Scholarly article on topic 'Visitors’ Identification of Landmarks in the Historic District of Banda Hilir, Melaka, Malaysia'

Visitors’ Identification of Landmarks in the Historic District of Banda Hilir, Melaka, Malaysia Academic research paper on "Social and economic geography"

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{Landmarks / "historic city" / "mental image" / "place identity"}

Abstract of research paper on Social and economic geography, author of scientific article — Khairul Amin Mirsa Hussain, Norsidah Ujang

Abstract Landmark is one of the key elements that shape the image and identity of historic cities. It is evident that new and unfit developments have diluted the dominance of landmarks in Banda Hilir, Melaka. This paper examines visitors’ identification of landmarks in Banda Hilir and its influence on the visitors’ imageability. The study adopted mental mapping technique to gather images regarded as landmarks and its corresponding characteristics. Results from the study indicate that visitors identified both buildings and open spaces as landmarks. Size, façade, color and scale influence their identifications. This study denotes the importance of landmarks in preserving the character of Bandar Hilir, despite the addition of new structures.

Academic research paper on topic "Visitors’ Identification of Landmarks in the Historic District of Banda Hilir, Melaka, Malaysia"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 153 (2014) 689 - 699

AicQoL2014Kota Kinabalu AMER International Conference on Quality of Life The Pacific Sutera Hotel, Sutera Harbour, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

4-5 January 2014

"Quality of Life in the Built & Natural Environment "

Visitors' Identification of Landmarks in the Historic District

of Banda Hilir, Melaka, Malaysia

Khairul Amin Mirsa Hussain , Norsidah Ujang

_Department of Landscape Architecture, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Malaysia_


Landmark is one of the key elements that shape the image and identity of historic cities. It is evident that new and unfit developments have diluted the dominance of landmarks in Banda Hilir, Melaka. This paper examines visitors' identification of landmarks in Banda Hilir and its influence on the visitors' imageability. The study adopted mental mapping technique to gather images regarded as landmarks and its corresponding characteristics. Results from the study indicate that visitors identified both buildings and open spaces as landmarks. Size, façade, color and scale influence their identifications. This study denotes the importance of landmarks in preserving the character of Bandar Hilir, despite the addition of new structures.

©2014TheAuthors. PublishedbyElsevierLtd.Thisis an openaccessarticle undertheCCBY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Association of Malaysian Environment-Behavior Researchers, AMER (ABRA malaysia). Keywords: Landmarks; historic city, mental image; place identity

1. Introduction

The existence of a city with good urban design qualities is necessary which every city should strive for. This is particularly relevant to the historical part of the city for preservation of its identity. Conservation and redevelopment continue to shape historic cities in the developing world. In Malaysia, Melaka is the only city that has the longest urbanization history (Shuhana et. al, 2002). The city's historical landmarks have always been popular among visitors because of its historical values and also

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +0-000-000-0000 ; fax: +0-000-000-0000 . E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Peer-review under responsibility of the Association of Malaysian Environment-Behavior Researchers, AMER (ABRA malaysia). doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.10.100

regarded as elements of reference. Banda Hilir houses significant landmark's attraction such as A Famosa, Port de Santiago, St. Paul Church, St. Xavier Church, St. Paul Hill and Stadhuys. Most of these landmarks existed ever since the colonial era. New landmark features such as Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall, Mahkota Parade, Muzium Samudera and Menara Taming Sari are some of the new addition in the city. Since 2008, this city obtained the status of 'World Heritage City' that increases its tourism attraction. The historic district of Banda Hilir, Melaka faces threats where the new development diminishes the city's established historical identity. Unfit physical changes dilute the identity of a few of its distinctive elements regarded as landmarks. Despite the need to ensure contextual compatibility between old and new landmarks, most of the newer developments are focusing on commercial uses, which contradict with the established image and identity of the district. This paper discusses visitors' identification of landmark Banda Hilir, Melaka. It is also to identify the attributes and characteristics of the landmarks that influence the recognition. The findings will indicate the effects of landmarks on visitors' experience and perception of the city.

