Between April 30 and May 11, 2012, the GCI delivered a two-week course, Urban Conservation Planning in Malaysia, in the World Heritage city of Penang, as part of the GCI's Built Heritage in Southeast Asia project. The course was organized in collaboration with Malaysia's primary nongovernmental conservation organization, Badan Warisan, and with Think City, a division of Khazanah (part of Malaysia's Ministry of Finance). Its main objectives were to enable a group of fifteen Malaysian urban planners to better understand internationally recognized urban conservation planning methodologies, to teach them widely employed tools and techniques in the context of conservation and planning, and to prepare them to integrate those tools into their professional planning work throughout Malaysia.
Through the talents and experience of nine Malaysian and international instructors, who complemented formal presentations with field exercises and guided discussions, the course emphasized a values-based approach to heritage conservation. It stressed the importance of documentation, defining significance, developing conservation guidelines, and assessing impacts on historic sites. It also addressed the ways in which current Malaysian planning regulations and policies could be employed to manage change in urban contexts more effectively.
The participants are now beginning to use these methods in their normal planning work while being mentored by several of the course's instructors. This mentoring will continue over the next several months, and in January 2013, the GCI and its partners will reconvene the group to determine how best to build upon the course's lessons and its mentoring component so that more significant conservation-related changes can beneficially address Malaysia's ongoing planning challenges.