A new piece in New Mandala

Just a quick update. I wrote a short op-ed on some of the threats facing Melaka and George Town  Malaysia’s UNESCO-listed historic cities  for New Mandala. For me, the two cities highlight issues of urban governance that are relevant to Malaysia as a whole.

The mounting urban crisis in these historic cities highlights a couple of issues. Firstly, the weak enforcement of building codes – especially to protect heritage. Secondly, the need for careful planning to mitigate the unintended social and spatial consequences that accompany rapid development.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Komtar on Failed Architecture

Eyesore or icon, Komtar has come to represent George Town. Its transformation will be a barometer of the direction the city takes in the early twenty-first century. Across the historic centre, homes have made way for spaces of consumption, and old traders have given way to new businesses. The reinvention of Komtar’s main tower, with the seat of local government crowned by a rooftop restaurant, may well be an apt metaphor for the neoliberal city George Town is becoming.

Just another quick update. It’s not every day that one of your favourite websites agrees to publish you, but the good folks at Failed Architecture have done just that. My piece for the website looks at the fraught history of an architectural icon (or eyesore), and how redevelopment is once again making this building a contested space.

I’ve got another piece in the works for Failed Architecture — one which will look at the architectural politics of Malaysia’s planned capital, Putrajaya — but for now, please enjoy this latest love-letter to Penang.

Getting around in Penang; hearth and home in Singapore

I’ve been meaning to write something about Penang’s Transport Master Plan, which is an ambitious but (I think) highly-flawed document. That piece is still in the works as I read up more about the plan, but in the meantime, the new Penang Monthly has hit the shelves. My byline appears twice in this issue.

The first piece looks at transport and mobility for those without cars of their own. I know some of these challenges well enough — when I lived in George Town, I got around mostly on foot, sometimes by bike, and by bus when I wandered further afield.

For this piece, I spoke to confirmed pedestrians, cyclists, people in wheelchairs, and fans of ride-sharing apps to tease out how Penang’s public transport networks could be improved. What becomes clear, I think, is that planners must go beyond the abstract act of ‘planning’ and truly understand the needs of users. If we’re to break the stranglehold the car has on our cities, Malaysians need viable alternatives to the private automobile.

The second piece anticipates my recent move south.In HDB Republic:,’ I look at how Singapore’s Housing and Development Board, as well as the Urban Redevelopment Authority, manage the challenges of housing, homeownership, and heritage in this land-strapped island nation.

Singapore’s rapidly changing skyline is the product of intense spatial pressures, but increasingly, authorities here are engaging with questions of architectural heritage and urban identity when making decisions about what stays and what goes. In this respect, I think Singapore offers valuable lessons for a city like Penang and indeed the rest of the world. How do we root our sense of place in an ever-changing city?

I hope you enjoy both these articles!

Header image: Singapore’s Central Business District skyline. Image courtesy of the Urban Redevelopment Authority