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The City as an Open Classroom: Diversity & Dynamism in Urban Conservation

Asian Heritage Cities Triangle project

8-10 January, 2006
Penang, Malaysia

Workshop Summary

Between 8-9 January 2006, Lestari Heritage Network hosted an international workshop entitled "The City as an Open Classroom: Diversity & Dynamism in Urban Conservation." A total of 20 representatives from citizens groups, urban planners, architects, and heritage experts met with their counterparts in Penang to share knowledge and strategies in urban conservation.

The workshop was initiated by Nara Machizukuri Centre in Japan with support from the Japan Foundation. The exchange between Nara, Chiang Mai, and Penang was expanded, with the help of Lestari Heritage Network, to include representatives from Phuket and Phnom Penh.

Eleven delegates from Japan arrived from Nara Machizukuri Centre. NMC was founded over 20 years ago by citizen's movement in Nara, a UNESCO world heritage site. 'Machizukuri' is Japanese word for community development activities for improving existing urban fabric. From Chiang Mai, Thailand, two representatives came from Urban Development Institute Foundation, an organization that conducts research and education on urban sustainability. The third representative is a community leader from a local temple. From Phuket, Thailand, a heritage expert on the local Hokkien community and Thai culture was accompanied by a journal editor. From Phnom Penh, Cambodia, two architects and two architectural students arrived with a municipal urban planner.

At the workshop, delegates heard from Penang's own conservation experts and heritage organizations regarding challenges, best practices, and lessons learned in George Town. The main sponsor of the workshop is Japan Foundation, with additional support from Lestari Heritage Network through Institute for Cultural Enterprise, and in-kind support from Penang Heritage Trust and Penang Teochew Association.

Click here for Programme Schedule

Click here for Delegates and Presenters

Pressing problems on Chiang Mai are:
• Many mega projects initiated by the central government without local need, participation or approval.
• Conflicts of development and the attempts to preserve Chiang Mai as historic city.
• Lack of understanding of preservation concept from the government, general public and property owners.
• City for the wealth of people from Bangkok.

During a 2-hour workshop on the second day of the seminar, participants were asked to separate into four groups of 6-8 persons to discuss the "burning" issues they brought to the workshop. Afterwards, each group was encouraged to use any known resources and creative strategies to solve these burning issues collectively.

Group I
Presenter: BENG Khemro

Burning issues:
• public awareness of heritage in Cambodia and Penang are major challenges

• finance and technical assistance should be combined from NGOs and government
• having a shared place to come together to solve problems is important
• human resources are needed, e.g. committed staff, different types of experts--both professionals as well as hands-on practitioners

• decision maker-government officials usually have final say; Ministry of Interior of Cambodia need to bring in local governors to make declaration to protect historical buildings
• public media is needed to explain conservation, e.g. through television… to set up roundtable to show how conservation could be conducted
• target general public-through arts and education, so that all levels of the public could be motivated
• houseowners-need to have specific message, e.g. use brochures to explain conservation. In Cambodia, trust from the public is weak, therefore, there's a need to use community assets such as traditional festivals. Only Buddhist temples are perceived to be safe places where people could trust the information they receive
• developers-are only interested in short term profits
• there has to be trust between experts and community between different stakeholders

Group II
Presenter: Pranee SAK
Illustrator: TAN Yeow Wooi

The group discussion focuses on tourism. In Nara, participants were concerned with its impact on traditional ways of life. Too many tourists are now drawn to the local events/festivals, such as praying in temples, children's folklore events, lantern festivals. There are more than 20 events per year, some of these are new. On the other hand, in Phuket, only one in 50 tourists visit the old town. Businesses in beach side do not come from Phuket town, thus they do not care about what happens in town. As a result of the separation between beach side and town, businesses in old town could not benefit from the tourists. There should be balance between local traditional life and tourists. While tourism is necessary for income which would provide necessary funds for people to restore their own houses.

