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The roof repair works at no.58 Rope Walk or Jalan Pintal Tali in Penang is in plain sight for all to see. And I am rather proud of the end result because of how it will contribute to the critical discussion on appropriate conservation approaches, choices and forms of interpretation being offered to shophouse owners in Penang.
When I decided to repair the roof of my grandfather’s shophouse, I applied the principles of replacing like for like in respect of the heritage fabric and of maintaining the layers of history as found. What you see today is exactly the way it was when the Control of Rent Act was promulgated after World War II. There have been no material changes since then as the implementation of rent control literally discouraged all owners of tenanted buildings from spending money on maintaining their properties.
The contractor who installed the roof chose to create two cemented strips as permanent hard bases in the direction of the roof slope. A worker needing to replace a broken tile or adjust a displaced tile could lay a timber plank transversely across the roof on top of the cement strips and use it as a working platform without endangering the tiles. For all I know, it could have been my grandfather’s suggestion for he was an innovative and yet practical man who had come to Malaya from China as a young boy and who eventually developed the town of Lunas in Kedah.
And I also recall very vividly, when I was growing up, witnessing my father’s contractors securing the end tiles at the fascia of shophouses with cement, as was the case with many shophouses in town. Lime was otherwise freely used in other works like plastering of walls and mortar for brickwork.
The simple exercise of repairing a roof has thrown up several positives. One, it has allowed me to step back in time to “converse” with my grandfather and to personalize the architectural and social history of the place. And for me this is one of the most meaningful reasons for conservation because there is a story to tell, of making the past come alive in the present.
Two, it invites us to question whether our city fathers should continue to promote the purist, prescriptive, Eurocentric conservation approach or whether we should be leaning more towards what is being offered by the Hoi An Protocols 2005, a UNESCO document which I contributed to. The Protocols contain the following points:-
- In Asia, the structuralist analytical approach towards assessing significance and maintaining authenticity that is characteristic of Western conservation practice needs to be nuanced by the metaphysical concepts which prefigure the construction of space throughout the Asia region. It should also be tempered by the region’s time-honoured traditions of practice.
- Conservation practitioners should not over-emphasize the authenticity of the materials or physical substance of a resource to the extent that they overlook other equally or even more important dimensions of authenticity.
In terms of authenticity, the Nara Document on Authenticity 1994, Clause 11, states:-
All judgements about values attributed to cultural properties as well as the credibility of related information sources may differ from culture to culture, and even within the same culture. It is thus not possible to base judgements of values and authenticity within fixed criteria. On the contrary, the respect due to all cultures requires that heritage properties must be considered and judged within the cultural contexts to which they belong.
As a corollary to the ideals and principles stated in the Document, Herb Stovel (deceased), one of its authors, suggested that respect for cultural and heritage diversity requires conscious efforts to avoid imposing mechanistic formulae or standardized procedures in attempting to define or determine the authenticity of particular monuments and sites.
Last but not least, I am reminded of earlier efforts by Badan Warisan to formulate conservation principles that reflect Malaysian values based on the premises mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. It appears timely for us to revisit the material in our archives and to embark on a project to deliver what we once called the Stonor Principles, named after the location of our present heritage centre. China has its China Principles. Australia created the Burra Charter. The conservation of Malaysian heritage should be guided by local observations, experiences, traditions and wisdom.
Laurence Loh, Badan Warisan Malaysia
Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers. I love them, such great tools. It’s become so easy to become an authority on any subject nowadays; anyone can be an expert on anything. With Melaka and George Town’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it’s like, suddenly, everyone is a conservation architect/expert. I have found, in my limited experience of being involved in a handful of international award winning restoration projects, that when the project team endeavours to consider a range of conservation approaches which are based not only on the multitude of documents outlining principles and standards which we should aspire towards, but also on collective experiences and practices, that the outcome is “right” and stands up to the test of time.
