Scholarly article on topic 'Public Perception on the Cultural Significance of Heritage Buildings in Kuala Lumpur'

Public Perception on the Cultural Significance of Heritage Buildings in Kuala Lumpur Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Aidatul Fadzlin Bakri, Norhati Ibrahim, Sabarinah Sh Ahmad, Nurulhusna Qamaruz Zaman

Abstract Every heritage building has it values or cultural heritage significance, and its values are being perceived differently by various stakeholders. Today, the task of assessing the heritage significance does not depend solely on the experts but also to the public as well. The purpose of this research is to discover and understand public perception of the significance of two heritage buildings in Kuala Lumpur. The research used mixed-methodologies comprising survey questionnaires and site observations. The results showed that the public and the experts’ view on cultural significance are similar, and this undoubtedy contributes to sustainable practice for heritage conservation.

Academic research paper on topic "Public Perception on the Cultural Significance of Heritage Buildings in Kuala Lumpur"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 202 (2015) 294 - 302

ASEAN-Turkey ASLI (Annual Serial Landmark International) Conference on Quality of Life 2014, ABRA International Conference on Quality of Life, AQoL2014, 26-28 December 2014,

Istanbul, Turkey

Public Perception on the Cultural Significance of Heritage Buildings

in Kuala Lumpur

Aidatul Fadzlin Bakri*, Norhati Ibrahim, Sabarinah Sh Ahmad, Nurulhusna Qamaruz

Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, 40450 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia

Abstract

Every heritage building has it values or cultural heritage significance, and its values are being perceived differently by various stakeholders. Today, the task of assessing the heritage significance does not depend solely on the experts but also to the public as well. The purpose of this research is to discover and understand public perception of the significance of two heritage buildings in Kuala Lumpur. The research used mixed-methodologies comprising survey questionnaires and site observations. The results showed that the public and the experts' view on cultural significance are similar, and this undoubtedy contributes to sustainable practice for heritage conservation.

© 2015The Authors.Publishedby ElsevierLtd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-reviewunder responsibilityofAMER(Association ofMalaysianEnvironment-Behaviour Researchers)andcE-Bs(Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies, Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia.

Keywords: Public perception; heritage buildings; value; heritage significance

1. Introduction

Heritage buildings are part of built cultural heritage that has become a crucial element in many urban areas. With the inscription of George Town and Melaka as World Heritage Sites in 2008, and Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley in 2012; it is important to make sure that the public understand on the significance of heritage sites and how it could affect any decision relating to the assets in the future. It is also important to have public support in heritage conservation matters. Many conservation guidelines, act and charters have included the importance of community participation as part of the process of identifying the values and also management of heritage areas.

*Aidatul Fadzlin Bakri. Tel.: +603-55-444-210; fax: +603-55-444-353. E-mail address: aida_fadzlin@yahoo.co.uk

1877-0428 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of AMER (Association of Malaysian Environment-Behaviour Researchers) and cE-Bs (Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies, Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.08.233

Previous studies showed that cultural heritage are valued differently, often in clash or arguments and depending very much on particular concerns and motivation of a certain group (Ateca-Amestoy, V, 2011; De La Torre, Marta (ed.), 2002). Take, for example, the case of Pudu Prison Complex located in Kuala Lumpur, which was built in 1895. It has served to accommodate prisoners until the end of 1996, stops its operation as a new prison has been built, and became a museum in 1997. However, the government has decided that it has to make way for new development. Despite public appeals, the government refused to change the decision due to arguments that it does not have exceptional national significance. Finally, in 2010 it was demolished, leaving only its gate as a remembrance of the site. Although having issues on difference of viewpoints and preferences while valuing the heritage significance of a building, to date, there is still very minimum inclusion of public or representatives of public in determining the significance of heritage buildings. In Malaysia, the standard practice is that it was valued by a committee formed by the state government that includes the panel of experts.

2. Literature review

A considerable amount of literature has been published on the cultural heritage significance or heritage values. Various heritage value typologies have been defined by different researchers and organization, including from Burra Charter, Australia ICOMOS, English Heritage, and Malaysian Heritage Act 2005 (Act 645). The typologies may be relevant for particular place or objects, and it differs from one to another.

According to the Australian ICOMOS (The Burra Charter, 1999), cultural significance means "aesthetic, historic, scientific or social value for past, present or future generations ". Cultural significance is a notion that helps in assessing the value of places. A place with significance can provide knowledge on the history or enhance the present, and further can be appreciated by future generations. The aesthetic, historic, scientific and social values need to be understood carefully in establishing the cultural significance of the place.

