Ipoh lies around 200km north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and straddles the Kinta River which splits Ipoh into what’s known as the Old Town and the New Town. The Old Town of Ipoh has some wonderful examples of pre-World War II heritage buildings, Government buildings, colonial buildings and shophouses displaying classic and significant architecture.
A shophouse is a 2 or 3-story building with a kaki-lima or “five-foot-way” on the street front providing an open arcade and walkway. Traditionally the shop is on the ground floor with the residence above, the top floor of the shophouse extending out over the five-foor-way. The shophouses are attached therefore a continuous arcade is created along the street providing an ideal venue for trading or serving food.
The shophouse architecture results from the ingenious design of the builders to cope with the tropical climate. The verandah shaded the front rooms, thick brick walls helped to insulate the rooms from the heat, strategically placed light wells brought light and air into the house and the roof with a raised mini-gable at the peak increased air flow. Shutters and grills on the windows and doors also allowed free circulation of air as well as privacy.
Shophouses in Penang have been built for two hundred years and their unique structures clearly show the influence of the Chinese, Malay and Indian and European styles merged to the local environment. The pillars at the entrance to the shophouses advertise the shop owner with large embossed Chinese characters. One can also see some highly decorated shophouses with stucco figures, ceramic and glass decorations as well as other decorative plasterwork.