George Town’s built heritage is a great example of design moderated by cultural context. We notice this in the city’s morphology, the building typologies lining the streets, and the spaces between the public realm and private sanctuaries. The architectural notions of harmony and proportion and of lightness and weight are unavoidably present, bringing to our minds poignant moments of history.
Time’s passing is captured in these studied variations. For this experience, we owe a debt to the master builders who planted these traditions and who crafted decoration in stucco and ceramics to celebrate mythical tales.
Diverse cultures that carry the routes and roots of the city and its inhabitants’ being are embedded here. Human dimensions scale the city to allow spires to commune with heaven.
GEORGE TOWN CANNOT help telling a thousand tales. The “outstanding universal values” that emanate from its foundation of culturally informed design was noticed by Unesco, and earned it – together with Malacca – World Heritage status in 2008. This inscription was a godsend, and has offered a unique global platform for Penang to convey self-belief, self-esteem, self-renewal and civic pride. It has set the stage to bring world ideas home.
Such global recognition can be the catalyst for a forward-looking social movement only if cultural sustainability remains the touchstone. The currents of change today are strong, and since the management of changes is necessarily reactive, it would be wise for us to adopt sound place-making principles and people-centred conservation policies.
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