Recognition of George Town as a Unesco World Heritage site followed a decade of commitment from hundreds of individuals. It was a monumental victory for heritage and conservation movements in Malaysia. The next challenge lies in implementing standard practices that meet compliance requirements. While the listing was the “sexiest land revaluation by a stroke of a pen1”, the singular question becomes, what’s next? Digital media is one way to go.
George Town’s heritage built environment played a significant role in its listing as a Unesco World Heritage Site and the city boasts the largest concentration of intact pre-war shophouses. Many traditional trades and lifestyles continue within these neighbourhoods. In citing the city’s “living heritage”, the listing was an effort to preserve cultures largely displaced in other Malaysian cities.
But while the built environment is physically accessible, the vocabulary is largely misunderstood, and thus undervalued. Heritage architecture speaks a language of the past. Its usage and relevancy no longer resonate with today’s generation. To the uninitiated, it is a collection of dilapidated buildings that should be replaced.
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