Malaysia established its own National Heritage Act in 2005, which is amongst others aimed at providing support for conservation and preservation of the country's national heritage. The Act enables registration and categorisation of National Heritage subjects, worthy of protection. It defines cultural heritage significance as 'cultural heritage having aesthetic, archaeological, architectural, cultural, historical, scientific, social, spiritual, linguistic or technological value.'

The national level movement to identify and protect national heritage in Malaysia is also echoed at State level. Several State Governments and Local Municipals have established their value system to ascertain and categorise national heritage worthiness. In Kuala Lumpur, for example, heritage buildings are being categorized according to where it is sited: in a primary heritage zone, secondary heritage zone or heritage character zone. It is also categorized as Category I building, Category II and Category III. The categorization is, of course, needed to determine actions to be taken to preserve each building.

Many literature supports the need for public involvement in the heritage conservation processes. An effective participation will provide the possibility for achieving long-term sustainability. It also helps to build up the community's commitment and continuing involvement in the program and thus promote the concept of sharing responsibility. Public participation in the context of heritage conservation is important because it can provide valuable input and share one's knowledge, assist in coming out with a solution and decision, and broaden the understanding of the value of heritage (English Heritage, 2008 and Hoi An Protocol, 2005).

A study by Bakri et al. (2012) shows that different stakeholders may have conflicts due to the variety of methods in managing situations. Yung and Chan (2011) also stated that among major issues in public participation in built heritage conservation is due to various and clash of interest of various stakeholders, minimal understanding and different inclination or motivation towards what's valuable of conservation.

Currently in Malaysia, public participation in the decision-making process of valuing heritage value or heritage significance is rather minimal, limited to the early stage of identifying the history and background of the site. A previous study by Nik Azhari & Mohamed (2012) has revealed that almost half of the respondents gave a neutral or undecided response when asked about the current state or condition of heritage building conservation in Kuala Lumpur. The result was quite worrying as it seems that the awareness is quite minimal. Therefore, the study on public perception of cultural significance of heritage buildings will not only demonstrate their understanding of the

values, but further will give indications on actions need to be taken by respected parties concerning on heritage and conservation area.

3. Research methodology

The study used a quantitative approach to survey questionnaires and case studies to understand public perception of the cultural significance of heritage buildings in Kuala Lumpur.

3.1 Respondents

The research outcome describes in this paper is based on a survey data collected in-situ from one hundred randomly selected respondents.

3.2 Instruments

The survey questions were structured based on the statement of values as stipulated in the Burra Charter as the statement has clarity in the description for the classification of heritage values. Survey questionnaires comprise a set of close questions that sought for a level of agreement. It was conducted to obtain information on the heritage significance of case study buildings, the importance of conserving heritage buildings, and the importance of evaluating the significance of heritage buildings.

The feedback from questionnaires was based on the respondents' perception of four types of heritage values, namely aesthetic, historic, scientific and social. They were asked about their agreement with Likert Scale ranging from 1 to 5 from descending order: 5 represents - Strongly Agree; 4- Agree; 3- Neither Agree or Disagree; 2-Disagree; and 1- Strongly Disagree. The data collected then were studied and analyzed using Frequency Analysis and Average Index. Frequency Analysis used depends on the percentage of respondents giving the same answer and will measure the degree of agreement on a certain statement. Average Index was used to determine the level of agreeness on heritage values criteria/ statement. The classification of the rating scales is as follows.

Table 1. Average Index used to determine the level of agreement on heritage values criteria/ statement.

Description Rating Scale

Strongly Disagree (SD) 1.00 < Average Index (I) < 1.50

Disagree (D) 1.50 < Average Index (I) < 2.50

Neither Agree or Disagree (NA/D) 2.50 < Average Index (I) < 3.50

Agree (A) 3.50 < Average Index (I) < 4.50

Strongly Agree (SA) 4.50 < Average Index (I) < 5.00

Sources: Adopted from Majid and McCafer (1997)

4. Case studies

Two case studies were selected, namely the Central Market and Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. Both are located in the heritage zone overlay planning control to comply with the requirement and guidelines pertinent to the conservation of the distinct and unique character of Kuala Lumpur.

