The architecture of Penang reflects the 171 years of British presence on the island, coalescing with local, Chinese, Indian, Islamic and other elements to create a unique and distinctive brand of architecture. Along with Malacca, Penang is an architectural gem of Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Unlike Singapore, also a Straits Settlement, where many heritage buildings had to make way for modern skyscrapers and high-rise apartments due to rapid development and acute land scarcity, Penang's architectural heritage has enjoyed a better fate. Penang has one of the largest collections of pre-war buildings in Southeast Asia. This is for the most part due to the Rent Control Act which froze house rental prices for decades, making redevelopment unprofitable. With the repeal of this act in 2000 however, property prices skyrocketed and development has begun to encroach upon these buildings, many of which are in a regrettable state of disrepair. The government in recent years has allocated more funding to finance the restoration of a number of derelict heritage buildings, most notably Suffolk House, City Hall and historic buildings in the old commercial district.
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“No architecture is so haughty as that which is simple.”
—John Ruskin (18191900)