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Iversen: Architect of Ipoh and Modern Malaya

Danish architect Berthel Michael Iversen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1906. The seventh and youngest child in the family, he was christened Berthel after the internationally renowned Danish sculptor Berthel Thorvaldsen. With a great passion for drawing, Iversen studied architecture at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen. Ten years later, Iversen travelled to Malaya and began his career in two architectural firms before starting his own firm in Ipoh, the state capital of Perak, in Malaysia in 1936 with architect S.H van Sitteren. Called Iversen, van Sitteren & Partners, it had branches in Penang, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

The firm was responsible for the design of thousands of buildings in Penang, Perak, Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Iconic buildings in Ipoh designed by the practice include the Grandstand at Ipoh Racecourse, and five of the numerous cinema halls (Majestic, Rex, Ruby, Cathay and Lido) operated by the Shaw Brothers, among others. 

A number of young Malaya architects worked under Iversen, some before setting up their own practices. In 1966, Iversen decided to retire leaving his firm to his son Per and Gladys Tio Phaik Keow before it was sold to another practice. Iversen later died of cancer in 1976 in Copenhagen at the age of 70. During his lifetime, he also amassed an archive of material including numerous sketches of delightful and colourful stories about his family life and the people and situations he came into contact with.

His daughter Ruth Iversen Rollitt will be in conversation with Pamela Kember, Head of Arts and Learning, to talk about her book, Iversen: Architect of Ipoh and Modern Malaya.

A drinks reception and book signing will follow.

Architecture Asia

Asia House presents a new series of talks, exploring the impact various architects from around the world have had on architectural innovation either through working in Asia, or being inspired by their connection to Asia, and how this informs their work internationally.

The aim is to foster relations, raise awareness and promote a discourse around new cityscapes and buildings for the 21st century, whilst reflecting on the role of architects in relation to our architectural heritage, customs and our built environment.

To see the other events in the Architecture Asia series click here.


November 25, 2015
18:45 - 20:30
Event Category:


Asia House


Asia House
63 New Cavendish Street, London, W1G 7LP United Kingdom

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