• How to draw attention of people from the beach to come to Phuket town
• How to get tourists interested in the history of Phuket
• Promote Strait-electic style architecture
• Promote in photograph the history of Phuket to tour operators overseas

Resources and Strategies:
• Target new market of tourists who are interested in culture, start from tour agencies from abroad to come see the historic city of Phuket
• Start a Peranakan Trail to link with Penang, Malacca, and Singapore
• Improve island transportation-"city and beach tour"-have new buses bring tourists from one beach to another and bring them to town and then back to the hotel
• Establish historical museum-to tell story of Phuket town-through historical trail
• Design a new trishaw tour route on the island, since many European tourists like taking trishaw in the evening
• Promote local food to attract people in town
• Establish new boutique accommodations from old houses
• Sell one ticket for all facilities and events
• Re-establish flights (currently, connections between Phuket to Penang have been hampered-in the past, there are flights from Phuket to Had Yai, then 2 hrs to Penang. Now people have to fly to Kuala Lumpur then fly to Penang)
• Write new histories on Phuket-make comic book
• Make Phuket an artist town-attract Thai artists

Group III
Presenter: Clement LIANG

Burning issues:
• What has been compromised because of tourist dollars? Townscape? Old lifestyle?
• Private sector has taken over physical development
• Is there really a need for tourism?

Resources and strategies:
• Since we have no politicians in group…

- Journalists can write articles and make suggestions
- Architects can write more reports to let others understand heritage
- More research can be done on tourists of why they visit the city
- Artist-writers need to write more history/culture books to introduce cultural heritage
- Publicize through websites; use different kinds of media to publicize problems and solutions

• Education is the most important

- Because the majority do not know about conservation
- To form pressure group to lobby proper control for the interest of the community to keep their lifestyles
- In the schools, no subject is taught on culture or heritage conservation in formal education, can it be part of the curriculum
- Encourage community involvement
- Movies may be a media to encourage classical culture, animation-good media to change people's values to be aware of what they have loss

• Networking is important

- So people could learn from another
- To rotate exhibitions to other cities
- Annual international workshop
- Next year's meeting in Chiang Mai?

• Proper city planning to harmonize with humans; can people walk safely in the streets?

Group IV
Presenters: Ratana SOUN and Sitho SIM

Strategies and resources for Phnom Penh:
• Perhaps should learn from the Prime Minister: to make the cake without flour
• Resources: people with good heart
• Strategy: Like the chicken under the elephant's feet-tries to tickle the feet of the elephant in order to survive

- Organize people from outside and bring local people to focus on religious institutions-like Thai people, knowledge to the people can be passed down through religious leaders
- Focus on art-because it is with people everyday-songs and performances can be used to pass on to people
- Use students as networks to spread word on conservation-make use of young people to make rap songs or hip hop

Concluding Remarks

KHOO Salma Nasution
Heritage is a new form of public interest, like environment or transportation.
What is private interest and public interest? People need to know why they have to support heritage. From experience with state heritage council, developers and politicians-the government does not understand what "public" is because it is used to dealing with many pressure groups and it often hears from private interests.
Lestari can be a network to put others in touch.

Face to face contact is very important, so that people can trust each other. Sympathy is very important; community relation is very important because of post-war trauma and globalization. NGO in Japan is not very strong. Human beings need to get in touch with nature, love, and community. Family relationship has been destroyed because of westernization. This seminar was successful because of Ichiro and Salma. NMC needs to change Japanese government for focusing too much on economic development.

DUONGCHAN Apavatjrut Charoenmuang
It is not enough to listen to 10 people, you need to see it once for yourself. This was her first visit to Penang. Appreciate guidance from NMC. Will focus on using media to better publicize information for others.



The City as an Open Classroom: Diversity & Dynamism in Urban Conservation

Asian Heritage Cities Triangle project

8-10 January, 2006
Penang, Malaysia

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Programme Schedule

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Workshop Summary

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Delegates and Presenters

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Coordinating and
Participating Organizations

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What participants say
about the workshop

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