2. Literature Review

In the Image of the City, Lynch (1960) introduced the term "landmark" and its concept. According to him, landmarks are elements in a vertical form that are visible from far by an observer and function as a guide in wayfinding. Shuhana (2011) opined that a landmark can be a three dimensional object that is prominent or conspicuous to the observers. With the contrast from its background, clear form and prominence of spatial location, a landmark can become more identifiable. This is parallel to Lynch's definition of landmark (Lynch, 1960).

In contrast with Lynch (1960), Hasanudin (2003) defines a landmark as any urban landscape feature that is different from its contextual characteristics, with manifested or inherent attributes. It is also physically or spiritually unique, influential and impressive. This shows that a landmark must not necessarily be a vertical or three-dimensional object. Hassanudin (2003) has categorized landmarks into four groups, namely natural landmarks, constructed landmarks (Moughtin et al., 1999), distant landmarks and local landmarks (Lynch, 1960). In this regards, he includes constructed open-spaces as an additional category of landmark.

Place markers are physical element irrespective of its size and height (Shuhana, 2011). Place markers can be referred as local landmarks due to their role as the reference point for travelers when they have arrived in the place that is not visible from far. In this study, landmarks referred to as the visible and recognizable elements, either from far or in a space within in an area or a place, as long as they are distinctive from their surroundings while their spatial locations are remarkable.

Identification of a landmark is recognition of its attributes and characteristic that influence an individual's thoughts. These characteristics contribute to the attractiveness of the landmarks, which may influence visitors' imageability and memory of the city. Each landmark portrays either one or more of attributes which include scale, proportion and size, colors, singularity/uniqueness/different/contrasting, location/strategic position, ornamentation/detail richness/decoration, orientation/ wayfinding/ point of reference, symbolism and architectural values.

Place identity defines the individual's personal identity in relationship between a person, their environment and surrounding and its characteristics features that hold an important place in an individual's life (Aurore and Ghozlane, 2011 from Prohansky et. al, 1983, and Hernandez et. al, 2007). Hence, it is important to understand the visitors' imageability based on the significant urban elements that make up the city image and identity. This is particularly relevant to historic cities, which are under the threat of new development.

Every human creates his own mental image constructed from direct experiences. The images depended on personal appreciation, values and lifestyles (Sulsters, 2005). Mental maps assist for orientation and become more complex when a person gained much deeper understanding towards the area. Study by Lynch (1960) has proven that environmental images are a result of "the two-way process between the observer and his environment". The study used mental mapping technique to capture the visitors' mental images with regards to places they experience.

3. Methodology

The results from mental mapping and field observation techniques indicate the visitors' identification of landmarks. 35 respondents participated based on the non probability or purposive sampling among the visitors of Banda Hilir, Melaka. Employing a qualitative research approach allowed the researcher to understand how people interpret their own experiences, a phenomenon's meaning that involves among them, and what meaning they bring to their experiences (Merriam, 2009). Non-probability sampling or purposive sampling is the method of sampling that relevant to this study as claimed to be significant for most qualitative study. Furthermore, to ensure their confidentiality, all of the respondents are labeled for example, R1 which prefixes the first respondent in the interview session.

Mental maps represent what we know and remember about a place. According to S. Kell (2009), mental maps are external map-like products used to represent what we know about the world. He further explained that one of the principal strengths of mental map is its capacity to contain information about features that exist in the world as well as information about feelings, attitudes and perception of those features. The invisible information could be gained from a simple or in-depth interview while or after the respondents draw their map.

During the mental mapping exercises, the researcher requested the visitors to draw a map that consist elements recognized as landmarks in Banda Hilir. In addition, respondents needed to sketch 2D or 3D drawings of elements they perceived as the most familiar landmark in the district of Banda Hilir. Later, an explanation from the respondents about their drawings or elements they sketched or written notes. The following highlights the instructions given to them:

• Please draw a map of landmark (map that consist of the element that you recognized as landmarks) in Banda Hilir, Melaka on the given papers. State and identify the names of the landmarks sketched. (First stage of mental mapping)

• Next, please draw 2D or 3D view of the landmarks (you can draw more than one) that most familiar to you and show its specialties or characteristics (attributes) that make you recognized them (that make you attracted to them) in your drawing. (You can just write it if you could not draw the attributes or characteristic). (Second stage of mental mapping)

• State or explain your reasons for choosing the landmark and why it attracts your attention (i.e. Characteristics, attributes, meanings, attachment) (if any).

