These photographs were sent to us by a friend who has been living in George Town, Penang, Malaysia since June 1995, a Senior Interior Architect working with the (at one time only) conservation architect's practice and this is her account:
A local Penang architect, Laurence Loh and a few 'foolhardy' friends bought the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (not the bungalow in the photographs above), for the purpose of restoration in 1990, in a period when 'demolish and build' was considered the only way to make a profit.
The practice and, in particular, the Senior Partner, Laurence Loh, have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to inculcate an appreciation of Penang's rich and diverse architectural legacy.
More openly, and often very noisily, Penang Heritage Trust has also been fighting the cause. Through both their efforts the Penang Island State Government has begun the process of application for UNESCO heritage listing as a World Heritage Site.
I knew nothing of the history of 'local' architecture when I arrived here but by living in the old inner city, working with the conservation practice and on many conservation projects (sadly still too few) I co-authored the 'description of the site' for the UNESCO application together with a local architectural expert on Chinese architecture.
George Town has a phenominal collection of global architecture from Indo-Malay and Anglo-Indian bungalows
to Chinese shophouses, Mosques influenced by the Mogul
empire and Hokkien and Cantonese as well as southern and northern Indian temples, not to mention a church which would sit well in any London square.
The wealth gained through the hard work of the early trading pioneers, who became rags-to-riches millionaires, can be seen in the few remaining Straits-Eclectic bungalows
influenced in plan by Europe and in decoration by Europe and China.
The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, built at the end of the 1800s, was an earlier Sino-Anglo Eclectic style. A Hakka
chinese tycoon, Cheong built the house following the principals of Chinese Geomancy, Feng Shui, using a traditional Chinese courtyard house plan, treatment of façades and roofs but incoproated european elements - H.R.Johnson encaustic tiles, stained glass and Macfarlane cast iron.
Cheong Fatt Tze had several cousins or Hakka
business associates who built bungalows
around the same time, although these used a more European treatment to their façades - pediments and Corinthian columns for example. The one in the photograph, belonged to Chung Keng Kwee, Church Street, George Town. This mansion incorporates the inner airwell courtyard (from the Chinese courtyard house) with the upper floor supported by cast iron columns. It is also unusual for a bungalow
as it follows the street edge, incorporating a covered five foot way for pedestrians, traditional in a terrace of shophouses - other bungalows
were set in large grounds. It also has bay windows - only one or two other buildings used this device, and etched glass panels.
This house has recently been bought by an antique dealer, and, although listed as a category one heritage building by the council in 1987, which prohibits any work other than to maintain it in proper repair, the council of 2002 does not appear to have the same sense of appreciation of its heritage value as in 1987. PHT
is watching it closely.
There is currently little research done into the architects behind this early period of eclectic bungalows
. Though there were European architects and Engineers in George Town at the turn of the century, many of their trained Penang draughtsmen became talented architects in their own right.
Other websites of interest:
These photographs are reproduced by kind permission.