For the second instalment of ‘Building Culture’—our ongoing photo series documenting the relationship between architecture, culture and place—photographer Sarah Pannell takes us to George Town, Malaysia’s second largest city located on the island of Penang. A UNESCO World Heritage Zone, George Town combines old-world Asian charm with British colonial influences making for an eclectic, sun-bleached mix of urban architecture.
Established as a trading post of the British East India Company in 1786, George Town was among the first British settlements in Southeast Asia. It was occupied by Japan in the second world war and reclaimed by Britain in 1957 to become modern Malaysia’s first official city. Containing the largest collection of pre-war buildings in Southeast Asia, this colourful city is made for wanderers.
Now home to a highly diverse population, the city blends British Raj era architecture, Chinese temples, Middle Eastern tiles and gothic gargoyles—mellowing beneath Western-style high-rises and towering carparks. With a jumbled maze leading to fragrant Indian spice shops and traditional Chinese “wet markets”, George Town’s grunge architecture lends itself to a growing food and art scene. The watermarked buildings serve as a reminder of the city’s tropical location, where a mountainous jungle lies just beyond the city.
This photo essay is part of Lindsay’s ongoing ‘Building Culture’ series, documenting the relationship between architecture, place and culture in different parts of the world.
In Issue No. 1 we meet Australian fashion icon Jenny Kee, translator from Italian Ann Goldstein and French-Cuban music duo Ibeyi. We learn about Ramadan, the Aboriginal ball game Marngrook, the Kiribati dance, the art of pickling, and the importance of home. And we see what it’s like to dress up in Myanmar, live in Cuernavaca, make ceramics from different soil, and walk the streets of Florence.
In Issue No. 2 we meet Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson, and Croatian painter Stipe Nobilo. We discover how the French protect their language, why nostalgia blurs our memory, and the way women around the world have used textiles as their political voice. We learn the steps to prepare a boisterous Korean barbecue, dress up for Feria de Jerez and eat our way around Hong Kong.
In Issue No. 3 we meet Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki, Berlin-based musician Nils Frahm, and Moroccan-British artist Hassan Hajjaj. We descend to the ocean’s floor with Japan’s Ama divers, muse over the Bengali renaissance and applaud the detailing of India’s uniforms. And we try our hand at some treasured Italian recipes, visit one of Hong Kong’s homes up high, master the etiquette of the Japanese onsen and learn about the architecture of Iraq’s mudhifs.
In Issue No. 4 we meet Nigerian-born artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, Indigenous Australian Elders Uncle Bob Smith and Aunty Caroline Bradshaw, and Palestinian-American chef and artist Amanny Ahmad. We peer inside the Parisian ateliers Lesage and Lemarié, muse over the iconic lines of European chair design and celebrate the colourful woodblock prints of Japanese artist Awazu Kiyoshi. And we venture along Morocco’s Honey Highway, get lost in the markets of Oaxaca and discover the favours of Ghana.