Heritage Conservation in George Town, Melaka and Singapore

Project Number
RI 1/13 KB

Project Duration
March 2014 - March 2017


The prime objective is to make a unique contribution to the study of heritage conservation by undertaking a comparative study of George Town, Melaka and Singapore. At the present time, the scholarship in the area is dominated by case studies in Malaysia and Singapore and not cross border research. The study examines the historical origins of these cities along what was once the sea route that ran from China around the Malay Peninsula to India and then onto India, Arabia, and Europe. The three cities were joined together for much of their colonial history in what was known as the Straits Settlements (1826-1946). Despite sharing a common architectural heritage of tens of thousands of pre-World War II shophouses, Malay wooden houses, temples, mosques, and colonial buildings, Malaysia’s heritage cities of George Town and Melaka have had a divergent path in heritage conservation from that taken in Singapore. In Singapore, the state has driven preservation and conservation through the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Preservation of Monuments Board (PMB). Since the 1970s they have made the major decisions in designating conservation zones and gazetting historic buildings with little or no input from Singapore’s heritage Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs). In Malaysia, a different model prevailed over a very similar architectural landscape. The rapid urban renewal in the Malaysian cities of Penang and Melaka from the 1970s onwards led to the involvement of NGOs in heritage conservation. The heritage battles of the Malaysian NGOs, in particular those in Penang and Melaka, illustrate this much more powerful role of heritage NGOs in Malaysia than in Singapore. Accessing the archival sources of these Malaysian NGOs and Singapore State agencies provides a viable methodology for evaluating how heritage NGOs in Malaysia have sought heritage conservation while in Singapore the State has dominated.

Funding Source

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