Let’s consider the debate of lime vs cement. Experts will loudly chant the mantra “lime good, cement bad”. Nothing wrong with that in many instances, but then, not always right. Add in another mantra – “replace like for like”. Then what happens when the heritage fabric is not lime? Do we replace with lime and then we can easily put a tick against the “right” box? Or should we instead acknowledge that conservation is possibly more complex and there are probably several other issues which affect the authenticity of the place? I will desist from going on….Just to say thought that I liken this to walking a tightrope between what is the more accepted standard – a somewhat prescriptive “Western” conservation approach – and our (Asia’s) longer traditions of cultural practice and context.
So, next time, before jumping on whichever band wagon catches your fancy, guns blazing, shooting off your “expert” opinion, you may want to #getyourfactsright. It could save you a little embarrassment.
Elizabeth Cardosa, Badan Warisan Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur’s history is evident in its street names, both past and present. Roads such as Ampang Street, Batu Road, Petaling Street, and Pudoh Road were named after the tin mining villages that these roads led to while names such as Abraham, Foss, Horley, Marsh, Peach, and Shaw pay tribute to educators whose legacies stand till today.
Join independent researchers, Mariana Isa and Maganjeet Kaur, and discover the stories behind the early streets in Kuala Lumpur, from 1889 until 1921. Their upcoming book, Kuala Lumpur Street Names is an enclclopedic A-to-Z which explores the stories behind more than 1,500 street names, and provides a fascinating new perspective on KL’s evolution over the years.
About the Speakers:
Founders of Heritage Output Lab, Mariana Isa and Maganjeet Kaur are independent researchers of Malaysian and Southeast Asian history. As heritage enthusiasts, they are actively involved in organising activities and projects to promote local history and heritage in Kuala Lumpur. Through Heritage Output Lab, they provide research-based services to organisations and individuals requiring further background for print, audio and film projects. Researching Kuala Lumpur’s street names is a personal interest over the past three years. Mariana received her Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and an MSc. in Conservation of Historic Buildings from University of Bath. Maganjeet holds a Bachelor of Applied Science degree from Universiti Sains Malaysia and an MSc. in Information Technology from RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology).
Tan Sri Dato’ (Dr) Haji Mubin Sheppard is a name synonymous with the conservation and preservation of historical buildings in Malaysia. Born in Ireland in 1905, he arrived in Malaya in 1928 to serve for the Malayan Civil Service (MCS) until 1963. Tan Sri Mubin’s love for history and Malayan heritage is evident from his numerous publications, his involvement as Editor and President of MBRAS, Museum Director as well as the founding of the Malayan Historical Society in 1953. He was instrumental in the founding of Badan Warisan Malaysia in 1982 and championed the conservation and preservation of Malaysia’s built heritage.
The Mubin Sheppard Memorial Prize was established by Badan Warisan Malaysia to raise awareness among younger members of society, about the built heritage of Malaysia. 21 yers after his passing, Dr. Sr. Zuraini Ali celebrates his life and work and will share her insights on the tireless efforts and significant contributions of Tan Sri Mubin from the 1950s until his death on 11 Sept 1994.
About the Speaker:
Dr. Sr. Zuraini Md Ali is a professional in architecture and heritage conservation in Malaysia. Her PhD entitled ‘British Colonial and Post-Colonial attitudes to Architecture and Heritage Conservation in Malaysia’ references many works of Tan Sri Dato’ (Dr) Haji Mubin Sheppard. She begin her professional career in Built Environment as an Assistant Architect and in the 1990s taught at Federal Institute of Technology, Kuala Lumpur and MARA Institute of Technology. Dr. Sr. Zuraini was among the pioneering staff who established the Department of Building Surveying, Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying in UiTM and currently lectures at Universiti Malaya’s Department of Building Surveying, Faculty of Built Environment. As conservationist, Dr. Zuraini has worked on projects including the restoration of Dewan Tunku Canselor, University Malaya (2002-2004) and restoration of Taman Sejarah Kusta Negara (Phase 1) Sg Buloh (2012-2014). She has received several recognition and awards in her research and consultancy works including Honorable Mention in National Heritage Awards 2004: Conservation with Adaptive Re-Use of Bargas Zakariah, Badan Warisan Malaysia in 2005.
