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Initiatives and intervention in promoting pedestrianization in the historic city of Melaka, Malaysia - page 14 / 21





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have been translated into built forms and the most prominent of the building types are the vernacular shophouses. This building type dominates the historic residential core of the city creating groups of buildings that form neighbourhoods. Each neighbourhood in the study area possesses a different area identity that had been molded from the activities and collective memory connected to the place. Boyer (1994:67) stresses, “Collective memory…is a current of continuous thought…collective memories are supported by a group framed in space and time. They are relative to that specific community, not a universal history shared by many disparate groups”. These distinctive neighbourhoods are made up of buildings and spaces that had evolved and built on and had used the structures of the past. What is evident today are actually the collective memories that have been transformed as built artifacts in all their complexity, overlaid with components of contemporary living. Since all of the early colonial cities in Malaysia were not considered as holistic designed entities, few major designed elements remained to provid the guiding and organizing framework for future urban expansion. It is possible to identify two types of orders that generated the built form of these cities: a high style order derived from a small group (colonizers), and a vernacular order representing the indigenous urban form. The two orders became the dominant components of the colonial cities, co-existing, interacting and mutually reinforcing each other to produce a diversified and distinctive arrangement of urban enclaves.

Due to the influx of immigrants into Melaka in the late 18 and early 19-century, there was a burgeoning of shophouses and an increase in population density of the historic city. The majority of the population remained in the various neighbourhood enclaves in the city centre. To meet the increased need in housing, landowners built taller shophouses with ingenious ways of adapting to the tropical climate. The facades were embellished with decorative motives and stucco figures. Timber shutters were used in openings for ventilation and Chinese or even Italian tiles could be seen on floors of wealthy merchants. The height of the pilaster at the verandahway was also increased to fit into the scale of a wider road. Structural timbers spanned from brick wall to brick wall leaving the facades free for maximum ventilation. Openings were placed at the verandahway to promote a continuous walkway.

The vernacular shophouses as a type were assimilated through the process of change and adaptation from various cultures. The immigrant Chinese with a long urban tradition began constructing attached dwellings soon after their arrival. They also introduced the courtyard plan, the rounded gable ends and the fan-shaped ventilation wells. From the Malay culture, came the carved timber panels and fretworks. The traditional Malay house itself became a source of inspiration for the newly arrived immigrants in response to local climatic conditions particularly in transforming the idea of the porch with arcades of China to create the verandahway. From the Indians came the sturdy construction techniques and finally, the Europeans introduced the Palladian building model for the immigrants to imitate with fancy French windows and decorative plasterwork

Urban issues

The shophouses can be considered as hybrid architecture, which evolved out of the culture of a colonial port city, the climate, and the diverse people who migrated and lived in the city. During the Dutch period, many of the shophouses were rebuilt with brick and locally produced

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