A newly independent democracy requires a venue for the country's representatives to run said country and this was the task our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, undertook when Malaya achieved its independence in 1957. Tunku put this suggestion forward in 1959 and on August 31, 1962, the foundation stone was laid to mark the beginning of construction. But what would the central administrative building for a multi-cultural progressive country look like?
The design was conceptualised by Sir William Ivor Shipley, an Architecture Association-trained architect with the Public Works Department. Somehow the building's language needed to portray a nationalist architecture vocabulary which balanced the government agenda of achieving racial unity while maintaining its Malay roots. A tall order to be sure but it can be surmised that the building's modernist expression could be partly attributed to a prior trip the architect took to study the Chandigarh designed by Le Corbusier.
A sprawling site about 16.2 hectares in size near Lake Perdana (Lake Gardens) was selected for the construction of the building. Then known as West Folly Hill, this lush green elevation was chosen due to its strategic hill-top location while still being near to Kuala Lumpur city centre. The hilltop had to be levelled about 61 meter from above sea level to accommodate construction of the three-storey podium block and 17-storey tower block. To complete its infrastructure, a bridge was built to allow access to the building from the main road network.