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Archaeology of the Capitals of Southeast Asia – Kuala Lumpur: Past and Present

The SEAMEO Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts (SEAMEO SPAFA) and the Siam Society will organize two lectures on the archaeology and urban conservation of Kuala Lumpur, as part of SEAMEO SPAFA’s lecture series on the archaeology of the Capitals of Southeast Asia. The 2019 lectures, focusing on Kuala Lumpur, will be delivered on Tuesday 30th April 2019 at 18.30-20.30 hrs. at the Siam Society, Bangkok, Thailand. The event is free of charge.

18:00-18.30 hrs. – Welcome Reception

18.30-19.30 hrs. – “Archaeology of Kuala Lumpur: Opportunities and Challenges” by Shaiful Shahidan, Centre for Global Archaeological Research, Universiti Sains Malaysia

19.30-20.30 hrs. – “Urban Conservation of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia” by Professor Dr. A. Ghafar Ahmad, School of Housing, Building and Planning, Universiti Sains Malaysia

The history of Kuala Lumpur, literally translated as “muddy confluence”, began in the mid-19th century during the tin mining boom in the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The mining industries transformed the area from a small settlement to become a state capital of Selangor and later as Malaysia’s most prominent city in the 20th century. This growth also brings the complexity of architecture, culture and heritage. However, rapid development, as well as economic prosperity, create a minor, if not major, “collision” between conservation values and the need for development. This presented a continuous challenge in the field of urban archaeology and heritage conservation in Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia generally, as reflected by few cases in the recent past. Hence, this talk will feature opportunities and challenges in archaeological works in Kuala Lumpur, as well as its future sustainability. It will also highlight a few examples and approaches to bring the local community together in conserving and preserving their heritage, especially in the urban setting.

About the Speaker: Shaiful Shahidan is an ASTS Fellow at the Centre for Global Archaeological Research, University Sains of Malaysia and a Council Member of ICOMOS Malaysia. He was a recipient of the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship under European Commission and has spent several years of training in field archaeology in Europe and Southeast Asia. He was also one of the expert panels for the Lenggong Valley dossier preparation before its inscription into the UNESCO World Heritage Site. For the past 15 years, he has been involved in archaeological research in Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, covering extensive research and analysis. His current work focuses on field archaeological project in key sites within the George Town World Heritage Sites.

Conservation is a guardianship that provides for the maintenance, preservation or protection of what presently exists, from being destroyed or changed in an inappropriate manner. It aims to recapture a sense of the past in an attempt to preserve, conserve and restore as much as possible of the existing fabric in its original state or situation. Urban conservation relates to efforts undertaken to preserve and safeguard the elements of built environment found in the city that are of architectural, cultural or historical significance. This may include building (individual or group), monument, street, garden, park, landscape, street furniture as well as sculpture in the city. Urban conservation has been practiced in many cities in Malaysia including the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Many heritage buildings and civic spaces in Kuala Lumpur including shophouses, colonial buildings, religious buildings, public buildings, monuments, open spaces or squares and river fronts have been conserved and revitalised to safeguard their integrity and authenticity for the benefits of future generations. Many government agencies, local authorities and NGOs in Kuala Lumpur have organised various conservation projects, research, community programmes, guided tours and public awareness on the importance of conserving and preserving the cultural heritage of Kuala Lumpur.

This lecture presents three case studies of urban conservation projects carried out by the government agencies, local authorities and NGOs in Kuala Lumpur’s core heritage zones, namely the River of Life, the Old Market Square and the Independence Square. It also highlights the Heritage Trails of Kuala Lumpur, public awareness programmes for the younger generations; and deliberates on some major issues and challenges facing urban conservation efforts in Kuala Lumpur as well as in Malaysia.

About the Speaker: Professor Dr. A. Ghafar Ahmad has PhD in Building Conservation from University of Sheffield, UK; Masters of Architecture (Urban Design) from Kent State University, Ohio, USA; and Bachelor of Science in Architecture from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA. As a dedicated and prominent building conservator, Professor Ghafar has meticulously conserved many heritage buildings in Malaysia, and he is currently lecturing at the School of Housing, Building and Planning, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). In 2009-2012, he was seconded as the Deputy Commissioner of Heritage, Malaysia. He has been involved in heritage committees at national and international levels including National Heritage Council, Malaysia, Technical Review Panel for George Town World Heritage Site, Chairman of the Expert Committee for Architecture and Landscape, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Malaysia, International Correspondent for Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU), Japan, Malaysian representative in Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) meetings in Morocco and Egypt; and Member of Malaysia Heritage Delegation at UNESCO World Heritage meetings in St. Petersburg (36th), Phnom Penh (37th), Doha (38th); and Manama (42nd). He is also a member of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), Malaysian Institute of Interior Designer (MIID-Academic) and a Registered Conservator. In January 1999, Professor Ghafar won the Historic Mosques Preservation Award in the Building Restoration Category from Ministry of Higher Education, Saudi Arabia.

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