Istana Budaya Kuala Lumpur is a national theatre located in Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur. This theatre is formerly known as Panggung Negara and was officially opened by former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. The turquoise folds on the roof and the intricate design of the foyer are just two of the features that will take your breath away.
Istana Budaya is the first theatre in Asia to be equipped with state-of-the-art stage equipment. This makes it as one of the ten most sophisticated theatres in the world, and on par with the Royal Albert Hall in London. Istana Budaya Kuala Lumpur was built at a cost of RM210 million and is used for local as well as foreign art and cultural performances.
The Cultural Performances
You can enjoy performances from the National Symphony Orchestra featuring Malaysia’s talented young musicians as well as other local cultural and musical performances, and internationally acclaimed musicals, concerts and ballet performances.
The cultural palace building represents the country and its culture in many ways. Designed by the talented Malaysian architect Muhammad Kamar Ya’akub, the overall architecture was inspired by the traditional Malay house.
The main building takes the form of the sirih junjung which is a traditional arrangement of betel leaves used during Malay weddings and welcoming ceremonies,while the Malaysian wau or kite is used as a design motif for the theatre’s interior especially its floor.
Istana Budaya truly reflects a blend of the best aspects of the Malay culture which can be summarized as follows:
- Wau Bulan – this traditional Malay kite is used as the main motive of the theatre’s floor.
- Sirih Junjung – a multi-tier floral arrangement of “sirih” or betel leaves used as a symbolic piece for Malay weddings, festivities and welcoming ceremonies is reflected in the entire roof of the theatre.
- Rumah Melayu – a typical Malay house pattern is the general layout of the building. It has three major sections:
- the serambi (lobby and foyer)
- rumah ibu (mother house) as the auditorium, and
- the rumah dapur (kitchen) as the stage and rehearsal hall
- Tangga – staircases (“tangga”) that lead to the grand entrance depict the staircase of a traditional Melaka house.
- Tingkap – the Royal Boxes follow the patterns of a Malay house’s windows (“tingkap”), all large and spacious.
- Balairong Seri – the auditorium is evidently designed similar to this royal palace hall of the olden days.
- Rebana Ubi – the theatre lobby on the third floor takes the shape of this traditional Malay drum
In addition, Banyan Leaf, which signifies the beginning of Wayang Kulit or shadow play also decorates the theatre lobbies, and its walls are elegantly adorned by the exquisite artwork by Malaysia’s National Arts Laureate, Dato Syed Ahmad Jamal.
The interior of Istana Budaya Kuala Lumpur makes extensive use of Langkawi marble, while high-quality tropical wood is used for the doors, which feature hand-carved flower and leaf motifs. The lush carpets in the foyer and lobby feature motifs based on the cempaka flower and the beringin tree (reminiscent of a traditional Mak Yong performance).
Inside the cultural palace, there is also a costume gallery featuring clothes from Malay traditional theatre. You can see the performance costumes from Bangsawan, Mak Yong, Ajat Bebunuh, Layang Emas and Bambarayon performances.
How to get to Istana Budaya
Istana Budaya is located at Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur. It can be reached by public and private means of transportation. If you drive, take Jalan Ipoh or Jalan Pahang before turning into Jalan Tun Razak. Upon reaching the building, turn into Jalan Kuantan that leads to the car park.
If you are coming from the east of the city, make your way to Jalan Tun Razak and proceed until the Jalan Pahang roundabout where you make a full turn back to get to the other side. Parking is free.
Istana Budaya is also accessible by way of LRT. Take the routes to Kampung Baru (if you use Putra) and the Titiwangsa (for STAR) stations. It should be a relatively short taxi ride away from the stations.
Weekdays 9am-7pm (Mon-Thurs); 9am-12pm/3pm-7pm (Fri)
Weekends & Public Holidays 9am-7pm (Sat); 2pm-7pm (Sun & Public Hols)