4.1 Central Market

The history of Central Market started in 1888 as a wet market. The renovation of current building was completed in 1938 and now become a centre of Malaysian culture, arts and handicraft. It is a Category 2 heritage building as listed by Kuala Lumpur City Hall, which means that the building has significant historical /architectural importance that previously have not been gazette principally, or they are in the process of being gazetted under the National

Heritage Act 2005. The building has been identified as influential in shaping Kuala Lumpur and contribute significantly to the urban city character.

4.2 Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

Kuala Lumpur Railways Station was built in 1911, incorporated beautiful Moorish Architecture in its design. It still functions as a railway station until today, standing strong and became part of an important history of Kuala Lumpur. It is also one of national heritage building, located in the primary heritage zone of Kuala Lumpur. This building is a Category 1 heritage buildings as listed by Kuala Lumpur City Hall, which means these building gazetted under the Antiquities Act 1976/National Heritage Act 2005. Category 1 heritage building may acquire their designation either as a consequence of their architectural qualities or their historical or cultural significance. Certain aspects or element of these buildings may be of greater significance than other requiring preservation /restoration while other aspects may be less critical (Kuala Lumpur Development Control Plan 2020).

5. Results and findings

5.1 Demographic characteristics of respondents

A total of 100 respondents participated in the survey; 50 respondents at each study site.The respondents' age ranged from 20 - 29 years old (59%), 30 - 39 years old (14%), 40 - 49 years old (16%) and 50 to 59 years old (11%). Majority of respondents had attended or completed formal education of at least until secondary school (36%), up to degree level (32%), up to diploma level (28%), and post- graduate level (4%). In terms of gender, 54% were female; while another 46% were male. A majority of respondents were Malaysian citizens, with just 12% are non- Malaysian citizens. This may be due to the facts that both sites are the focal point of Kuala Lumpur where people commute daily to get to work or to have their meals.

5.2 Respondents attitude on the importance of conserving heritage building

The respondents were asked about the importance of conserving heritage buildings. It is apparent from the table below that the most agreed reason (89%) because it is a tourist attraction spot. These heritage buildings are seen as unique and signify cultural diversity and influences. Also, 87% of respondents agreed that it helps prolong the history and the story of the city and also act as solid evidence and reference for the future generation. The least agreed reason (86%) is to protect the true landscape and architecture of the city. Overall the awareness and interest on the importance of conserving heritage buildings are remarkably high.

Table 2. Respondents attitude on the importance of conserving heritage building.

Importance of conserving heritage building. SA A NA/D D SD

(%) (%) (%) (%) (%)

Protect the true landscape and architecture of the city 49 37 10 4 0

Prolong the history and the story of the city 45 42 8 3 2

As solid evidence and reference for the future generation 39 48 10 3 0

Become a part of tourism attraction of the country 55 34 16 3 2

SA- Strongly Agree; A- Agree; NA/D- Neither Agree or Disagree; D- Disagree; SD- Strongly Disagree

5.3 Respondents attitude about the importance of evaluating the significance of heritage buildings

In terms of respondent's attitude about the importance of evaluating the significance of heritage buildings, the result comes out positively with the majority of them strongly agreed or agreed with the statements. This indicates that they are proud and feels the two heritage buildings are special and distinctive to them. Most of the respondent agreed that by evaluating the significance of heritage building, it could benefit the society in many ways, for example to help preserving the heritage (86%), could educate currents and future generation (84%), have roles in

defining cultural identity (79%) and finally increase the economy by creating job opportunities to the public (70%). By understanding the benefits of evaluating and further understanding the significance of heritage buildings, public could appreciate more on the values and hopefully it helps in conserving the heritage buildings in Malaysia.

Table 3. Respondents attitude about the importance of evaluating the significance of heritage buildings.

The importance of evaluating the significance of heritage SA A NA/D D SD

buildings. (%) (%) (%) (%) (%)

Educate currents and future generations 33 51 13 0 3

Increase economy by creating job opportunities to the public 20 50 17 10 3

Help in preserving the heritage 27 59 7 6 1

Defining cultural identity 24 55 13 5 3

SA- Strongly Agree; A- Agree; NA/D- Neither Agree or Disagree; D- Disagree; SD- Strongly Disagree

5.4 Levels of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance (aesthetic value)

The data were analyzed using Average Index, and the results showed the level of agreement for each value statement. Aesthetic is one of the values that lead to the cultural significance of any buildings as the eyes always caught it first compared to the rest. For both case studies, majority of respondents agreed that the form plays an important factor that explains the aesthetic values of Central Market and KL Railway Station (refer Table 4a and Table 4b). Other aesthetic qualities that were agreed with respondents for both buildings was in terms of its colour and texture. However, respondents find it hard to decide to either agree or disagree in terms of the material of the fabric or in terms of its smell and sound.