During the field observation, the researcher captured photographs to document the actual scene of the area. To form the findings of the research, researcher compared the mental mapping and field observation data and analyzed them descriptively.

4. Findings

4.1. Findings and discussion

In this city, the historical sites of the city are walkable and well connected. Banda Hilir has into two main parts which are the core zone and the buffer zone. Core zone is the main area which consists of the heritage and historical places. This includes the area of the A. Famosa, St. Paul Church, St. Paul Hills, Bangunan Memorial Kemerdekaan and Red Square. However, there were also historical features which a bit far for a walking distance (according to the visitors' responses) from the centre of the historical sites such as the St. Francis Xavier Church, Masjid Kg. Keling and Chee Mansion. This influences the visitors to be unaware of its existence and leads to neglecting it in their landmarks identification. Visitors are only familiar with the centre of the core zone or the centre of the historic sites.

Meanwhile, the buffer zone consists of the residential area and some of the newly built elements at the city centre. This includes Menara Taming Sari. Muzium Samudera, Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall, Mahkota Parade and also Casa Del Rio area. Although this area are the buffer zone, the image created from the area to adversely affects the identity of the core zone since the two areas are still visually connected. Furthermore, one of the most significant features in Banda Hilir, the Dataran Pahlawan (previously known as Padang Pahlawan) located in the buffer zone although it has high historical values. Padang Pahlawan should be a potential constructed open space landmark for visitors, but it hardly functions as a local landmark for the area. It is can hardly be seen by the visitors due to its location as it likely located above the ground floor of the Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall (as explained by some of visitors from the interview during the pilot study). As a result, none of the visitors recognized this square as a landmark in this study. They are more likely to identify Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall as a landmark and their reference point. The square functions as a recreation area and gathering area for local people or local visitors who know about the existence of this square. This enhance the previous study conducted by Ismail and Nor Zalina (2009), who found that the morphological changes in Padang Pahlawan result its loss of character the weakening of place identity.

Fig. 1. Map showing core zone and the centre of the historical sites area in the city which consist the historical elements in Banda Hilir, Melaka.

Source: Majlis Bandaraya Melaka Bersejarah (2013)

4.2. Imageability of Banda Hilir

Substantially, 35 respondents participated willingly in the interview conducted by the researcher as it was the survey method fundamental to research which consisted of nineteen (19) men and sixteen (16) women. Both local and foreign tourists are with the age range between sixteen (16) to sixty five (65) years old, inclusive of twenty (20) local visitors, and the remaining fifteen (15) were foreign visitors. There are three types of engagements of the participants. Ten (10) of the respondents came to Banda Hilir for the first time, whereas another fourteen (14) were tourists who had visited Banda Hilir more than once. In addition, the remaining eleven (11) were frequent visitors. Their diversity of working backgrounds dispersed widely from government servant, driver, teacher, engineer, student to pensioner as well as two (2) unemployed and one (1) full time housewife.

Based on the pilot study, the centre of the historic district of Banda Hilir, Melaka appeals to numerous visitors to amass there bringing along their families and friends. Hence interviews among the chosen visitors within the visitable zone and mostly occurred at public places namely, seating areas, eating spots, waiting areas and open spaces or areas conducive for passive activities and relaxations. Some of them at the landmark sites and other places of interests upon their willingness to participate.

Evidently, the identifications of landmarks in Banda Hilir, Melaka from the visitors' mental perception are amply evaluated in this section. All of the respondents were able to identify and signify elements or features that they perceived as landmarks. Apparently, four types of maps can be produced from a mental mapping exercise as previously classified by Shuhana et. al (2002) which are full map, segmented map, sequential map and skeletal or simple map. In contrast, as revealed by this study, majority of the respondents drew simple maps. Only five (5) of the respondents attempted to outline a segmented map while another two (2) formed a sequential map. However, those participants' inconclusive drawings were not feasible to be categorized under these two categories due to the insufficient and obscure data in the maps. Displayed below are examples of the map of landmarks produced by the respondents.

