Public space and conservation of a historic living city

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Public space and conservation of a historic living city
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  1  Public Space and its implication for conservation of the historic living cityof Melaka   Samira Ramezani  1  , Zul Azri Bin Abd Aziz  2 and Syed Z.A. Idid  3   Urban Design & Conservation Unit, Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia81310 UTM Skudai, Johor Darul Takzim, Malaysia  Abstract   Recent attempts in the historic living city of Melaka to revitalize as well as to conserve the historical entities of this world heritage town seem to lack an orientation towards socio-cultural issues as animportant asset gained throughout history. This is while Melaka is a living city and the local resident’s culture and lifestyle needs to be taken into consideration more sensitively if the goal is toconserve all the characters of this city. Since Melaka is known for its historical past and rich heritageand has become a popular tourism destination among international and domestic tourists, the state government has implemented a number of tourism infrastructure and enhancement projects in itsefforts to attract more tourists so as to maximize revenue from tourism but there is a lack of researchon residents’ lifestyle and use of outdoor environment of their city. This paper, therefore, aims todescribe how public space as a place of social interactions and cultural activities is significant inachieving the goal of conserving all entities of Melaka as a historic living city. The methodology used in this paper is library study as well as onsite observation. This study raises the current patterns of outdoor space usage and emphasizes on the need for conserving various forms of public spacesincluding the taken for granted mundane public spaces. These spaces include streets, linear space, semi-nodal space as well as nodal space. The main objective is to contribute to formulating futureapproach on planning as well as design guidelines that will be more practical in terms of enhancing the liveliness in the inanimate areas of the city and the quality of life in the outdoor environment to suit the residents culture. Keywords: conservation, revitalisation, public space, residents’ quality of life, socio-cultural issues 1.0 INTRODUCTION Recent conservation attempts in the living heritage city of Melaka, with the goals of conserving theurban heritage and enhancing tourism, have paid little attention to socio-cultural issues of localresidents. The day-to-day activities of the local residents are an important part of urban heritage andmust be taken into consideration. Since Melaka known for its historical past and rich in heritage, is a popular tourism destination among international and domestic tourists, the state government hasimplemented a number of tourism infrastructure projects in its efforts to attract more tourists so as tomaximize revenue from tourism. A plethora of research has been conducted on this issue. However,while acknowledging that Melaka is a “living heritage city” , there is a paucity of research to 1 Samira Ramezani, B.Sc Arch. (Azad), final semester student in the M.Sc. Urban Design, Faculty of Built Environment, UniversitiTeknologi Malaysia, 81310 UTM Skudai, Johor Darul Takzim,  2 Zul Azri Bin Abd Aziz, B.Landscape (UiTM), M.Sc. Urban Design (UTM), Dept. of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Architecture,Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Sri Iskandar, Chenoh, Perak Darul Redzwan, Malaysia. 3 Syed Z. A. Idid, Dr.Eng. (Tokyo), Assoc. Professor, Urban Design & Conservation Unit, Faculty of Built Environment, UniversitiTeknologi Malaysia, 81310 UTM Skudai, Johor Darul Takzim,   2 understand local’s day-to-day use of outdoor environment. The local resident’s culture and lifestyleneeds to be taken into consideration more sensitively if the goal is to conserve all pertinent charactersof this city. As mentioned by Idid (2008), regarding the conservation efforts in Melaka, the principlesfor the development of practical conservation guideline are lacking especially in the aspect of enhancing the liveliness in a semi run-down urban area that was once the hub of a particular town.   There is the lack of emphasis on “area conservation ” and the focus of conservation is merely centredon building in the context of “ a single piece of monument  ”. The emphasis by the relevant authoritieson conservation lacks dealing on matters of communal interests and with the “  place making  ' precept toconserve elements (tangible and intangible forms) that constitute significant “  places” .   It is importantto understand how the local use the public spaces because the extent to which the residents use theoutdoor environment, affects the liveliness of the city.A search for published literature on open space use in Melaka has revealed that such literature is either devoted to the preservation of land with cultural and historical significance (e.g. Cartier, 1993; Cartier,1997) or restoration of urban green environment based on the theories of vegetation ecology (e.g.,Miyawaki, 1998). This paper, therefore, aims to build an understanding on how the local residents usethe open spaces in the heritage zone with the objectives of generating future planning through designguidelines which would be more practical in conserving the heritage in terms of enhancing theliveliness and the quality of life in the inanimate areas of the city.This paper starts with a brief review about the role of public space in increasing social interaction of residents therefore revitalising the city. It then demonstrates the importance of public space in historicliving city; the relationship between conservation and the socio-cultural function of public space;followed by the section introducing  Melaka Conservation Zone with different patterns of spaceshaving potentials to be used as active communal space and thus revitalizing the liveliness of theConservation Zone. A number of policy implications are discussed in the last part of this paper. 