Table 4a. Levels of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance of Central Market (aesthetic value).

Type of Criteria Frequency Average Index Level of Agreeness

SA A NA/D D SD

(5) (4) (3) (2) (1)

Aesthetic Form. 11 30 7 1 1 3.98 Agree

Colour. 14 23 9 3 1 3.92 Agree

Texture. 9 30 9 2 0 3.92 Agree

The material of 5 19 18 7 1 3.4 Neither Agree or Disagree

the fabric.

Smell and 8 17 12 10 3 3.34 Neither Agree or Disagree

sound.

SA- Strongly Agree; A- Agree; NA/D- Neither Agree or Disagree; D- Disagree; SD- Strongly Disagree

Table 4b. Levels of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance of KL Railway Station (aesthetic value).

Type of Criteria Frequency Average Index Level of Agreeness

SA A NA/D D SD

(5) (4) (3) (2) (1)

Aesthetic Form. 11 30 7 1 1 3.98 Agree

Colour. 14 23 9 3 1 3.92 Agree

Texture. 9 30 9 2 0 3.92 Agree

The material of 5 19 18 7 1 3.4 Neither Agree or Disagree

the fabric.

Smell and 8 17 12 10 3 3.34 Neither Agree or Disagree

sound.

SA- Strongly Agree; A- Agree; NA/D- Neither Agree or Disagree; D- Disagree; SD- Strongly Disagree

5.5 Levels of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance (historic value)

As illustrated in the tables below (Table 5a and Table 5b), the study found that a majority of the respondents agreed that the two buildings have demonstrated an association to an important event. Central Market was once a wet market back in 1888, while KL Railway Station was built in 1911 and was the third railway station built on the same site. Respondents at KL Railways station also agreed that the building influenced, or has been influenced by, a historic figure, event, phase or activity. Meanwhile, majority of respondents in Central Market were not sure whether it has influenced or has been influenced by, a historic figure, event, phase or activity.

Table 5a. Levels of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance of Central Market (historic value).

Type of value Criteria SA (5) A (4) NA/D (3) D (2) SD (1) Average Index Level of Agreeness

Historic Influenced, or has been influenced by, a historic 14 figure, event, phase or activity. 6 18 11 3 3.46 Neither Agree or Disagree

Association to an important event. 18 17 7 3 0 3.7 Agree

SA- Strongly Agree; A- Agree; NA/D- Neither Agree or Disagree; D- Disagree; SD- Strongly Disagree

able 5b. Levels of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance of KL Railway Station (historic value).

Type of value Criteria SA (5) A (4) NA/D (3) D (2) SD (1) Average Index Level of Agreeness

Historic Influenced, or has been influenced by, a historic 14 figure, event, phase or activity. 18 11 4 3 3.72 Agree

Association to an important event. 18 21 8 3 0 4.08 Agree

SA- Strongly Agree; A- Agree; NA/D- Neither Agree or Disagree; D- Disagree; SD- Strongly Disagree

5.6 Levels of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance (scientific value)

The respondents agreed that only KL Railway Station has demonstrated rarity, quality or representativeness on the construction method, technical innovation or achievement. However, majority respondents at both sites cannot decide whether to agree or not the building represents potential to yield information contributing to a wider history.

Table 6a. Levels of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance of Central Market (scientific value).

Type of value Criteria SA (5) A (4) NA/D (3) D SD Average (2) (1) Index Level of Agreeness

Scientific Rarity, quality or representativeness on the construction method, technical innovation or achievement. 4 16 18 7 5 3.14 Neither Agree or Disagree

Potential to yield information contributing to a wider history. 4 14 13 13 6 2.94 Neither Agree or Disagree

SA- Strongly Agree; A- Agree; NA/D- Neither Agree or Disagree; D- Disagree; SD- Strongly Disagree

Table 6b. Levels of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance of KL Railway Station (scientific value).

Type of value Criteria SA (5) A (4) NA/D (3) D SD Average (2) (1) Index Level of Agreeness

Scientific Rarity, quality or representativeness on the construction method, technical innovation or 7 18 20 4 1 3.52 Agree

achievement.

