Thursday, May 10, 2012

Penang: George Town Architecture

Row of residential buildings
George Town is a UNESCO world heritage site for its unique architecture, which is an interesting blend of Chinese, Indian, Malay, Muslim and European influences.
Street of shophouses 
The archetypal building is the shophouse, which traditionally was a shop on the ground floor, opening directly onto the street in typical Asian style, and a residence in the upper storeys.
Traditional store opening onto the street
These buildings are long and narrow (saves on expensive street frontage), and usually have two courtyards enclosed by walls, one inside the building (very similar to the ancient Roman atrium, sometimes with a fishpond or plants), and one at the back (where the kitchen and bathrooms were: traditional Chinese kitchens are super smoky and dirty, so open air is a big plus).
Typical  front courtyard
Many shophouses have an elaborate divider between the public area and more private spaces, like this one (it's a Chinese concept)
I don't know that much about architecture (unlike, say, history or art), but I still appreciate it and really enjoy being in a beautiful built environment, developed over centuries for practicality, suitability to its environment, and aesthetics.
This crumbling house is for sale. B and I fantasized about buying it and fixing it up.
George Town has many lovely buildings, and I especially enjoyed them because they weren't tarted up and restored to an almost painful pristineness (as historical buildings in wealthier countries tend to be).
Just a typical building
This building is still being used commercially on the ground floor
The most impressive building I saw was the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion. it's a mix of Chinese principles of feng shui, hospitality, and room layout, with Western materials and architectural features. Sadly, no pictures are allowed inside. It's definitely worth a visit though (you must go on a guided tour, only available twice daily, so plan ahead!).
Outside of the mansion
Closeup of the beautiful tile mosaics used as an architectural decoration

No comments:

Post a Comment