Saturday, 7 January 2012


Dr. Siti Norlizaiha Harun and Izzamir Ismail
Faculty of Architecture Planning and Surveying
University Technology MARA (Perak, MALAYSIA


Cities of Malacca and George Town were located in different location and geography. George Town located in Penang Island, on northern part while Malacca city located in mainland of southern part of peninsular. The two historic cities were located on trail trade the Straits of Malacca, are renowned for their multicultural heritage. These ports were located at a strategic position for the 15th - 18th century trade between Europe and Asia. The reign of Portuguese (1511), Dutch (1641) and British (1795) in Malaysia has played an essential role in the creation of heritage significance for George Town and Malacca. All these towns were characterized by the colonist in terms of its architecture and townscape.The urban history of George Town and Malacca also shows that myriad cultures of the traders who eventually settled in brought architectural styles from all over the world to it.

George Town and Malacca as UNESCO World Heritage Sites

In July 2008, George Town, Penang and Melaka, Malaysia have been inscribed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. George Town, Penang and Melaka are remarkable examples of historic colonies that demonstrated a succession of historical and cultural influences. Both towns bear testimony to a living multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, where the many religions and cultures met and coexisted. They reflected the coming together of cultural elements from the Malay Archipelago, India and China with those of Europe, to create a unique architecture, culture and townscape.

There are (ii), (iii) and (iv) criteria under UNESCO for George Town, Penang and Melaka. The criteria (ii): George Town and Melaka represented exceptional examples of multi-cultural trading towns in East and Southeast Asia, forged from the mercantile and exchanges of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures and three successive European colonial powers for almost 500 years, each with its imprints on the architecture and urban form, technology and monumental art. Both towns showed different stages of development and the successive changes over a long span of time and are thus complementary.

While criteria (iii): George Town and Melaka are living testimony to the multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, and European colonial influences. This multi-cultural tangible and intangible heritage is expressed in the great variety of religious buildings of different faiths, ethnic quarters, the many languages, worship and religious festivals, dances, costumes, art and music, food, and daily life.

Lastly, criteria (iv): George Town and Melaka reflect a mixture of influences which have created a unique architecture, culture and townscape without parallel anywhere in East and South Asia. In particular, they demonstrate an exceptional range of shop-houses and townhouses. These buildings show many different types and stages of development of the building types, some originating in the Dutch or Portuguese periods.

The integrity of the nominated areas in both towns is related to the presence of all the elements necessary to express their Outstanding Universal Value. ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ means cultural or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. The properties have retained their authenticity; listed monuments and sites have been restored with appropriate treatments regarding design, materials, methodologies, techniques and workmanship, in accordance with conservation guidelines and principles.

The protective measures for the properties are adequate. Both towns exhibit a generally acceptable state of conservation, although efforts are required to ensure the conservation of shophouses. The management plans and structures are adequate, and can be enhanced through the continuing conservation programs of the State Party.

Conservation Plan for George Town Heritage City

The first conservation guideline for George Town, Penang in 1987 was “Design Guidelines for Conservation Areas in Inner City of George Town, Penang”. In 1989, the State Authority approved the Municipal Council of Penang Island Structure Plan 1987. The Historic City of George Town, Penang conservation area had been identified under the Municipal Council of Penang Island’s Structure and Local Plan. It had no specific legislation designed for the protection of heritage properties. After that, the Municipal Council of Penang Island introduced “Guidelines for Conservation Areas and Heritage Building in George Town”, which superseded and cancelled “Design Guidelines for Conservation Areas in Inner City of George Town, Penang”. This guideline provides a full statement of the State Government’s policy for the identification and protection of heritage buildings, conservation areas and other elements of the historic environment. Apart from that, the local authority refers to Town and Country Planning Act 172 (1976) Amendment (1995) and Local Authority Act 171 (1976) to protect the heritage areas and properties.

