Urban Conservation Planning in Southeast Asia seeks to improve urban conservation practice within Southeast Asia by offering a series of short, intensive, and practical courses for Malaysian urban planners and architects that emphasize internationally recognized urban conservation planning methodologies, including tools and techniques employed in the context of conservation and planning. This project is undertaken in partnership with two Malaysian institutions concerned with urban conservation: Badan Warisan Malaysia (a national non-governmental organization with a mission to protect cultural heritage) and Think City (part of Khazanah Nasional Berhad, a strategic investment fund of the Government of Malaysia).


The vast Southeast Asia region, south of China and east of the Indian subcontinent, faces formidable challenges to the conservation of its urban cultural heritage including challenges associated with population growth, urbanization trends, economic development and, in many cases, lack of institutional or legal frameworks to mitigate against the destruction of historic urban fabric. Furthermore, many architects and planners in the region lack the requisite skills to face the myriad, conservation-related challenges to the region’s cities, where many historic areas risk either insensitive changes or outright demolition.

Urban Conservation Planning in Southeast Asia developed from the Getty Conservation Institute project Built Heritage in Southeast Asia and a 2005 assessment of its work, which identified critical needs related to built heritage conservation in Southeast Asia, specifically, the need for more effective conservation planning responses to rampant urban development in the region, along with professional training related to conservation planning.


Urban Conservation Planning in Southeast Asia was developed to address the 2005 assessment's most pressing needs: more effective conservation planning responses to rampant urban development.

Malaysia was identified as a country well-suited to address regional conservation planning, in part because of the adverse impacts of recent, intense urbanization along the Straits of Malacca from Singapore to Penang.

In addition, the Malaysian government's goals for more effective urban conservation coincide with the project's objectives. Malaysia's National Physical Plan-2 (2009) asserts that "authentic multi-cultural and historical heritage of the country shall be conserved" and "towns with special features shall be identified and development projects enhancing their special features shall be supported with appropriate infrastructure."

Also of significance was the lack of post-graduate built heritage conservation training course in Malaysian universities. This highlighted the need for Malaysian planners and architects to receive more focused conservation education.

Finally, the joint inscription of George Town (Penang) and Melaka on the World Heritage List in 2008 underscored the need for effective urban conservation and management practices in Malaysia, including but not restricted to World Heritage sites.

Accordingly, since 2011 the Getty Conservation Institute has collaborated with two institutions in Malaysia, Think City (a division of Khazanah Nasional) and Badan Warisan Malaysia to present a series of intensive, two-week courses on urban conservation planning. Although focused on Malaysian cities, these courses can be adapted for the use of other countries in the region.

The first two urban conservation planning courses occurred in George Town, Penang in 2012 and 2013. The third course will be delivered in Kuala Lumpur in April 2015.

Course materials will be made available online to provide access to practitioners worldwide.

Page updated: January 2015