Who would’ve thought that a simple evening listening to a talk on patriotic songs would evoke strong emotions of love, respect and pride for my country? I personally never thought I’d feel this way.
I was part of the audience of about 50 guests who attended Datin Saidah Rastam’s talk entitled Jangan Putih Mata at Badan Warisan Malaysia’s Heritage Center on Sunday, 16 August 2015.
In all honesty, I probably would not have attended this talk if I was not working for Badan Warisan Malaysia. I guess I can consider this the ‘perks’ of the job.
The evening began with a short introduction of Datin Saidah Rastam by Elizabeth Cardosa, the Executive Director.
Datin Saidah Rastam is a composer who has written music for theatre, film dance and TV, for gamelan, martial artists, choral groups, Chinese opera singers, orchestras and electronica. A show she created last year, Malam Terang Bulan, for singers and orchestra and featuring Dato’ Zahim Albakri and Chacko Vadaketh, will be restaged at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in November 2015. Her book Rosalie and Other Love Songs was published by Khazanah Nasional Berhad as part of a preservation project on Malayan music, recordings, manuscripts and oral history.
Datin Saidah spoke about various topics concerning patriotic music from the iconic Malaysian composers and producers, the history of our national anthem, the Negaraku and her research for the book Rosalie.
One particular point that I related to was when Datin Saidah mentioned works done by artists of my generation, citing examples like Namewee and Najwa Mahiaddin.While they may not sound like your average patriotic songs, the lyrics showcase a love for the nation, hope for a better tomorrow and calls for unity- which got me thinking about Ella’s song-‘Standing in the Eyes of the World’ for the 98′ Commonwealth Games.
I was in awe- firstly because the audience remembered these songs and secondly, for the energy that radiated from them. It was inspiring, moving, energetic and full of pride for this country and its people.
I can’t say I’m looking forward to celebrating the independence of our country with a renewed sense of patriotism, but I do have to admit that this talk has certainly given me a new perspective on the different kinds of personalities that were part of building our nation- stuff that you probably would not find in your Buku Sejarah sekolah.
Join Badan Warisan Malaysia for our RAYA OPEN HOUSE on SUNDAY, 16 AUGUST 2015. Bring a friend and explore more about the exciting programmes we have lined up for this year. There will be food and music; you can visit the Rumah Penghulu, network with other members and renew your membership!
The evening will begin with a talk at 5.00 pm by DATIN SAIDAH RASTAM on JANGAN PUTIH MATA which is about HEROES and ANTI-HEROES in patriotic music during MALAYSIA’S nation building years. It explores stories, accounts and conspiracies and examines the continuing potency of songs written in that idealistic era.
Datin Saidah Rastam is a well-known composer for theatre, film dance and TV and most recently, she composed and directed Malam Terang Bulan which was staged last September. She is the author of Rosalie and Other Love Songs, a preservation project on Malayan music, recordings, manuscripts and oral history.
BWM MEMBERS: FREE NON MEMBERS: RM25
ABOUT DATIN SAIDAH RASTAM
Saidah Rastam is a composer who has written music for theatre, film dance and TV, for gamelan, martial artists, choral groups, Chinese opera singers, orchestras and electronica. She was the musical director for the launch of the Petronas Twin Towers. A show she created last year, Malam Terang Bulan, for singers and orchestra and featuring Dato’ Zahim Albakri and Chacko Vadaketh, will be restaged at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in November 2015.
