The redeveloped Melaka River is set to become a major tourist attraction in the historical city
The Melaka River, the oldest river settlement since half a millennium ago, practically had no reserve along the banks. Indiscriminate and ad-hoc development of houses and shops along the river over the centuries had resulted in haphazard encroachment into the river. The masterplan of the project provides for the right-of-way behind these illegal extensions, allowing for the rehabilitation of the river banks once again.
The Melaka River, which runs through the UNESCO World Heritage City, became once again the main lifeline for the city, as more and more activities are generated and the original buildings co-exist on the new river promenade. The constraints included legislations, demolition of existing structures, construction space and sensitivity to the well-being of existing buildings which were built almost 100 years ago.
The project was conceived with the primary objective to retain the architectural building fabric along the river, as much as possible. Although some had been demolished due to severe dereliction over the decades, some of the units were re-constructed to faithfully resemble the previous buildings. Wherever possible, the architectural fabric whether they are shops or godowns, were not touched and any enhancement were done by the owners themselves.
One of the most significant exercises was to re-cycle the original laterite stones from the Dutch era (possibly even Portuguese) that had fallen into the river over the centuries. The stones impressively stand along the Jalan Laksamana embankment up to the Stadthuys square. This is to retain the historical character of the context, so that a part of history is embedded in the rehabilitation of the river. It is important to note that no new component was added to the project for purely commercial reasons. This project is conceived as an obligation to the city of Melaka, a form of ‘public architecture' that belongs to the people for them to enjoy. As such, care is taken not only to contain the existing values but to promote and enhance them altogether.
The preservation of the riverscape and existing character are foremost in everyone's mind and that had been achieved. If traders of the 17th and 18th century were alive today, they would not have seen the difference in the Melaka River now. Unlike San Antonio (Texas) or Madinat Jumeirah (Dubai), the Melaka River is naturally-formed, organic and several centuries older. This is what makes this project special.