2.0 SIGNIFICANCE OF PUBLIC SPACE IN REVITALIZATION OF CITIES Public spaces are a fundamental feature of cities which increase liveability by encouraging everydayactivities as well as special events such as festivals and, as a result, increasing social interaction. Theyrepresent sites of sociability and face-to-face interaction, and at the same time their quality iscommonly perceived to be a measure of the quality of urban life. Ideally they are places that areaccessible to everybody and where difference is encountered and negotiated (Young, 1990). Publicspaces can be treated as ‘ locales’  , settings in which social relations and a sense of place are constituted(Eyles and Litva, 1998).Georg Simmel first emphasised about the sociological importance of taken for granted social routinesand practices (Wolffe, 1950). According to Simmel, social relationships and forms of associationwere best understood by referring to their spatial context. He was particularly concerned, for example,with minor, less obvious forms of social interaction taking place in everyday social settings (Lechner,1991). Moreover, earlier studies explored the effects of more mundane sources of interaction andengagement on social relations. They mentioned, for example, the importance of opportunities for casual interaction afforded through such local features as street markets, residential squares, sitting-outareas and canal-side walks, or journeys on foot to a school or workplace, to perceptions of inclusionand a sense of community (Cattell and Herring, 2002). Public space is the focus of different needs,demands and desires. To explain how this fundamental feature of public space sits alongside its potential for social integration Jacobs(1961) mentions that it was casual contact with people differentfrom oneself which was essential for integration and “exuberant diversity” (Jacobs, 1961, p. 70).Often quite mundane places attain symbolic significance for people through social relations that take place there. But public spaces are more than just simply containers of human activity, they possesssubjective meanings that accumulate over time, spaces can contribute to meeting needs for security,identity, and a sense of place (Cattell et al, 2008). Ehrenreich (2007) has argued that traditional  3 collective activities such as communal celebrations and festivals have been highly pleasurable for  people over the centuries.The aforementioned literature emphasizes the importance of public space for generation of sense of  place as well as sense of community by encouraging local activities and special events that are a partof urban heritage thus revitalizing the city. 3.0 THE IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC SPACE AND COMMUNAL ACTIVITIES INHISTORIC LIVING CITIES According to Litvin (2005), historic living city is a combination of places, which have been blessed byits people’s heritage values. Its environment can be described as a relic of past events, occupationsand ownerships. In the context of historical living city, the communal activities that have beeninherited in hundreds of years are the source of liveliness. This can be refered to as a reflection of culture, values and worldview resulting in lifestyle, which is the main factor to understand theoperative system of the city, and the way people respond to behave in it (Rapoport, 1977).Furthermore, these influences create a rich blend of cultures, sub-cultures, customs, traditions,artworks; through manifestation of folk-culture and sub-cultures, creating a juxtaposition of a veryunique society and built environment (Idid, 2008). The interaction of human with the past and the present surroundings produce an urban dynamism and creates the spirit of the place.The daily lifestyles make strong impact on the usage of space. The little plaza, the wall along thestreet, the space under a family tree, the streets, the spaces under the roof of the house entrance doorsand all of the spatial surroundings create the possibility for social life. The existence of the placecontributes to the development of social life in the community (Dumreicher and Kolb, 2008). In other words, public spaces, which accommodate daily as well as communal activities, are an importantsource of liveliness in living historic cities. 4.0 URBAN CONSERVATION & SOCIO-CULTURAL FUNCTION OF PUBLIC SPACE Urban conservation provides a set of values and methods by which to preserve and renew theimportant elements of the city (from which the city’s unique sense of place is derived), that oftenrepresent the world’s multicultural heritage. Planning for urban conservation assures that the cities of the world – with unique structure, places and districts – will be sustained in their irreplaceable role asthe realm of vibrant life, culture and civil society.According to Cohen (1998), the five criteria and questions to ask in assessing the urban conservation potential of a particular site are: •   Define character of the urban setting and clarity of the border of the site. This is a measureof the extent to which boundary and structure are recognizable as urban elements, such ascity squares, parks, side streets and element of nature; •   Locality and sense of place. This is measure of the site’s regional and local character,atmosphere and its urban spaces, with links to the context of the city; •   Internal space, proportions and relations. This is assessed by the connections of urbanspace created by the volumes of the built environment, but also internal continuity of function and uses; •   Style and design. This provides a means to record evaluation of the overall designapproach, character and style prevalent at the site, comprised of buildings, land and uses; •   Construction methods and materials. This is a measure of the level of performanceachieved by an authentic building technology.This environmental assessment emphasizes on the fact that planning for urban conservation shouldconsider the socio cultural assets of the historical cities in addition to emphasizing on conserving the  4 heritage buildings and materials. Human activities basically contribute to local identity enhancement,which is based on the patterns of local community’s culture and lifestyle. According to Relph (1976),the identity of a place is not only on its appearance but also in observable activities and functions of meanings. Similarly, Idid (1998) urged that experiencing activities in social spaces is much moresignificant in determining the meaning of a place. Moreover, in the context of living city the lifestyleof people that represents utilization of the surroundings is much more meaningful than the buildingsand shows that the city is alive and vibrant.Since culture is manifested through daily as well as communal activities (people’s behavior) in cities;and as these activities mostly take place in public spaces planning for conservation goals must reflecton generation of vibrant public spaces which conserve the cultural assets of the community.Furthermore, if the cultural needs of residents are met, the strong sense of place and attachment resultsin an interest from local dwellers in the perpetuation of the valued qualities of the place whichcontributes to the goals of conserving the urban heritage. 