Urban Residency, Part II

#BetterCities had a fine time in our first fact-finding trip to George Town, Penang! Sze and I managed to set up a few meetings and here is a brief report:

From George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI), our team heard about some of their current and future projects, from “Greening George Town” to George Town’s way-finding project.

We stepped out of the meeting with a better notion of what the city’s current status quo is, and what the challenges in dealing with communities are. Thank you, GTWHI, for taking your time, and helping us form an understanding of the city and its inhabitants.

First Stop: GTWHI! (photo credit: Sze Ying Goh)

We also had an interesting exchange session, where two local creative groups, Arts-Ed and LUMA, shared with us their current initiatives. Both groups are collaborating on a project called “The HIP Project”, which stands for Heritage in Penang, Happening in Penang, or even History in Progress! One of the key objectives of The HIP Project is to instill a spark in youth to take greater interest in cultural assets in their environment and be inspired to produce creative works from interaction with the site(s). Through social networks, such as Facebook and Instagram, these groups are trying to reach young people, and engage them in the matter of heritage.

An Afternoon on Cannon Street (photo credit: Sze Ying Goh)

On our last day, we met with George Town Festival‘s director, Joe Sidek, who talked a bit about the challenges of presenting tradition to a contemporary audience. This is definitely a guideline that we in #BetterCities are hoping to incorporate to Urban Residency’s programme. All in all, we got to know great people, and initiate exciting partnerships!

Team #BetterCities for Urban Residency: Sze and Lia (photo credit: Sze Ying Goh)

Team #BetterCities will be in George Town again this week, from Monday to Wednesday (April 15 – 17). This time we will concentrate our efforts in constructing a design challenge for Urban Residency.

We will keep you posted at betterciti.es/urbanresidency.


Lia is an architect and urbanist from Brasilia, Brazil, who has just finished her Masters at the University of Tokyo, Japan. In Masters, she has profiled 75 case studies, in which city dwellers, seeking to tackle urban issues, undertake projects in urban spaces. This movement was named Mend-Yourself-Urbanism (codenamed M.Y.URBANISM). When searching for initiatives, she came across #BetterCities, and now that she is living in Kuala Lumpur, Lia became part of the team. Passionate about urban life, the Brazilian architect believes cities become better places when the practice of urbanism is reunited with the everyday life of its citizens.

#BetterCities Goes to George Town, Penang!

#BetterCities heralds the second quarter of 2013 by stepping out of our home base in Kuala Lumpur to launch our first project in Penang! This new undertaking is a pilot programme called Urban Residency (codenamed UrRe) that will take place in George Town, Penang. The cat’s meow of UrRe will be a weeklong urban action workshop during the George Town Festival in early June. Throughout the week in June, selected participants of UrRe will design and build projects to improve the public space.

Preparation for Urban Residency begins with our team heading to George Town tomorrow! Our goal for this first field trip is to deepen our knowledge of the city and the communities, to understand the city’s current status quo and challenges, and finally, to look for potential sites and problems.

We are looking for local institutions, art collectives, creative communities and individuals who want to collaborate either as participants in the programme or exchange/provide information (even share secret spots of George Town!).

We will keep you posted on UrRe! Do drop us line if you want to collaborate, and stay tuned for the programme’s open call!

Urban Residency is supported by The Embassy of Finland, Malaysia.


Lia Tostes is an architect and urbanist from Brasilia, Brazil who has just finished her Masters at the University of Tokyo. She currently lives in Kuala Lumpur and is a collaborator of #BetterCities.