Fig. 2. Simple map of landmark sketched by R6

Fig. 3. Map of landmark illustrated by the visitors (R2 and R5), showing attempts to produce segmented (left) and sequential maps (right)

The respondents identify landmark that include the old and new elements or features of the Banda Hilir. The participants inclined to sketch maps by utilizing symbols or shapes in order to illustrate the recognizable landmarks. Likewise, the results signify the accumulation of 27 chief elements or features which classified by the respondents as landmarks. Table 4.2 below reveals the top ten (10) most identified landmark accordingly from the most to the least identified.

Table 1. Top 10 Most Identified Landmarks among Visitors in Banda Hilir, Melaka

No. Landmarks Frequency Notes

1 Melaka River 17 Other landmarks that are being identified

2 St. Paul Church 15 with a smaller frequency:

3 Jonker Street 10 • St. Paul Hill

• Balai Seni Lukis

4 Christ Church 10 • Little India

5 Muzium Samudera 9 • Hardrock Café

• Tower Clock at Red Square

6 Menara Taming Sari 9 • Bangunan Memorial Kemerdekaan

7 Red Square 8 • Bangunan Istana Kesultanan Melayu

8 Porta De Santiago/ A. Famosa 6 Melaka

• Stadhuys

9 Water Fountain at Red Square 4 • The waterwheel replica

10 Mahkota Parade and Dataran Pahlawan 3 • Dutch Graveyard

Melaka Megamall • Museums

• Shoplots in front of the Melaka River

• Hotels

• Taman Merdeka

After further analysis of the mental maps, the logical deduction implies over the respondents' tendency to specify landmarks within in the historical site which is the centre of attraction for Banda Hilir, although the study area encompasses the entire vicinity of Banda Hilir. Thus, it is evident that this visitable zone is far more substantial and more captivating for them to relate it with their mental images. However, need to

bear in mind that, in the first stage of mental mapping, familiarity is not being examined as the initial intention is just to identify landmarks that creates image of the city among the visitors.

In this study, the identification might occur from the experience of visitors with the landmarks. Meanwhile, familiarity might be obtained accordingly through the period of involvement with the landmarks or with the influence of the landmarks' attributes. Further analysis found that, visitors' identification later indicates their signs of familiarity towards the landmarks where the respondents associates their attraction with the attributes of the landmarks that creates familiarity to them and influence their identification which was reflected in the second stage of mental mapping where they were asked to draw the most familiar landmark. To add, Lynch (1960) support that landmarks are "the most used clues of identity and even of a structure" which increase familiarity of an individual.

Astonishingly, it is apparent from Table 1 that the most identifiable landmark highlighted by the majority of the respondents is the Melaka River. This finding was quite unexpected probably because of two main reasons. Firstly, the participants unintentionally sketched the river as part of their illustrations as an edge. Secondly the river actually imparted a primary visual as a landmark in the visitors' cognition. Similarly, antecedent research utilizing mental mapping conducted by Shuhana (2002) reported that the Melaka River was initially drawn by 60 percent of their respondents as the most identifiable advantage in this city. This has led to a conclusion that the river is substantial in creating the basic structure of the city in the mind of the participants. However, based on further explanation of their drawings, some of the respondents perceived this river as a landmark in particular therefore such identification verified the element as a landmark. Furthermore, based on the researcher's observation, the attribute of the river is contrastingly diverse with the surroundings furthermore it is clearly visible from a distance. As supplementary, this result supports earlier finding from Hasanudin (2003) who categorized natural elements and defined features, elements or spaces that are influential and distinguishable from its surrounding as a landmark.