Potential to yield information contributing to a 8 13 14 13 2 3.24 Neither

wider history. Agree or

Disagree

SA- Strongly Agree; A- Agree; NA/D- Neither Agree or Disagree; D- Disagree; SD- Strongly Disagree

5. 7 Level of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance (social value)

Social values represent an attachment to a place and connections of the group to specific environmental characteristics. For both buildings, the majority of respondents agreed that the buildings embrace the qualities for which it has become the focus of cultural sentiment to a majority or minority group. A majority of respondents also agreed that KL Railway Station holds the qualities for which it has become the focus of the national association. However, the respondents cannot decide whether both buildings have the qualities to become focus on spiritual and political association.

Table 7a. Level of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance of Central Market (social value).

Type of Criteria value

SA A NA/D (5) (4) (3)

D SD (2) (1)

Average Level of Agreeness Index

Social Become the focus of the spiritual 1 11 18 13 7 2.72

association.

Become the focus of the political 1 16 19 6 8 2.92

association.

Become the focus of the national 2 26 11 5 6 3.26

association.

Become the focus of cultural 14 26 6 2 2 3.96

sentiment.

SA- Strongly Agree; A- Agree; NA/D- Neither Agree or Disagree; D- Disagree; SD- Strongly Disagree Table 7b. Level of agreement of respondents towards cultural heritage significance of KL Railway Station (social value).

Neither Agree or Disagree

Neither Agree or Disagree

Neither Agree or Disagree

Type of Criteria value

SA A NA/D D SD Average Level of Agreeness

(5) (4) (3) (2) (1) Index

Social Become the focus of the spiritual 3 17 14 12 4 3.06

association.

Become the focus of the political 3 19 17 9 2 3.24

association.

Become the focus of the national 12 18 12 3 5 3.58

association.

Become the focus of cultural 15 23 9 2 1 3.98

sentiment.

SA- Strongly Agree; A- Agree; NA/D- Neither Agree or Disagree; D- Disagree; SD- Strongly Disagree

5.8 Public perception of cultural heritage significance towards Central Market and KL Railway Station (by ranking)

Neither Agree or Disagree

Neither Agree or Disagree

Agree Agree

To summarize, Table 8 compares public perception of the cultural heritage significance of Central Market and KL Railway Station, by ranking from 1 to 5.

Table 8. Public perception of cultural heritage significance towards Central Market and KL Railway Station (by ranking).

Ranking Criteria for Central Market

Criteria for KL Railway Station

1 The building represents aesthetic qualities that are important to the community in terms of its form.

2 The building embraces the qualities for which it has become the focus of cultural sentiment to a majority or minority group.

3 The building represents aesthetic qualities that are important to the community in terms of its colour.

4 The building represents aesthetic qualities that are important to the community in terms of its texture.

5 The building demonstrates an association to an important event.

The building represents aesthetic qualities that are important to the community in terms of its form.

The building demonstrates an association to an important event.

The building embraces the qualities for which it has become the focus of cultural sentiment to a majority or minority group.

The building represents aesthetic qualities that are important to the community in terms of its texture.

The building represents aesthetic qualities that are important to the community in terms of its colour.

6. Conclusion

This study examined how the public perceives and assess the cultural significance of two heritage buildings in Kuala Lumpur. The study aims to establish whether there is differing in value judgements between the public on the streets and the experts. This study shows that for both heritage buildings, what the public perceived is similar to the values that the government has categorized before. For Central Market building, as seen from the five highest-ranked, public believed that it has three important values to be culturally significance, namely the aesthetic value (in terms of form, color and texture), social value (become the focus of cultural sentiment) and also historical value (association to an important event). Results on the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station was quite similar; the public believed that it is culturally significance as it has aesthetic value (in terms of form, texture and color), historical value (association to an important event) and social value (become the focus of cultural sentiment). These results are very positive because it shows that the public understands the cultural significance of the building, and it is somehow similar to the category of heritage building that the government has listed before.

This study is not conclusive because of its exploratory nature and a small number of respondents. There are other issues including the fact that perception can change with time and circumstances. For example, the mass media play a large role in influencing people's thoughts. So, the study on perception requires a continuous process to ensure the interests of all stakeholders are well managed and considered, and improve our quality of life.

Acknowledgements

This study is funded by Research Acculturation Grant Scheme (RAGS), provided by the Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia. The researchers would also like to thank Research Management Institute of Universiti Teknologi MARA, Ms. Nur Ashikin Zakaria and all respondents for their help and contributions to this research.

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