Her book Rosalie and Other Love Songs was published by Khazanah Nasional Berhad as part of a preservation project on Malayan music, recordings, manuscripts and oral history. She is now working on a documentary on the early years of Sultan Idris Training College and the Malay College Kuala Kangsar: institutions which produced young men with radically different ideals. Saidah trained as a barrister and was in practice for seven years.
Badan Warisan Malaysia will be hosting a talk on CHARLES READE: TOWN PLANNING BRITISH MALAYA on MONDAY, 17 AUGUST 2015 from 4.30pm to 6.30pm. The talk will be given by KAMALRUDDIN SHAMSUDIN (A.K.A KL DIN), the author of the book of the same title. His book is the result of over 25 years of research.
The talk will follow with DR. CHRISTINA GARNAUT’S presentation on Reade’s international contribution during the growth of modern town planning in the early 20th century. Dr. Garnaut lectures planning & architectural history at the University of South Australia.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
The book reveals the forgotten contributions of Charles Reade, the pioneer Government Town Planner of British Malaya (1921-1929). Reade was responsible for town planning in Kuala Lumpur and other towns of the Federated Malay States through the 1920s. His contributions touched the lives of coolie lines, government worker’s housing, the reservation of public grounds connected with the proclamation of Malaya Independence from British rule and other sites and buildings of national landmark and heritage – all of these contributions are largely unknown amongst the general public. His planning ideas were in advance of their time and consequently Reade faced much opposition to his planning legislation which was meant to guide and regulate building and town extensions. One of his most enduring legacies is the planning and design of Kuala Kubu Bharu township –Malaya’s first Garden City township along similar lines of the Garden Cities and Town Planning Associations of Great Britain. The talk will highlight some of his contributions in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Kuala Kubu Bharu etc.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS:
Kamalruddin Shamsudin (the past Deputy Director General of the Federal Department of Town and Country Planning) will talk about his latest book (2015), entitled: “Charles Reade: Town Planning British Malaya – A Story of the forgotten contributions of an ardent Garden City enthusiast of early twentieth century Malaya.” The book is based on his 25 years of intermittent research.
Dr. Christine Garnaut, who is the current Vice-President/President-elect of the International Planning History Society, will provide an overview of Charles Reade’s background and his global contributions. She has researched and written about Reade in South Australia and elsewhere. Reade’s work touched the lives of many people from Great Britain, Australia, Malaya, Northern Rhodesia and South Africa.
Badan Warisan Malaysia is hosting a talk on Sustainable Development: Walking the Talk on Saturday, 1 August 2015.
This talk will feature Dato’ Dr. Ken Yeang who will be speaking on ‘Conservation of the Natural Environment by Design’ and our President, Ar. Laurence Loh will be speaking on ‘Heritage Sustainable Development’.
Participants will be given a free copy of a new book by Dr Yeoh Poh Seng on Corporate Governance which contains a chapter on governance in the Civil Society Organisation’s sector.
Admission is FREE but places are limited. Donations are welcomed. Click below to register.
About Dr. Ken Yeang
Ken Yeang is an architect, masterplanner and ecologist who is best known for his signature ecoarchitecture and ecomasterplanning buildings and projects, that have a distinctive verdant green aesthetic. He trained at the AA School (UK) and received a doctorate (PhD) from Wolfson College, Cambridge University (UK). He is principal of Hamzah & Yeang (Malaysia) with offices in UK and China– its expertise is in delivering deep green, innovative ecological architecture and masterplans that go beyond conventional green accreditation systems. He is the Distinguished Plym Professor (Illinois University). He has authored over 12 books on green architecture and has received numerous awards including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Prince Claus Award, the Malaysian Institute of Architects Gold Medal, the Malaysian Government’s Merdeka Award.
About Ar. Laurence Loh
Laurence Loh- President. Laurence is a leading conservation architect and cultural heritage expert in Malaysia and the Asia-Pacific region. His conservation work has won many UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards. With Badan Warisan Malaysia, he participated in drafting the Conservation Management Plan for George Town as part of the World Heritage Dossier.