Was the architecture of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building influenced by Muir College Building?

J.M. Gullick, in his essay entitled The Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad (1992) revealed the possibility that the design of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building was inspired or influenced by the architecture of the Muir College building in Allahabad, India.  The suspicion is reasonable judging by the remarkable similarity between the two buildings (See picture below). Muir College (completed in 1886) was designed in Indo-Saracenic architectural style by William Emerson, one of the most innovative of British architects working in India at that time.

Indo-Saracenic architectural style movement started in 1870s in British India.  It drew elements from native Indo-Islamic (Mughal) and Indian architecture and combined it with the Gothic revival and Neo-Classical styles favoured in Victorian Britain.

On another note, the person responsible for introducing Indo-Saracenic architecture in then Malaya was Sir William Maxwell (then Resident of Selangor since 1889).  He brought in Charles Edwin Spooner (CE Spooner) from Ceylon and appointed him the State Engineer of Selangor to overhaul Selangor PWD and in preparation for the construction of the new Government Office (now the Sultan Abdul Samad Building).

Muir College, Allahabad. (Picture source: Wikipedia)
According to Gullick, Spooner may have seen the drawings of the MUIR College (Picture above) which was originally published in Building News - the British technical journals. Spooner may have also been involved in the project in Ceylon in constructing buildings in Indo-Saracenic style.

When the project for the construction of the new Government Offices started, as the new State Engineer with powerful authority, Spooner rejected the earlier design in Classic Renaissance style done by the Government Architect in PWD then, AC Norman and only retained the ground plan.  Spooner instead decided on the Indo-Saracenic style which he called Mahometan Style.

RAJ Bidwell, a young architect, was assigned to draw the elevation and the details in Mahometan Style (Indo-Saracenic) from the ground plan prepared by AC Norman with alterations and additions as well as the designing of the fixtures done by AB Hubback during its construction.

Bombay University garden.
Picture source: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00routesdata/1800_1899/education/othercolleges/othercolleges.html
On the other hand, Gullick also believed that the design of the library building of Bombay University may have suggested ideas to Spooner for the Sultan Abdul Samad Building's galleries and spiral staircase tower.  The massive tower of the Bombay University which is rather out of proportion to the university library building behind it may have also inspired Spooner to produce strong contrast of horizontal and vertical lines which are prominent in the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. Bombay University was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-78) who was regarded as the leader of the Gothic revival in Victorian England.

Please check back my earlier posting on the history of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.


Gullick, J.M. (1992). The Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 65, 27-38.