George Town, Penang has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2008. George Town is recognized as having a “unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia”. Besides, George Town contains one of the largest collections of pre-war buildings in Southeast Asia. Today, we’re going to share with you, some of the beautiful architecture buildings in Penang.
Sacred and Religious Sites
- Kek Lok Si Temple
Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. It was built in 1890, comprising a series of monasteries, prayer halls, temples and gardens. It was built over an area of 120,000 square metres. The main draw in the complex is the striking seven-storey Pagoda of Rama VI (Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas) with 10,000 alabaster and bronze statues of Buddha, and the 30.2 metres tall bronze statue of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy.
The pagoda combines a Chinese octagonal base, a middle tier of Thai design, and a Burmese crown. It reflects the temple’s amalgam of both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. Meanwhile, it also represents the syncretism of diversity of ethnic and religious in Malaysia. In addition, the bronze statue of Kuan Yin is located on the hillside above the pagoda. It is complemented with a 60.9 metres three-tiered roof pavilion. Kek Lok Si Temple is also an important pilgrimage centre for Buddhists from Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippine and other countries in Southeast Asia.
- Tow Boo Kong Temple
Tow Boo Kong Temple is also known as Nine Emperor Gods Temple or Rumah Berhala Tow Boo Kong Butterworth. It is located on Jalan Raja Uda, Butterworth. In the early 1970s, the temple was just an attap-shed on a rented plot. Then, two plots of land were bought in 1974 and 1986 respectively. The temple was rebuilt to its current scale and grandeur in 2000 and the majestic archway was completed in 2009. Tow Boo Kong Temple complex comprises a series of halls and courtyards. It is standing on a land area of 4,000 square metres.
The Butterworth Tow Boo Kong Temple boasts an overwhelming and sumptuous assortment of murals, sculptures and stucco. Moreover, the figures of dragons, mythical lions and heavenly warriors are adorning the walls, pillars, ceilings and beams. Beyond its monumental entrance archway, the complex’s elaborate passageway system features a front prayer hall, an inner courtyard, an interior prayer sanctuary and the main sanctum where the central deities are seated. The temple is open to the general public and tourists.
- Waterfall Temple
Penang Waterfall Temple is officially known as Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Kovil or Hill Top Murugan Temple. It is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Penang and the largest Lord Murugan Temple outside of India. According to popular belief, a sadhu (holy man) chose a spot close to the waterfalls for a shrine dedicated to Murugan. The main deity of this temple is Murugan. It was originally located within the grounds of the Penang Botanical Gardens.
The temple was then relocated on a 44,520 square metres plot of land along the Waterfall Road as the British administration took over the area to establish a reservoir. The relocated temple was completed in 1850. It is the focal point of Thaipusam in Malaysia, after the Batu Caves. The main gateway is around 21.6m in height, which is equivalent to a seven-storey high building.
Visitors entering the temple’s 70,000sq ft grounds will be greeted by a majestic 8.23m-tall statue of Lord Shiva at the foot of the hill. Furthermore, an 18-ft high crafted teak wood door is a special feature at the new Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Hilltop Temple in Waterfall Road. As visitors reach the top by climbing 513 stairs, they are bound to be amazed by the six pillars inside which represent the six main Murugan temples. The temple’s features are inspired from the era of the Chola and Pallava Kingdoms of India and the crafting work was done by Indian artisans from South India, specially brought in to Penang.
- Masjid Kapitan Keling
Masjid Kapitan Keling is the first mosque in Penang. It was built in 1801 by Penang’s first Indian Muslim settlers (East Indian Company troops). The Indo-Moorish structured complex is surrounded by low walls and topped with Moghul-style copper domes. The exterior is ochre yellowed while the interior had white marble floors and a high ceiling. In addition, the interior aisles are formed by a series of horseshoe arches, crowned with King Edward’s plaques.
The lofty, celestial-white Gothic, Moorish and Roman arches create an illusion of more depth to the spacious prayer hall. The facade of the building and its interior were decorated with geometric designs and floral motifs, as human and animal forms are forbidden in Islam. The mosque was originally a small single storey brick mosque. Over the years, the mosque has been expanded many times to its present scale, the largest mosque in George Town, Penang.
- Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is a unique blue-coloured Chinese mansion at Leith Street. It was built between 1896 and 1904. The mansion exterior and indigo-blue outer walls make it a very distinctive building, which is also referred to as “The Blue Mansion”. It is owned by Cheong Fatt Tze, one of the richest men in Southeast Asia during the 19th-century. The mansion features both Eastern and Western elements as well as designs, architecture and interior furnishings.
For instance, the Chinese “air well” courtyards, Gothic louvre windows and stained-glass windows, English encaustic clay tiles and Scottish cast iron works — a reflection of the merchant’s eclectic tastes. The mansion has 38 rooms, 5 granite-paved courtyards, 7 staircases and 220 vernacular timber louvre windows – Cheong’s private residence, seat of his business activities in Penang
- Penang Town Hall and City Hall
Penang Town Hall was completed in 1883, was originally the home to the Municipal Council of Penang. It’s a symmetrical structure with beautiful quoins and semi circle pediments on either side, and a triangular pediment atop a two-storey porte-cochere. It also functioned as a venue for social events for the European elites. However, the office space within the Town Hall is not sufficient. Hence, construction of another municipal building was started right next door.
Penang City Hall was completed in 1903 after being built upon a previous existing mansion. The administrative function was taken over by the City Hall from Town Hall upon the completion. The all white, symmetrical building was constructed in the strong, grand Edwardian Baroque style complete with a porte-cochere. It combines both Edwardian Baroque and Palladian architectural styles. It has the Ionic columns on the first level and Corinthian columns on the second. Both the City Hall and Town Hall are located at Esplanade Road.
- Campbell Street Market
Campbell Street Market is a small wet market with a wide range of fresh vegetables, fish and meats to supply its surrounding community. This Victorian-style market was built in the 1900s. According to some locals, the land on which the market now stands was the site of a Malay cemetery. The cemetery at the land was provided to the Indian Muslim community for the construction of the Masjid Kapitan Keling in 1800. However, the George Town Municipal Council bought the land in the 1890s and subsequently built the Campbell Street Market.
The market was formerly known as Carnarvon Street Market as it is located at the junction of Campbell Street and Carnarvon Street. The features of Victorian style include eyebrow windows, with their curved shape above a traditional window. The facade of the market has an arch window at the pediment. Ornate and decorative designs are the hallmark of Victorian homes.
- Logan Heritage Building
The Logan Building is a double-storey historic building located at Beach Street. The building comprises shops and offices. It was one of the properties of Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee and currently owned by the Singapore-based Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC). The building was named after Daniel Logan, the son of the famous Scottish lawyer, James Richardson Logan. It was completed in 1883 and designed in Victorian style.
The building was a three-storey building with cast iron balconies installed along its Beach Street side. One of the most unique features of this building is the central arch covering a granite-paved porte-cochere, which could be used by horse carriages. The building was renovated in 1930. The upper floor and cast iron balconies were totally removed as it was badly damaged besides compromising the whole structure. The parapet wall was redesigned with the Art Deco style where the building name was put up.
Meanwhile, the original design of the building and its attractive features such as the rusticated plasterwork that start from the ground right up to the moulded cornices along the parapet. Hence, the Logan Building became a two-storey building with the hybrid of Victorian and Art Deco architectural style. Today, the Logan Heritage Building comprises a foreign currency exchanger, convenience store, trendy cafes and other commercial outlets.