The planning and building of the PETRONAS Towers was a symbolic Malaysian love affair with its own leap forward into the twenty-first century. Having enjoyed several decades of dramatic economic expansion, Malaysia was ready in 1995 for some expression of the pride that citizens felt for having transformed themselves from a sleepy ex-British colony into an international economic powerhouse.
Determined to create a symbol of the great economic and technological progress of the Malaysian nation, the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammed pushed for the idea of re-developing the city center of Kuala Lumpur. As the idea moved forward, it first became the Kuala Lumpur City Center organization, which then produced the concept of a pair of tall twin towers in the center of the redeveloped city center.
Malaysian culture is not isolationist, but rather gregarious, with a history of interaction with the many nations that have traveled to and through the territory. Lying astride one of the great international trade routes, Malaysia has experienced an influx of peoples from India, China and Southeast Asia since the Stone Age, and the last two thousand years has seen European, Korean and Japanese influence as strong forces. And yet the Malaysian national identity has never waned and citizens can look back with pride on an inspiring list of Malaysian patriots, heroes and personalities that stretches back for centuries.
Once the goal of a pair of landmark towers was established, the building of the PETRONAS Towers moved forward employing a mostly Malaysian work force and a majority of Malaysian materials. Although many foreign architectural and engineering firms were involved, the Malaysian identity of the project was never ignored, and all foreign contractors worked hard to achieve harmony with Malaysian culture in the plans and designs they produced.
From one point of view the building of the PETRONAS Towers was the group effort of Malaysia’s leading businessmen who built themselves an impressive set of new offices. Malaysian funding made the project possible and while the Malaysian petroleum giant PETRONAS was the lead contributor, key support and additional funds came from a select group of the most powerful Malaysian businessmen and the federal and local governments.
From an aesthetic point of view, the PETRONAS Towers are certainly Malaysian. Both the exterior and interior designs and decoration reflect traditional Malaysian architecture and decorations, and the towers’ location in the center of Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur reflects the fact that downtown Kuala Lumpur has historically served as the center of Malaysian culture, politics and economy. Standing as a proud symbol of both Malaysia’s colorful past and promising future, the PETRONAS Towers beguile the Malaysian peoples, making the pair of towers the most popular tourist destination in Malaysia and the most appreciated national icon.