Sunday, March 7, 2010

Introduction to Shophouse


George Town’s Built Heritage


Built heritage includes artifacts, monuments, single/groups of buildings and sites that have a diversity of significance.


The built heritage of the WHS of George Town includes grids of streets fronted by rows of shophouses, seafront piers and jetties, European influenced public buildings and recreational spaces, monuments, vernacular religious buildings, eclectic style shophouses and ethnic enclaves.


George Town is recognized as having high built heritage value as it boasts the region’s largest collection of traditional shophouse rows in Southeast Asian region.



What is a SHOPHOUSE?


The shophouse is an urban terrace house characteristic of Asian towns from the 18th – 20th century. The shophouse commonly incorporates a shop or business premise on the ground floor while the family resides on the top floor, providing both convenience and security. The shophouse may also be used totally as dwelling quarters.


Shophouses are built in rows and each row is arranged in blocks contained within a grid of main roads, backlanes and side roads. A shophouse is usually two or three storeys high and is long and narrow, sharing a ‘party’ wall with neighbours on either side. Each row of shophouses is fronted by a continuous sheltered five-foot way and a decorative façade which reveals a historical style.

The Penang shophouse is a perfect example of a green building, using materials that are locally available (lime, clay stone and timber) and suited to local geology and weather conditions. A shophouse also possessing architectural features such as air vents and airwell that help with natural ventilation and cooling.



Main CHARACTERISTIC of SHOPHOUSE


  1. Facing a street
  2. Built in a row
  3. Standing next to each other along a street, with no gap or space in between
  4. buildings, with a single party wall separating the shop houses on either side of it.
  5. Low rise, 2-3 storeys
  6. Narrow and Long, sectioned by air-well
  7. 5 foot way/kaki lima/Goh kha ki
  8. Multi-functional, combining residential and commercial use. The ground floor of
  9. shop houses was used for business and trading, and the proprietors lived on the upper floor.


Shophouse Style

Heritage shophouses in George Town fall into 6 main historical styles. Each style has distinctive architectural and decorative features which is representative of a different period in George Town’s history. Your building will have ‘heritage value’ only if you retaining the distinct historical features of your shophouse or restore feature that have been lost. You can find the original features and decorative elements of your shophouse in this blog.


Heritage shophouses in George Town fall into 6 main historical styles. Each style has distinctive architectural and decorative features which is representative of a different period in George Town’s history. Your building will have ‘heritage value’ only if you retaining the distinct historical features of your shophouse or restore features that have been lost. You can find the original features and decorative elements of your shophouse in this slideshow



  1. Early “Penang” Style (1790s - 1850s)
  2. “Southern Chinese” Eclectic Style (1840s - 1900s)
  3. Early “Straits” Eclectic Style (1890s - 1910s)
  4. Late “Straits” Eclectic Style (1910s -1940s)
  5. Art Deco Style (1930s -1960s)
  6. Early Modernism Style (1950s -1970s)



Prepared by
Cultural Heritage Action Team (CHAT)
ARTS-ED, Community Based Arts & Heritage Education Program
Tan Yeow Wooi Culture Research Studio
Dr. Gywnn Jenkins

Supported by
George Town World Heritage Office
Universiti Sains Malaysia, Division of Industry and Community Network

All rights reserved 2010


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Penang Shophouse Research and Design

Some information is compiled from different sources while research and design is

Prepared by

Cultural Heritage Action Team (CHAT) &
ARTS-ED, Community Based Arts & Culture Education Program

With great help from

Tan Yeow Wooi Culture Research Studio
Dr. Gywnn Jenkins


All rights reserved 2010-2013