HERITAGE & CONSERVATION
HERITAGE & CONSERVATION
THE CHALLENGES IN THE ASIA/PACIFIC BASIN
The Issues – Philosophy of Restoration.
Philosophy of Restoration
There cannot be a single philosophy in approach to restoration. Different people and different cultural roots would demand different approaches towards restoration. The context which these restoration examples are in will have to be evaluated and examined properly. This forum restricts me to discuss only about the Malaysian experience. I am able to share with you on the following topics – What; How and Why we do certain things in Malaysia.
My paper would cover the following areas:-
a) Brief History of Malaysia to contextualise the issue of conservation;
b) The roles of conservation movements in Malaysia and their philosophy towards restoration;
c) The Government’s view and approach towards conservation;
d) Private sector’s involvement and philosophy towards conservation.
a) Historically, Malaysia as a nation is only 33 years old and therefore
most projects worthy of conservation are those from the colonial times and structure built by pioneer immigrant entrepreneurs. Any structures in Malaysia which is 80 years and above is considered an antiquity, and is protected by the ‘Antiquities Act’. Conservation awareness in Malaysia is a relatively new phenomena. It was with the founding of B.W.M.(BADAN WARISAN MALAYSIA) in 1984 (Heritage of Malaysia Trust) and the S.W.M. (SAHABAT WARISAN MALAYSIA) 1985 (Friends of Heritage, Malaysia) that conservation as a movement took off. Prior to the formation of these societies, conservation was not understood or pursued actively or consciously by Malaysians. Other conservation movements have since come to be:
MALACCA CHAPTER OF B.W.M. 1986;
PERAK CHAPTER OF B.W.M. 1987; and
THE PERSATUAN WARISAN OF PENANG, 1987.
b) Role & Philosophy of B.W.M. (BADAN WARISAN MALAYSIA)
B.W.M. (BADAN WARISAN MALAYSIA) and S.W.M. (SAHABAT WARISAN MALAYSIA) subscribes to the following considerations towards conservation and restoration:
Reflecting cultural and environmental restraints;
i.e. understanding of availability of skilled artesians and compatibillity of local building materials;
3. ECONOMICS OF RESTORATION
i.e. economic pressures and constraints and the availability and funding.
Accompanying the above three points are the following guidelines
called the three ‘S’s of conservation and restoration.
The 3 ‘S’s represents the following:
Sensitivity: concern and awareness of what was there before and being responsive to the spirit of what the architecture/monument represents. Not to destroy what stands out as being important.
Sympathy: to act in a manner where a decision to restore, does not in any way destroy an existing fabric, texture or spirit, but to act in harmony and in a correlated manner with that which is there.
Sincerity: a genuine and altrustic approach to conservation, where one’s main concern is at preserving that which needs to be and not act in a wanton manner for remunerative benefits.
Regrettably, conservation has not reached the level of appreciation, understanding, sympathy and sophistication it deserves. Ask ten different people, and you get click here ten different answers on what conservation is all about. Therefore B.W.M. (BADAN WARISAN MALAYSIA) approach towards convincing both Government and public about what conservation is about and how restoration should be done is through the ‘Gentle Art of Persuasion’ and not the act of confrontation. It is therefore, imperative that the principle preached by B.W.M. (BADAN WARISAN MALAYSIA) must be maintained as any consequential loss due to poor restoration is a loss to the nation, which is too high a price to pay.
c) Government view and approach towards conservation
The Gentle approach adopted by Badan Warisan Malaysia has won the ears of both the state and Federal Governments. This is demonstrated by the recent declaration by the Federal Government in granting Malacca the status of a ‘historical city’. It demonstrates that our Government realizes the importance of preserving the rich tradition and heritage which exists within our nation. Conserving and preserving our national heritage is vital for the long term national survival and for instilling into future generation citizens a sense of belonging, whence we all came from and henceforth. The precious few ancient monuments are our National treasures and National assets, worthy of preservation and maintenance at all costs for future reference.
Once destroyed, they cannot be recovered or replaced.
Many projects undertaken by various Government bodies in the name of restoration have actually destroyed, many notable buildings namely Istana Balai Lama, Jugra; The Studhuys, Malacca; Carcossa, Kuala Lumpur, are but to name a few. This loss of national heritage is not from the lack of love and care but from sheer apathy (on the part of those who know and should speak out but don’t) and ignorance (from those who do not understand therefore do the wrong thing and are too proud to ask for proper advice).
Badan Warisan Malaysia and S.W.M. (Sahabat Warisan Malaysia) are currently working with the Government namely Ministry of Works, Attorney General’s department and other statutory bodies; in drawing up a guideline, strategy and control cabinet paper on conservation and restoration to be submitted to the cabinet to be adopted for implementation.
d) Private Sector’s involvement and philosophy
The private sector, having seen and heard about conservation has realized conservation projects are big money spinners and are thus jumping on the band wagon. Too many of such attempts on conservation redevelopment range from re-modelling, re-beautification, renovation, re-invention to re-housing a new usage. Many architects are quite happy to reproduce a replica without applying the three ‘S’s of conservation, therefore by labelling structures as ‘Conservation projects’ or Restoration exercise’ do not elevate them to an exultant level or respectability.
A point that B.W. (Badan Warisan) is constantly getting across to the public is that conservation is not against development and that all new development can compliment the historic structures which are existing and have had much longer right of existence.