Malay Architecture as Lingua Franca
Trisakti, Indonesia, 23-24 June 2005
Kaki Lima as Contesting Space between
European and Asian Values
Authors Hideo IZUMIDA, Dr. Eng., Architectural Historian
Address Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering,
Toyohashi University of Technology,
Toyohashi, Aichi, 441-8580, Japan
A Malay term 'Kaki Lima' has various meanings, all of which are closely related to characteristic of
Southeast Asian architecture and urban life. The most interesting meaning in a field of architecture is semi-
open space in front of urban houses. It may be roofed continuous walkway, which looks like European
arcade. The term might be translated into English 'Five Foot Way', and into Southern Chinese dialect
(Hukien) 'Ngo-ka-ki (⬦ᇱ)', when accepted by colonists and immigrants.
However, it seems to have been always a space of struggle between Asian inhabitants and European
colonists. Form of European arcade and Asian Kaki Lima were almost same, but their concept for the space
and usage were not same. This article argues the origin and development of the covered continues walkway
in Southeast Asia referring to contemporary documents including public records, illustrations and
KEY WORDS : Kaki Lima, Five Foot Way, Arcade, Walkway, Urban House, Urban History
When Portuguese traders first arrived in Malay Archipelago to find spices in the early sixteenth century,
they had to master Malay language as it was well established as lingua franca, even among Southern Chinese
and Ryukyu traders. Early settlements were founded by cooperation of locals, immigrants, and traders. Local
inhabitants were aware of what resource there were and in where they were. So, although they were not big
consumer of the resources, they collected and stored resources to sell the commodities to foreigners. They
needed jetty and settlement at proper position, preferably at the mouth of a river, which had to be soon or
later authorized by local authority as port town, such as Malacca, Banten, Pattani, Hoian and so on (Fig.1).
Early European traders looked for Asian products including various spices and visited these port towns.
They described the conditions and reported them to home country. But, the physical image was not clear,
except existence of Gedung, a detached storehouse which was regarded to be the most essential facility for
the town. The European traders found this facility in most of port towns, including Pegu, Malacca and
Banten. A English trader stationed in Banten in the early seventeenth century illustrated very interesting
Fig 1. Image of Foundation of Early Settlements in Malay Archipelago
story how they built Gedung and how Chinese neighbours tried to steal his commodities. As the local
authority forbade foreigners constructing masonry building, they had to build underground storage to protect
valuable commodities from fire and thieves. Communities were led by each Shah Bandar, ethnic leader, and
formed each ethnic quarter as we do until now. There was not so-called town planning, except loose zoning
of ethnic groups (Fig. 2, 3).
After Portuguese defeated local authority in Malacca, they started to construct more substantial buildings,
especially for storage. Then, they got used to call the building Gedung, and English and Dutch introduced
the term into their language as Godown. Checking land allotments in old maps of Malacca, Portuguese
colonial authority seemingly did not provide public walkways along street. But, most of Chinese shop-
houses were constructed along street reserving a space for individual eaves (Fig. 4, 5). The eaves, of course
functions as reception for guests and customers, and as protection of walls from heat and rainfall. Long
eaves is a particular characteristic of architecture of tropical and semitropical monsoon area.
Fig. 2 Port town-like Muntok in the early 19th c Fig. 3Malacca in late 16th c under Portuguese
Fig. 4 Streetscape of Old Quarter, Malacca, 1986 Fig. 5 Streetscape of Old Quarter, Malacca, 1986
PC: Potential Commodity
PT: Port Town
2 BATAVIA AS SHOWCASE OF EUROPEAN TOWN
Portuguese colonial authorities did not have specific idea on town planning, in contrast with Spanish who
implemented extensive colonial urban development in Latin America and the Philippines. Dutch and English
traders reached to this Archipelago in the early seventeenth century. Dutch was eager to establish a
stronghold on the way to Spice Islands, China and Japan.
They chose Jaya Karta (Sunda Kelapa as its port town) in north coast of eastern Java Island, and totally
reconstructed this tiny port town based on their ideal town planning manner, as illustrated by P. Z. Coen, a
Govoner General of VOC (Fig. 6). This new town consisted of VOC area and civic area, road and canel
network, which were protected by moats and walls. Intention of Coen was very clear. He wanted to build a
Dutch colonial town exclusively for Dutch citizens and show the splendours to Asian locals and other
European visitors. Most of town houses were entiled to VOC staffs and citizen.
Therefore, VOC. provided engineers, technicians and artisans for building and maintenance of their
facilities. It was really amazing that Dutch colonial town emerged on Asian land in complete image (Fig. 7).
