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Initiatives and intervention in promoting pedestrianization in the historic city of Melaka, Malaysia - page 9 / 21

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It was only with the intervention of Sir Stanford Raffles that further attempts to totally demolish the fortress ended. The existing built forms within the historic enclave of the old fort were of the Dutch and the British era with scattered remnants of the Portuguese buildings such as the St. Paul’s church and the entrance of A Formosa. The Stadthuys, currently the State Museum was designed in the moderate renaissance style, based on the classical orders of Greek and Roman architecture, albeit in a very modest way with limited ornamentation but impressive in appearance. These are the most frequently visited places and become the historic showcases and generators for pedestrian related activities in the historic city of Melaka.

Study area: shophouse enclave

The designated study area (Fig 4) comprises a mixture of shophouses built during the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British era. Shophouses that had been built during the Portuguese era are located along the riverfront and the depth of the dwellings is shorter compared to the ones developed during the Dutch period. A majority of the shophouses within the former Dutch Villages are deep and narrow. The standard width of the shophouse plots range from 4 to 5 metres. The evolution of the shophouses of Melaka was a direct response to the introduction of the window tax by the Dutch colonials. The tax was levied on the number of windows in houses adjoining street-frontages. To avoid paying more taxes, shophouses reduced in width and extended in depth to the maximum of up to 68 metres punctuated by multiple inner forecourts, air wells and a rear court (Figures 5 & 6).

Although shophouses were built to a generic layout, the Melakan model seems to be longer than the others found in Penang or Singapore. After the defeat of the Portuguese, the Dutch merchants occupied an area closer to the waterfront so that they could monitor the commercial activities. The Dutch enclaves, better known as the Gentlemen Quarters, were strictly for colonials with the exception of a few wealthy Chinese merchants. Sandwiched in-between the shophouses are mansions of wealthy merchants constructed in the Dutch architectural style (Figure 7). The jagged edges of the lots indicate the waterfront line and the recent developments were on reclaimed land.

Historically, the study area was divided into distinctive zones that specialized in specific trades or services; community, religious enclaves and a mixed variety of shophouse activities. Street names were given reflecting the most popular activities or land use to be found in the vicinity. Although some of the activities have been transformed due to the passage of time, many are still there reflecting the heterogeneity of the place. This urban quality is endemic in many traditional cities in Malaysia, which promotes diversity, and at the same time provides proximity to their work place and living quarters.

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