The daughter of the pioneering Danish architect B.M. Iversen, Ruth Iversen Rollitt, has released a book, co-written with Law Siak Hong of the Perak Heritage Society, named ‘Iversen – Architect of Ipoh and Modern Malaya’. Ruth Iversen, 76 today, is an Ipoh girl at heart and she has continued to return to Malaysia again and again after she moved abroad. She spent most of her childhood in Ipoh, before sent to Denmark for her education. During her school years she came back on holiday all the time.
Her father, Berthel Michael Iversen designed and built many landmark buildings in Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Penang during the almost four decades — between 1928 and 1966 — he was in this country. He designed the award-winning Federal House, Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Loke Yew Building and at least 38 cinemas, icons of Malaysian Art Deco and Modernist architecture. His firm Iversen & van Sitteren helped foster a generation of modern Malaysian architects.
The book is a tribute to her father and his architectural achievements in Malaya. It was launched in Penang on 18 March, followed by Ipoh on 22 March. Khoo Salma, a fifth generation Penang peranakan and a writer, publisher and heritage advocate encouraged to Ruth to write the book by promising to publish it.
She was born in in Batu Gajah in 1938. When her first child was only five years old her first husband, a planter, was killed. She then went to live with her parents in Ipoh again between 1963 and 1966. They then moved back to Denmark. After marrying (for the second time) the British diplomat Philip Rollitt in 1969, she joined him on various postings, living in London, Singapore, Islamabad, Bonn, and Tokyo before retiring to London.
The book came about when she once met, at a reception for the British Malaya Society at Asia House in London, the widow of a well-known architect in KL who suggested Ruth should give a talk at the Badan Warisan in KL because of all these photographs she had of her father’s buildings. She held two public presentations and when she visited Ipoh her friend Lau Siak Hong, the chairman of Perak Heritage Society, organised a brainstorming meeting of architects, art historians and Khoo Salma. Thus the idea for the book was born.