A row of Dutch town houses formed beautiful streetscape, which were supported by roadside tree and
canals. Main streets were divided carriage way and 'Trottoir', walkway (Fig. 8), and 'Trottoir' on canal side
was furnished with a row of trees. Soon, Batavia came to be called 'Queen City of East India.' However,
VOC had to pay a lot of money for maintenance, and sooner or later relied on Asian inhabitants in term of
finance and labour.
Fig. 6 Planning of Batavia by Coen, 1619 Fig. 7 Map of Batavia, 1688
Fig. 8 Walkway, Carriage way, Tree Row and Canals Fig. 9, Street Scene of Batavia , by J. Rach
3 DISCOVERY OF 'KAKI LIMA'
By the middle of seventeen century, Batavia as a showcase of Dutch colonial town in the East was
completed. As long as VOC had enough financial and human resource, they could maintained the town so in
good condition. At the time, Johan Nieuhof, a Dutch diplomat and traveler stayed for more than 10 years in
Batavia, and published his memories as titled “Voyages and Travels to the East Indie 1653~1670 (1682)”
with a lot of illustrations. This book was so widely read by European that it was translated into English,
French and German together with his earlier publication “An Embassy from the East India Company of the
United Provinces to the Grand Tartar Cham Emperour of China (1669).”
Among buildings and facilities in Batavia, Nieuhof described 'Hall for the Sale of Stuffs and Cloths ready made'
with big surprise as follows,
The whole building is of too, being divided into five walks or galleries, having shops on each side;
and as many doors from without, which are kept open day and night because the shopkeepers don't
put up their commodities till very late at night.
He prepared a drawing to illustrate this facility (Fig. 9). Checking his description and drawing, this market
facility was occupied by Chinese retailers and had a central corridor or gallery between two long shop
buildings. Too buildings was supposedly constructed at interval of certain feet to place central corridor,
which was roofed to protect commodities and customers from sunshine and rain.
More interesting thing is name of the corridor, which was called 'five walks' in local language. At the time
Malay was already common language among local inhabitants including Chinese, Javanese, Bugis and so on.
The Malay name must be 'Kaki Lima,' which did not mean width of space, but just name of a space. In
Malay language, actually it must be 'Lima Kaki', if it means a length. Anyhow, local inhabitants already
understood that 'Kaki Lima' was not width of a space, but certain space
It can be supposed that when retailers build market buildings facing each other, they were used to have a
corridor as wide as five feet, and usually called it just 'Kaki Lima' in Malay lanuage. Same caese are actually
found in old Chinese and Japanese language too. Five feet mean a 'Byobu (painted folding screen)' and
'Madokoro (head part)' of ship. As the most talented carpenters in Batavia were Chinese, 'Kali Lima' is
possibly Chinese origin. They were used translate the term into Malay in reverse order as not 'lima kaki' but
Fig. 10 Ready Made Clothing Market, Batavia by J. Nieuhof
4 'KAKI LIMA' IN ASIAN CONTEXT
VOC colonial authority in Batavia provided 'Trottoir' for pedestrians. It was public sidewalk as wide as
three to four feet, and not roofed. However, as Chinese population increases, they came to utilize and occupy
the sidewalk temporarily or semi-permanently for setting up their stalls or barracks . Successive Governor
Generals of Batavia issued nuisance orders to clear off 'Bovenstoep,' from sidewalk in the early eighteenth
century because it destroyed uniformity and regularity of streetscape. In Europe of Baroque period, streets
were rearranged in grand manner, most popularly by construction of arcade between row of shops and
sidewalk, and obstructive and ugly activities on street was never allowed.
In spite of their continuous efforts, Batavia colonial authority failed to control such illegal activities, and
eventually tension between Dutch and Chinese inhabitans culminated in a event of 1741, knows as Chinese
Massacre. Asian inhabitants in colonial towns, especially Chinese were mostly immigrants of single male,
and needed instant and speedy urban life. numerous stalls provided a variety of services for them. The most
typical one was selling cigarettes, medicines, foods, beverages, miscellaneous goods on sidewalk by carrying
commodities as hawker or setting up tables at busy site for a while.
So, European and Asian values in term of streetscape and urban life differed each other and their values
crashed repeatedly in European colonial towns. European side as colonial authority took measure and
forbide inhabitans from doing so by force of regulations and policeforce.
Fig. 11 Stall under Eaves in Jakarta, 1986 Fig. 12 Stalls on Street in Penang, 1991
Fig. 13 Stalls under Eaves, Hoian, 1993 Fig. 14 Various Stalls along and on Streets, under eaves
5 VERANDAH IN IN SINGAPORE AND HONG KONG
T. F. Raffles, a talented English EIC. officials stationed in Java as governor general during the Napoleonic
Wars. As he had strong intention to establish stronghold for British Asian trade, he learned Dutch experience
how they tried to ruled the island, he considered how English had to do that. As British had to return Java to
Dutch after the war, Raffles established new colonial town in Singapore Island with new idea.
