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Backlane: Church Street - Penang Street

Penang, Malaysia

The backlane revitalization project is initiated by Penang Island City Council (MBPP) to bring life to under-used backlanes in George Town. 


The Chuch Street-Penang Street backlane is located at George Town World Heritage site, connecting Church Street (Lebuh Gereja) and Penang Street (Lebuh Penang). The existing backlane and open space is under-utilize due to hardly noticeable from the main road, perception of lack of safety, and lack of basic facilities.


Backlanes are always thought of as service lanes for utility providers. With beautification and upgrades, it will give city-goers and tourists a different view of the heritage zone. The main objective of the project is to enhance back lane behind George Town’s heritage shop-houses, to create landscaped pedestrian walkways that complete with trees for shade, lights and street furniture.


Mei Ee Architect  take part in this project through corporate social responsibility (CSR) in planning and designing good local community space.  

Every backlane have their ‘place identity’, which made up of the feeling held about the site and how the site impact upon identity, providing meaning and purpose to life.  Throughout the design process, we have taken care to maintain the cultural and communal identity found in the backlane, and find ways to contribute to its identity instead of take away from it. The design process needs to go through every detailed consideration, so the potential and intention of the design can be achieve.


The design is sensitive and minimise adverse impact on the privacy of dwelling unit and open space. The park is designed as ‘Quiet Park’ without any extreme activities facilities to ensure the residential area is not disturbed silence of by the noise generated by human sounds activities. Besides that, the benches are designed in mind to void existence and visibility of ‘unwanted people and activities’ and to keep the community safer. Urban furniture as a tool to control public space and shall be used as its intended purpose. The barrier slates are installed between each seat of the benches, which enables sitting but not lying. The design drives homeless people or drunker away.

Backlane like all spaces, often evolve in time and unintentionally express the culture values and needs of the surroundings. The obsession with frontage and facade is evident where Main Streets are vibrant with culture references and community identity, but backlane are left dark and unlively. The existing backlane and open space is under-utilize due to hardly ‘noticeable’ from the main road.


Our design strategy is to use design elements to lead people to the ‘hidden pocket park’. The pathway heading to the hidden pocket park is designed in ‘arrow’ stripes floor patterns, it’s give a very strong welcoming direction sign and people will eventually take the path to satisfy their curiosity and discover the ‘secrete pocket park’. Besides that, signage and arrow patterned sculpture that located at the entrances and along the path also give some ‘hints’ to the visitor and lead them to the ‘secret spot’. This simplicitic idea of arrow pattern influence way finding and navigational behaviour in used in ways which are much more than for just signage and yet which can greatly influence our directional mobility. The design gives opportunity to further communicate between place and user, also further improve the user experience.


A quiet pocket park completed with benches and nice landscape is created as small green surprises found in unexpected corners in George Town World Heritage Site. Benches and landscapes are arranged in diagonal axis and blend nicely with the paving pattern. Trees, shrubs, and community planter box are introduced in this project to provide cooling effect by shading and most important contributes to the overall success of a place.


Backlane is an important landscape in urban life; hopefully this project raises awareness to everyone to rethinking our backlane.

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