Urban Conservation Planning in Southeast Asia seeks to improve urban conservation practice within Southeast Asia by offering a series of short, intensive, and practical courses for Southeast Asian urban planners and architects that emphasize internationally recognized urban conservation planning methodologies, including tools and techniques employed in the context of conservation and planning. This project is undertaken in partnership with Think City.


The vast Southeast Asia region, south of China and east of the Indian subcontinent, faces formidable challenges to the conservation of its urban cultural heritage including challenges associated with population growth, urbanization trends, economic development and, in many cases, lack of institutional or legal frameworks to mitigate against the destruction of historic urban fabric. Furthermore, many architects and planners in the region lack the requisite skills to face the myriad, conservation-related challenges to the region's cities, where many historic areas risk either insensitive changes or outright demolition.

Urban Conservation Planning in Southeast Asia developed from the Getty Conservation Institute project Built Heritage in Southeast Asia and a 2005 assessment of its work, which identified critical needs related to built heritage conservation in Southeast Asia, specifically, the need for more effective conservation planning responses to rampant urban development in the region, along with professional training related to conservation planning.


Urban Conservation Planning in Southeast Asia was developed to address the 2005 assessment's most pressing needs: more effective conservation planning responses to rampant urban development. The GCI's main objective is to develop a series of short courses for mid-career urban planners and architects from the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region, to improve their quality of work and, in so doing, improve regional urban conservation practices.

Malaysia was identified as a country well-suited to address regional conservation planning, in part because of the adverse impacts of intense urbanization along the Straits of Malacca from Singapore to Penang. In addition, the Malaysian government's goals for more effective urban conservation coincide with the project's objectives. Malaysia's National Physical Plan-2 (2009) asserted that "authentic multi-cultural and historical heritage of the country shall be conserved" and "towns with special features shall be identified and development projects enhancing their special features shall be supported with appropriate infrastructure."

Also of significance was the lack of post-graduate built heritage conservation training course in Malaysian universities. This highlighted the need for Malaysian planners and architects to receive more focused conservation education.

Finally, the joint inscription of George Town (Penang) and Melaka on the World Heritage List in 2008 underscored the need for effective urban conservation and management practices in Malaysia, including but not restricted to World Heritage sites.

Accordingly, since 2011 the Getty Conservation Institute has collaborated with two institutions in Malaysia, Think City (a division of Khazanah Nasional) and Badan Warisan Malaysia to present a series of intensive, short courses on urban conservation planning. These courses, Urban Conservation Planning in Malaysia, although focused on Malaysian cities, were organized so their content could be adapted to the needs and uses of other countries in the region.

In 2017 the GCI began to apply lessons learned from the experience in Malaysia to a new series of urban conservation planning courses to be launched in September 2018 for participants from the ten countries of ASEAN.

Page updated: November 2017