Subsequently, among the visitors in Banda Hilir, Christ Church was placed in the fourth position of the most identified landmarks. Although Christ Church partially constitutes the Red Square in Banda Hilir, it garners special recognition from the visitors' identification. Likewise, the study portrayed identical outcomes in the adjacent stage of mental mapping, where the respondents could illustrate a 2D or 3D sketch of the most recognizable elements or features which they regarded as landmarks. They also need to state or justify the landmarks' characteristics and attributes which they found most appealing whether via drawing or writing. Hence, in the succeeding section, the results on landmarks' characteristics and attributes will also be discussed. Table 2 signifies the results of the most familiar landmarks to the visitors.

Table 2. The Most Familiar Landmarks Identified by Visitors in Banda Hilir, Melaka

No. Landmarks Frequency Notes

1. Muzium Samudera 8 Other landmarks identified (with a smaller


2. Menara Taming Sari 6 Kota Melaka

3. St. Paul Church 4 Muzium Istana Kesultanan Melayu Melaka

4. A. Famosa (Porta de Santiago) 3 The waterwheel replica

5. Christ Church 3 Jonker Street

6. Mahkota Parade 2 Balai Seni Lukis,

Water Fountain at the Red Square

Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall

Surprisingly, as can be seen from both Table 1 and Table 2, the landmarks that surpassed one of the most established and renowned historical icons and symbols of Melaka, the Porta De Santiago or A. Famosa ranked lower than the Muzium Samudera and Menara Taming Sari. Both ranked at number five and six in Table 1and number one and two in Table 2. However, A. Famosa stationed at number seven in the rank in Table 1 and number four in Table 2, despite being one of the least identified landmarks. Based on the observation, the plausible cause might possibly due to the scale and size of Muzium Samudera and Menara Taming Sari which were tremendously larger than A. Famosa. Of such, this corroborates the constant debate that the new buildings have diluted the dominance and superiority of the aged structure which have distracted the visitors' fascination and captivation.

Once again, for St. Paul Church merely four (4) respondents identified the building as the most familiar landmark although fifteen (15) people actually acknowledged the church in their maps (see Table 1). This particular phenomenon supports Shuhana's (2011) statements that landmarks in Melaka are presently overshadowed by the new commercial buildings. This has decreased the impact of historical landmarks towards the city's identity. From the observation as can be viewed in Figure 4 below, the developments affect place identity of Banda Hilir's core zone. The new expansion and advancement in the buffer zone inclusive of Mahkota Parade, Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall, Casa del Rio areas and the Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security Complex Melaka and hotels areas.

Fig. 4. The dilution impact of A. Famosa (on the left) towards the higher and bigger buildings (Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall, Equatorial Hotel and Hatten Hotel) and structures within its vicinity

Hence, substantial inference could be deduced from the identification of landmarks that whether it new or historical, a landmark will incessantly be identified by the visitors indicating the role of landmark in forming and forging the city image and identity thus supporting attachment to the city as a tourist destination. It is arguable that the historical identity of the city is weakening due to the construction of new structures and buildings. This could be indicated by the types of landmarks identified by the visitors. With reference to the visitors' identification of landmarks, this study derives that the strength and potency of the identity of Banda Hilir is alarmingly facing gradual reduction and decrement. The debatable factor matches the numbers of identification of landmarks procured from the respondents regarding the new structures which are higher or equally matched with the existing historical landmarks. These recorded outcomes might as well designate the prior inference on visitors' imageability since their mental images are depicting the place identity.

From the acute observation undertaken in the survey, several visitors identified landmarks depending on their preferences and the significance of the landmarks to them. Different perceptions emerged probably due to the association with the attributes of the landmarks which the visitors attached their attraction and fascination with (visitors attached their attraction and fascination with (Hasanudin, 2003).

The sense of place is developed not only through the ability of the physical elements to stimulate the human senses but also the form and degree of attachment as a result of a strong identification of urban elements and continuous engagement in activities (Norsidah, 2012).

4.3. Attributes and characteristics that influence visitors ' identification of landmark

From antecedent researches, the illustrations generated throughout the mapping exercises are affiliated with the properties of landmarks. Thus, the properties and attributes impacted their imageability towards the city. The chief attributes as categorized by Hasanudin (2003) are inclusive of scale, proportion and size, colors, singularity, location/ strategic position, ornamentation/ detail richness/ decoration, orientation/ wayfinding/ point of reference, symbolism and design style/ architectural value. To supplement, the landmark may be characterized by one or more of these attributes.

