Saturday, February 14, 2015

Heritage Shophouses of Penang

The streets of Georgetown in Penang are filled with heritage shophouses. Certain traits (as listed in a very helpful brochure) such as in the air vents, doors, and windows help date the buildings to a specific style. Dating from between the 1790's and 1850's, the Early Penang style shophouses were very simple and low - either one or perhaps two stories. I don't think we went past many of these - or perhaps they were more dilapidated and I didn't notice them.
Those from the Southern Chinese Eclectic Style typically dated from the 1840's -1910's. These had a mixture of Chinese (carved wooden door, air vents, gable end) as well as European & Indian influences (full-width timber louvered shuttered windows and U/V shaped terracotta roof tiles). This seems to describe the green shophouse in the photo above.


Walkways in front of the shophouses were covered and had thick arches. Obstacles between the shops were common though, forcing us to step over and into the rain.

Fueled by the tin mining industry, Straights Chinese people began making more improvements in their homes (1890's-1910's). Such shophouses still have carved wooden doors, air vents, and air wells of the Chinese influence, but also began including full-length shuttered windows, and geometric patterned colored clay floor tiles. Although faded, these two shophouses in the photo above are quite beautiful and seem representative of the Early Straights Eclectic Style.



In the Late Straits Eclectic Style (1910's-1930's), the European influence became greater (full-length shuttered windows, plaster relief, geometric patterned floor tiles, dado panel tiles below windows). Carved doors and air vents were formed some of the Chinese influence. Many of such homes were built by Straits-born Chinese trying to emulate their European counterparts. Expensive imported materials were financed by the booming rubber industry. 

Also present were buildings of the Art Deco style (1930's-1960's) and the Early Modern Style (1950's-1970's) Such buildings included curved concrete fa├žades and metal-framed glass windows.

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