5.0 BACKGROUND OF STUDY AREA  According to Idid (2004), “what makes Melakasignificant in the context of World Heritage is a crucialquestion, as it will form the basis of the rationale for Melaka’s urban conservation approach. Putting theurban fabric aside, it can be noted that nowhere in theworld can be found a complex system of urban culturessuch as can be seen in many Malaysian cities. Historyand the spirit of tolerances among various ethnic groups(natives or immigrants) has made various cultures co-exist by their own entity and customs practised withoutmerging or blending completely into one another although some local habits became intermingled andassimilated. Some root cultures remained impassive tochanges even though places where it srcinated frommay have undergone significant changes. This has also been an essential beginning for what we see in thecomplexity of cultural entities in Malaysia today.Melaka is an icon for the emergence and developmentof this characteristically Malaysian urban culture”.“Multicultural societies in a living city are the contextthat can describe Melaka accurately. It is a historic city inhabited by multicultural societies that have brought about a unique blend of culture that slowly transgress from external influences and developedinto its own unique style that started from as early as the 1400s right through to the present day. Thisform the actual makeup of the current Malaysian urban society and exhibit the gradual growth of cultural diversities found in all of Malaysian towns. In comparison with other similar propertiesaround the region, Melaka is undoubtedly unique. Although various urban settlements in the region of Southeast Asia may resemble each other in terms of their physical features, none contain the complexstructure of urban societies that is exhibited in Melaka”.As Malacca is a historic living city that is full of life, public space that generates activity has become part of the town's pattern and character. At times, it can be seen that efforts of urban conservation in promoting the cultural entity is too hasty and more often than not, result in superficial physicalenhancement only meant to improve amenities for visitors to the heritage sites. Less emphasis weregiven to enhance the communal spaces and to promote the sense of belonging amongst the localresidents as well as ineffectiveness of these schemes to augment the value of heritage as aneducational source to younger generations. In aspiring to improve the prestige and the quality of life in   MAP 1: Location of Melaka in the Contextof Regional Settings,the Central Melaka  5 to suit the visitors who come to witness this unique place, overzealousness would sometimes drive theauthority towards making drastic changes to the tangible and intangible context of the city, destroyingthe very essence in which the character of the city is based from.Introducing a new scheme or improvement may sometime bring negative effects to a place that isalready unique and special. Changes is inevitable and will occur in any place but these changes should be managed so that the physical and the non-physical entities that have shaped and characterised the particular place, must be maintained and preserved from the process of change itself. The culturalcontext of the study area does not merely depend on the characteristics of the buildings, but also relateto how humans interact with their surroundings. An accepted fact is that, efforts to reinstate theambience of the local surroundings through urban conservation at times fail to see the significance of social space in cultural value, which must be preserved along with other entities.Within the heritage zone in Melaka, there are many unique localities that can be distinguished by thedifferent types of activities they hold. Every road in the conservation area has its own unique character often reflected by the type of activities it holds alongside its architectural features and historicalcontext. These are the apparent features and generally become the focus of attention either from thevisitors’ point of view or when it comes to the authority’s efforts to improve and enhance the physicalcontext. To the local communities, there has been less emphasis especially in improving thecommunal spaces, which had become an integral part of the local lifestyles and culture in the heritagezone. 6.0 USAGE PATTERNS OF OUTDOOR SPACE IN CONSERVATION CORE ZONE INMELAKA The urban physical fabric of the Melaka heritage zone comprises of several unique patterns of spaces.Each pattern can be interpreted in the context of its uniqueness by the composition of its physicalcharacter and usage. The purpose of discussing these patterns of outdoor space in this paper is toemphasize on the need for conserving as well as enhancing such spaces not only with regards toconserving the whole entities of this World Heritage City but also considering aspects of local lifestyles. These public spaces can be described in the following manner: 6.1   Street The streets in the study area are unique and have their owncharacter. They are narrow, allowing a single passage of movement by motorised vehicles because it was designed to cater only lightvolume of traffic especially animal driven carriages. However in the present context, heavy volume of traffic pass through these streetsand causes much discomfort to the residents and vibrations,threatening the stability of the building construction. Street were public spaces where they were not only connectors to various other localities within the heritage zone but acted as intermediate spacethat connect the front of a neighbour house to the other. In suchsituation children played on the street, old folks would sit by thefront of their houses chatting with neighbours. Even now most of these streets do not only cater for vehicular movements but aregenerally shared between pedestrians and other form of streetcentred activities. In one particular street,  Jonker Street  , the street isclosed to vehicular movements entirely during the evenings of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, to host an array of night marketactivities. Figure 1: Jalan Hang Kasturi is turnedinto pedestrian mall every Sundaymorning.
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