but patrons can opt to sit on the patio and enjoy the sunshine.

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Dedicated to all things punk and rock, Tandang Store carries vinyl, cassettes and CDs, as well as zines, books and punk-related paraphernalia. The exterior of the store is a colourful tapestry of gig posters, calls for band members and graffiti.

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We were a bit shy to go in. 😛

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Upstairs we found a spot called My Pink Hibiscus, an inclusive space for gatherings, sharing and events. Unfortunately last I checked, they’ve already moved out of the Zhongshan building.

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While you’re in the area, do check out the nice, colourful graffiti next to the Zhongshan Building, which makes for very Instagrammable shots. 😉

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ZHONGSHAN BUILDING 

Jalan Rotan, Off Jalan Kampung Attap, Kuala Lumpur

 

Parking: I recommend parking at the parking lot on the hill above the building and walking down through the stairs. We thought it was a Saturday so we parked in the back alley and got a nice DKBL ticket for it lol.