Kuala Lumpur shophouse history observed, studied, and transformed into art

Shophouse Week!  From the Star (Malaysia) writer Tip Yoke Teng: “The best way to admire the beauty of old shophouses in Kuala Lumpur is — ironically — not by making a trip to the now jam-packed confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers where the city grew, but through the exquisite drawings of Victor Chin.  With captivating details, his watercolour works depict the original facades of the shophouses, the various trades and the down-to-earth activities conducted within — much to the contrast of the structures’ current state, splattered with algae, graffiti, or cheap renovation.

“One step at a time, he walked the old streets of Kuala Lumpur, then Malacca, Penang, and Singapore since 1992 to document these historical buildings.  ‘I remember having to say goodbye to the operators of all my favourite stalls because of those demolitions that were going on in the name of urban renewal,’ recalled the 62-year-old artist, writer, photographer and social activist who spent most of his life championing for heritage conservation.  ‘As an artist, what do you do when you see such things? How can you be a true son of the city?’

“He is touted as the pioneer in preserving the country’s architectural heritage through art and he had inspired many others to venture into this art form.  He also designed a walking tour for Chinatown, introducing locations that reflected the area’s rich history dating back to 1850, first a malaria-infested swamp crammed with southern Chinese workers who came for tin-mining, then rebuilt with brick and mortar under the British rule, and recently a commercial centre that is the pulse of Kuala Lumpur.  ‘By 1889, there were 500 brick shophouses around the confluence, they were typically 35ft x 70ft per lot.  The design was a grand amalgamation of Europe, Malay and Chinese influences, and formed our unique streetscape.'”  Full article here.

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