In the mental mapping technique ran for this study, the researcher asked the respondents to produce two or three dimensional (2D or 3D) drawings of the most familiar landmarks to the participants based on their own sketched maps. During the process, the respondents had the tendency to apply their own words to define and describe the unique properties of landmarks like 'style', 'the old brick' instead of 'façade' as normally used in the architectural terminology. Thus, in agreement with Hasanudin's (2003) theory, the special attributes, characteristics or remarkable features of the landmarks create strong relation and connection with the visitor's recognition of landmarks.

For example, R20 had verified from her mental mapping on her appreciation and attraction towards the momentous size and scale, symbolism and the singularity of the Muzium Samudera. In the meantime, R5 expressed his attention on the utilization of architectural and design style and materials as visualized in detail or richness of the façade of A. Famosa (Porta De Santiago). To add, R20 explained that the dominant size of the Muzium Samudera helps in her wayfindings and orientation to the city (point of reference). These intricacies can be clearly viewed from their illustrations of the most recognizable landmarks as of the following:

Material which refer to the façade and detail/ richness of tl building

¡~ — Mtpiwno "j

ssni NJA;

_ j=tNfcrJW£—:

Referring to:

Design style/ Architectural value

Ornamentation/ detail/ richness

A. Famosa by R5

Fig. 5. Drawings of the characteristics which are associated with their most familiar landmarks

Fig. 6. The red building (right) and Christ Church (left) is incessantly referred to as a landmark due to its striking colour and architectural designs

Referring to the phenomenon in the landmarks identification (as in Table 1 and Table 2) where the newly built structured overgrow the identification of historical landmark. The steadfast observation confirmed that the scale and size of the newly built landmark attracts more attention and interests as well as visually shaped and forged the city in the mental image of visitors. People's identifications of historical landmarks and their characteristics indicate the strong influence and impact of the elements to their experience of the place. The undeniable attraction towards the new buildings which mainly focus on commercial activities has not influenced the scenario. Thence this leads Banda Hilir as an example of a district with a strong heritage values. However it experiences the threat from the new and dominant structures which are not in harmony with the established identity of the place.

5. Conclusion

Referring to the visitors' identification of landmarks, the conclusion derived from the study confers that the recently constructed landmarks diminished the identity of the place and diluting the attraction of the historical landmarks gradually since the identification of landmarks become the initial sign of the visitors' imageability. Such conclusion originates from the numbers of identification of landmarks by the respondents denoting that the modern structures are more attractive or equally match with the existing historical landmarks. Nevertheless, most of the visitors have regarded old structures or elements as landmarks; however the identification on newly built landmarks, although not as strong, gives us an indication that they affect the historical landmarks and the image of the city. Thence these results signify the visitors' imageability since their identification is depicting the character or identity of the city as a historical place of attraction. Although this research has addressed and covered the identification of landmarks and how does the attributes affect or influence the identification, nevertheless there is still room for future research. One of the suggestions is to examine how the length of engagement and familiarity which includes the actual knowledge of the place which could become a potential criteria that could influence the identification of landmarks among visitors. Thus, this factor will become the limitation for this study.

These crucial findings can definitely benefit stakeholders in the planning, designing, conservation and tourism in redeveloping historic cities in Malaysia especially Banda Hilir. This supports stronger

development of place identity. It is essential to ensure that any forms of intervention within the city will not threaten place identity. In this case, future development should only include or integrates elements and features that could match and be more sympathy to the initial identity of the city as a world heritage city. Hence, this leads to the strong demand for consistent and persistent conservation in preserving and maintaining the historical values in the city to ensure it will not threaten the place identity. This study established the importance of visitors' imageability and place identity to be considered in enhancing the new or future development of any historic city. This can make the city more meaningful and memorable for visitors.


The author would like to acknowledge the Universiti Putra Malaysia and Ministry of Higher Education of Malaysia for funding the two years research on "The Effect of Historical Landmarak on People's Attachment to the Historic District of Banda Hilir Melaka".


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