Witty heritage markers

Caricatures illustrating snippets of local life and origin tales will adorn George Town’s heritage zone.

The ‘Marking George Town — An Idea Competition for a Unesco World Heritage Site’ presentation by the four finalists saw a passionate exchange of ideas on how to mark the heritage zone.

The presentation was held at the World Heritage Office in Penang recently. The finalists were Sculpture At Work, Architect LLA Sdn Bhd, Mariana Isa and Casper Tan, and Chord Studio.

George Town, Penang

Chord received Honorary Mention for its design which focused on reviving Chulia Street as the spine connecting Penang Road to the clan jetties.

Chord’s director David Teoh said the company proposed an entire framework for a “holistic and sustainable city” rather than just how to mark the heritage zone.

It also proposed coin markers for landmarks (a reference to when Captain Francis Light supposedly blasted gold coins out of the cannons into the jungle so that the natives would clear the area for rapid development), eco-trishaw routes and reviving derelict buildings with creative projects.

“We are very happy that our effort to get people to think about what they want for George Town’s future was recognised by the jury,” he said.

Sculpture At Work ended up clinching the contract to implement its design concept for local caricature sculptures and granite slabs to mark the heritage zone.

The Kuala Lumpur-based company’s creative director, Tang Mung Kian, said more than 200 caricature sculptures would be strategically placed on building walls, street corners, public areas, phone booths and pavements.

Mr Five Foot Way

The steel rod sculptures would depict funny and interesting scenes from popular community stories.

Tang said various stakeholders were interviewed over a period of four months to gain feedback on the proposal.

“I was working in Singapore for some time and it made me sad to see how the only thing that remains of their heritage area is the facade — the interior has all been removed.

“The same is happening in Malacca and hopefully, we can prevent that in George Town.

“That’s why our project is inspired by the voices of the people — we want to preserve the history of the place,” he said.

Citing an example of a funny story, he said the caricature on Love Lane would depict a man climbing up a building to see his mistress.

“Locals say Chinese rich men living at the nearby Muntri Street used to keep their mistresses hidden away at the heritage buildings on Love Lane,” he said.

The project, which would take three months to implement, is estimated to cost about RM1.8mil.

George Town World Heritage Office head Maimunah Mohd Sharif said the project would be implemented after the working paper and funding were approved by the state.

“I hope there won’t be any instances of vandalism when the sculptures are erected — this is one of our concerns,” she said.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who presented the award to the winner, said among the objectives of the competition were to mark the multiple gateways into the city, provide the heritage zone with a distinct and tangible identity, encourage local communities and tourists to explore the area and influence future design practices for the heritage zone.

Marking George Town

“We must do as much as we can to change as little as possible (in relation to conserving heritage),” he said.

Among the main judging criteria for the winning entry were creativity, innovation, robustness, durability, cost effectiveness, sustainability and safety.

The competition attracted 138 entries from Malaysia, Australia, France, Spain, United Kingdom, Singapore and India. - By Christina Chin

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