Malaysian state Penang’s capital city and third most populous, George Town is filled with diversification in architectural style. Since 2008 the city’s historical core has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Malaysia has a past filled with ups and downs: Influence of Hinduism, British Colonial Dominance with the same East India Company who ruled India and Rise of a nation as Islamic republic post-independence to one of the fastest-growing economies in south-east Asia. Due to the presence of various ethnicities, religions and settlers, the urban sprawl of George Town has an eclectic assortment of all architecture styles.
Here are the 15 examples representing the story of George Town:
1. City hall, Georgetown
City hall or Town Hall was the oldest municipal building in the vicinity. It was built in 1879 and is currently considered as category 1 heritage building. The architecture elements such as classical arches, columns, pilasters, quoins, ornamental elements on roof parapet and balustrades represent its British Palladian architecture style.
2. Acheen St. Mosque
The mosque was built by a wealthy Arab trader who came to Malaysia from Acheh, Sumatra. Acheen mosque locally known as Masjid Melayu has an iconic minaret. The mosque stands out because of this Egyptian-style minaret which is unique as all other local mosques have Morris-style minarets.
3. Cheah Kongsi Clan Temple
Chean Kongsi is a Chinese temple clan house and a museum. Built-in 1873 by Cheah Yam, an immigrant who came from South China. It has a combination of European and Chinese Architecture style. The entrance below the large balcony has iron railing with intricate detailing supported by white columns British-style ‘Iron-Lion heads’ on the top. The Chinese and Dutch porcelain & stucco carvings of Dogs and Lions are eclectically placed on the sweeping roof.
4. Georgetown Street
Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site the Georgetown streets have ample of historic landmarks. The multi-ethnic street has features like narrow roads, old fashioned colonial-era mansions, Chinese shophouses, clan houses, many ornamented temples and Little India districts. Due to the special protection as a heritage site since 2008, it has well maintained an aura of its time.
5. Jubilee Clock tower
Jubilee tower aka The Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower was built in 1897. The tower is 60 ft tall; every foot represents a year of queen’s reign symbolically representing the Diamond Jubilee with its total height. Topped with golden Moorish cupola has Roman-style pillars on topmost tiers. Two tiers below that have four distinct sections with ornate windows, balconies and a working clock on each side. The lowermost tier has an octagonal base.
6. Dhammikarama Temple
The biggest and oldest Burmese Buddhist temple was built in 1803. It is another example of the cultural diversity of George Town. Inside the pagoda ground, there is a Bodhi tree, a wishing pound and apartments of monks. The main heart of the temple has a shrine and a meditation space with a well-decorated statue of Buddha.
7. Clan Jetties
To the Penang’s southeast site these Clan Jetties are making channels with the mainland. The Clan Jetties are settlements of Chinese clans. and divided into six different parts according to their clan surname. The Jetties and linking of small communities of clan houses built on stilts with the wooden structures.
8. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is a boutique hotel built in the traditional Hakka – Teochew style. The mansion was built by a Chinese merchant-trader at the end of the 19th century. The modern Anglo-Indian style was popular at that time but for the core idea, the Cheong Fatt Tze explicitly followed the traditional Chinese Courtyard house. Painted in Indigo-blue the mansion has a blend of Eastern and Western architecture style. Art-Nouveau style stained glass windows and tiles.
9. Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi
Kongsi is a Chinese for Clan house. The Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi is one of the most ornate clan houses built almost 650 years back. Locally known as Khoo Kongsi. Profound Chinese craftsmen did the commissioning of this clan house with extraordinary detailing to display the dominance of the Khoo family.
10. Mahamariamman Temple/ Little India Street
Mahamariamman Temple is a South Indian temple dedicated to the goddess Mariamman. It is located in the Little India district. Temple structure has well decorated 23ft tall Gopuram with four swans, 38 brightly colored sculptures of soldiers, Hindu gods and goddesses and floral decorations as usually seen in Dravidian style temple architecture.
11. St George’s Church
The St George Church is the oldest Anglican building in Malaysia built by British East India company. The Church ground has an elegant Victorian-style pavilion and a memorial of Sir Francis Light. The interiors have marble floorings and cool blue pastel colours.
12. Eastern & Oriental Hotel
E&O Hotel is an amazing display of art and architecture with early colonial-era architecture elements. Founded in 1885 the hotel has a feel of British elegance and a good place to stay to understand the impact of European presence in Southeast Asia.
13. Kapitan Keling Mosque
The Indo-Morris structure was built by first Indian settlers in 1801. The mosque has a typical Indo-Islamic minaret for daily azan. The exterior of the mosque is whitewashed and topped with a golden Mughal-style dome. Walls have calligraphy panels and stained glass window features with arabesques of geometrical design and floral motifs.
14. Penang Peranakan Mansion
Penang Peranakan Mansion is a Chinese style Courtyard house with a combination of European and traditional Chinese architecture. The interiors have Scottish Ironwork, English tiles and European furniture and Chinese carved wood panels. The mansion was a residence earlier in the 19th Century. Very well restored and converted to a museum; the mansion is home of approx. 1000 pieces of antiques and collectables displaying Baba-Nyonya culture.
15. Komart tower
Komart tower is Penang’s tallest and Malaysia’s eleventh-tallest skyscraper. When completed in 1986 the 65 floors and 232 meters tall Komart tower was Asia’s second tallest skyscraper. After the revitalization plan in 2015 three more stories were added and it reached the height of 249 meters. The Rainbow Skywalk, the tallest skywalk in Malaysia was added in 2016.
Finally, As the famous Malaysian tourism commercial says ‘Malaysia Truly Asia’ the George Town is the display of glorious history. If an architect wants to feel the real essence of the Asian environment Georgetown is the place that has it all.