The Penang Structure Plan (2005 – 2020) recommends that cultural resources should be developed as the unique tourism product for the state. Over the years, the visitors in Penang have been exposed to multi cultural heritage such as the Malay and Muslim enclave, the Chinese clan houses, “Little India” and experience the living heritage in the inner city.

Table 1.1 : List of Plans (Statutory and Non Statutory) by Local Authorities in Protecting the Heritage Entities in George Town, Penang

The Federal and State Governments have implemented street improvements within the historic core area for better vehicle and pedestrian movement. The historic monuments have been restored and open to visitors such as the Kapitan Kling Mosque, Acheen Street Malay Mosque, Syed Alatas Mansion, St. George’s Church, Kok Hock Keong Temple, Sri Mahamariamman Temple and other clan temples. Apart from that, private owned properties were also opened to visitors such as the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion, Khoo Kongsi, Hai Kee Chan and Chung Keng Kwee Temple and Sun Yat Sen with certain amount of money to be paid for the entry.

A number of heritage tours have also been offered to enhance tourists’ experience in Penang which includes trishaw rides within the heritage sites, tours of the historical enclave around Armenian Street, Clan Houses and Acheen Street, tour of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion and Little India Spice trail. The Penang Heritage Trust organised living heritage trails of George Town with self-guided tours covering traditional trades and traditional foods.

Conservation Plan for Historic City of Melaka

In 1979, Melaka was first identified for area conservation. In1988, the State Government of Melaka organised a seminar on the heritage of Melaka. The state government decided to designate the St Paul’s Hill as a heritage zone after the seminar. The heritage buildings within the zone includes the Dutch Stadthuy’s building, Christ Church and A Famosa fort has been restored and conserved.

For the Historic City of Malacca, the property for inclusion on Heritage List, comprise of two major protected areas within the conservation zone of the city, and is demarcated by the historic Malacca River. Melaka has an enactment to protect its cultural heritage which is called the Preservation and Conservation of Cultural Heritage Enactment, 1988. The Enactment covers comprehensive aspects of Melaka conservation and restoration of cultural heritage matters. The Conservation Trust Fund was established in 1993 which placed the enactment under the Melaka Museums Corporation. In 2001, the State Structure Plan of Melaka identified heritage sites in Melaka. From that, Melaka has listed two protected areas within the conservation zone such as St. Paul’s Hill Civic Zone and Historic Residential and Commercial Zone which have funds for conservation project from the Conservation Trust Fund and Federal Government


In Malaysia, there is a three-tier system of government managing the heritage properties. There are the Federal Government, the State Government and the Local Authorities, with different roles and approaches on preservation and conservation work on identified monuments and buildings. Under the Minister of Information, Communications and Culture is the National Heritage Department which operates under the provisions of the National Heritage Act, 2005 to preserve national heritages. While, Penang Island Municipal Council and State Planning Committee are the two State agencies which administer and manage the conservation of heritage sites in the State.

The World Heritage Office occupies the premises of the Penang Tourism Information Centre at Acheen Street after George Town, Penang was declared as World Heritage Site. It was set up by the state government following the inscription of George Town into UNESCO World Heritage Site. The World Heritage Office is responsible for the safeguarding, nurturing and developing the heritage assets of George Town. It is also the place to provide visitors with first-hand information on the World Heritage Site.

While in Melaka, The Historic Melaka City Council (MBMB) and Melaka Museums Corporation (PERZIM) are the two State agencies which administer and manage the conservation of heritage sites in the State with the advice from the State Preservation and Conservation Committee established under the State Enactment of 1988 and the Historic Melaka City Council’s Conservation Committee.


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Municipal Council of Penang Island. (1989). Guidelines for Conservation Areas and Heritage Buildings in George Town. Municipal Council of Penang Island Printing Office.

Department of National Heritage. (2005). National Heritage Act, Act 645. Department of National Heritage Printing Office.

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