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Rethink conservation and community in Little India, Penang
The Masters of Architecture program at Taylor’s University in Penang has opened a module on Culture and Community Design. Professor Dr. Nikhil Joshi  challenges his students to  consider how built heritage can matter to communities, and how community engagement can inform the architectural design process?

Since 2008 UNESCO has designated many areas of Penang built under British Colonial  rule as World Heritage, including the enclave for labourers and traders from Sri Lanka and India, subsequently called Little India.The studio aimed to highlight the vulnerability induced by pressures of UNESCO heritage in Little India within the context of a weak planning authority and rapid urban growth and globalization, with the belief that any conservation and development of the historic urban landscape must start with engaging local communities.

Heritage means more than just mere identity, continuity and accumulated layers of memories. We want to encourage students to understand that vernacular heritage is not only about preserving the past, but that such practices of heritage preservation can be a tool for communities to come together as one in the neighbourhoods revitalization, economic growth, and sustainability, helping people cope with pressures of urban society, and secure their future.

The architects took on the role of a socially responsible facilitator, initiating various participatory acts over the course of the module. Following a series of consultations with various stakeholders  such as the community, business owners, the Hindu Endowment board, Mariamman Temple Committee, the students presented their work to George Town World Heritage Incorporated, Penang Heritage Trust, the local council and state planning department at the office of ThinkCity. | Nikhil Joshi

For more information, contact professor Nikhil at
Taylor University
Rethink conservation and community in Little India, Penang
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