Cultural World Heritage Sites (WHS) in Asia, such as Melaka Historic City, are constantly facing development pressure. Gentrification is often associated with the inscription of historic cities as WHS as property owners attempt to maximise the economic returns from their investments. In the case of Melaka Historic City, gentrification has resulted in both positive and negative impacts. On the positive side, gentrification has brought new life to the derelict shop houses in the Old Quarter in form of their adaptive reuse; as galleries, souvenir shops, themed restaurants, etc. Conversely, gentrification has resulted in the displacement and marginalisation of the local residents, overcrowding, congestion and the loss of local character and identity.
More significantly, negative gentrification has led to the mushrooming of tourism-related businesses in an uncontrolled and insensitive manner, which may have serious implications on the authenticity and integrity of both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage in Melaka Historic City. If this negative trend is not abated, there is a strong likelihood that it might transform Melaka Historic City into a ‘heritage theme park’ that could no longer showcase its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), which is central to its inscription as a cultural WHS.
In this light, the aim of this workshop is to bring together related stakeholders in Melaka Historic City to share their knowledge, experiences and ideas in reconciling demand for tourism and the needs of heritage conservation. The workshop will reflect on the development path that Melaka Historic City has taken since its inscription as a WHS in 2008 (together with Georgetown, Penang).
In doing so, this workshop will discuss the impact of WH listing on spatial development and the built environment within the Old Quarter of the historic city as well as the local economy and lives of the local residents.
The paper presentations will highlight the potential pitfalls of developing cultural WH Sites in an uncontrolled manner, and present examples of how place remaking involving the local residents could protect the authenticity and integrity of historic cities and make them relevant to the contemporary world.