Posted in Malaysia

Archtrove travels to Georgetown – colour, colonial and creativity

Architecture in Georgetown

Georgetown is the colourful, multicultural capital of the Malaysian island of Penang. Once an important trading hub, the city is known for its British colonial buildings, Chinese shop and mosques. Beyond the old town, George Town is a modern city with skyscrapers and shopping malls. Penang Hill, overlooks it all.

Local, Chinese, Indian, Islamic and other elements to create a unique and distinctive brand of architecture. Many heritage buildings still stand and modern skyscrapers have not yet descended on Georgetown. It houses one of the largest collections of pre-war buildings in Southeast Asia. This is for the most part due to the Rent Control Act which froze house rental prices for decades, making redevelopment unprofitable. The government in recent years has allocated more funding to finance the restoration of a number of derelict heritage buildings, most notably Suffolk House, City Hall and historic buildings in the old commercial district.

British Influence

Fort Cornwallis, is the oldest British structure in Penang, originally built of wood and was subsequently replaced by brick. The architecture of the Suffolk House is of the Anglo-Indian, commonly found in British India. Today, having weathered years of neglect, it is being meticulously restored with the help of researchers from the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Australia. Other distinguished buildings from the colonial period include the City Hall, the Town Hall, the Eastern and Oriental Hotel and the HSBC building. Many of these render the eclectic architectural styles of the Victorian and Georgian eras as well as Art Deco and Anglo-Indian.

Chinese Influence

Chinese immigrants brought with them architecture from their ancestral land as can be seen in the many Chinese temples and clan houses. Such as the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (also known as the Blue Mansion), the Kuan Yin Temple, the Khoo Kongsi, The spectacular temple of Kek Lok Si at the foothill of Penang Hill is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. A great many of the shophouses and residences found in George Town were built in the style of Straits-Chinese architecture with their very recognisable red terracotta roofs.


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