In 1822, Raffles issued town planning regulations, and its significance was to provide regularity and
uniformity for the new town by constructing 'verandah' or 'uniform covered continuous walkaways' along
streets (Fig. 15). He probably considered that a term 'verandah' was more acceptable for Asian inhabitans
rather than arcade. 'Verandah' supported by a row of column gave senses of regularity and uniformity to
passers-by and concealed confused shop fronts and various stalls from eyes of passers-by (Fig. 16).
It was called 'verandah' in official documents, 'Five Foot Way' in local English, 'Kaki Lima' in Malay, and
'Ngo-Ka-Ki' in Fukien dialect. The minimum width was stipulated in land lease document as six feet, and
owners had to reserve six feet wide land along street for the verandah. As Raffles allowed land owners to
build the secound floor above the verandah, streetscape was not so grand nor splendid. Even Singapore's
verandah was constructed on private land, it functioned as public walkway. Land owners and shop owners
hardly understood why they had to give up their right of the space, and it caused a lot of struggles between
colonial authority and owners, as described by Yeoh.
Hong Kong, however, was occupied by British after twenty years the Singapore town planning, and the
town was developed in a different way. Because the colonial government at first issued no comprehensive
town planning regulations, Chinese inhabitants built their houses as they wished. And so, they came to live
Fig. 15 Plan of Singapore, by Lieut. P. Jackson, 1822 Fig. 16 Singapore Strretscape, by J. T. Thomson, 1846
Fig. 17 Verandah in Hong Kong, 1880s Fig. 18 Verandah after 'Verandah Regulations', 1890s
near European inhabitants, who gradually felt threatened by the possibility of fire and diseases cased by
Chinese neighbours. In 1856, the colonial government established the first building regulation, 'An
Ordinance for Buildings and Nuisances,' but Chinese continued to construct verandahs projecting over
In 1878, the colonial government decided to issue a 'Verandah Regulation,' which permitted house and
land owners to construct verandahs over public walkaways, generally two ~ three meters in width, if they
met certain requirements. O. Chadwich, a sanitary engineer commissioned to investigate the sanitary and
housing conditions of Hong Kong, supported the 'Verandah Regulation' because it would have allowed an
increase in living space in the Chinese settlement (Fig. 17, 18). Eventually, through this different process,
the towns cape of Hong Kong came to resemble that of Singapore.
6 HENG-ZAI-JIAO AND YU-JIAO-QI-LOU IN SOUTHERN CHINA
During the same period, roofed walkaway also appeared in Taiwanese towns. In 1881, the Ch'ing
government of China appointed a new governor of Taiwan, who is known to have promoted various
modernization projects. One of them was a town improvement project, which was aimed at modernizing the
towns cape by obliging each land owner to provide a certain depth of Heng-Zai-Jiao ிᏄ⬦along the
streets as a roofed walkaway for pedestrians.
This kind of walkaway have not been common in Taiwan before this project, according to a report on
'Sanitary Condition of Taiwan', published in 1910. These walkaways, however, was often obstructed by shop
owners who put commodities in that space. After the Japanese occupied Taiwan, the government added
regulations in order to make Heng-Zai-Jiao more usable (Fig. 19).
As soon as the Chinese Republic established a new government in Canton in 1912, the Department of
Police and Public Works issued Building Regulations and obligated each house owner to provide Yu-Jiao-
Qi-Lou (᭯⬦㥵ᗧ ), a roofed walkways eight feet wide along the street, and to maintain them without any
nuisance to pedestrians (Fig. 20). During the 1920s, similar town planning regulations were introduced by
the Swatow, Chang Chou and Amoy municipal governments for their own urban modernization.
Individual roofed terrace, called Kaki Lima, Heng Zai Jiao or Yu Jiao Qi Lou is a feature of vernacular
houses in Southeast Asia and South China which protects people and commodities from rain and sunshine.
Fig. 19 Heng Zai Jiao in Taipei, 1988 Fig. 20 Yu Jiao Qi Lou in Quanzhou, 1988
However, in the process of modernization, the space was constructed as public roofed walkway by law to
give regularity and uniformity to towns capes. Such European value was not understood fully by Asian
locals, and cased many struggles between them.
I express my gratitude to Prof. Ezrln Arbi of Universiti Malaya, Prof. Kato Tsuyoshi of Ryukoku
University and Prof. Fukami Sumio of St. Andrew University for their advises and to the Japan Foundation,
the Toyota Foundation and the Housing Research Institute their research grants.
1. Izumida Hideo, Singapore Town Planning and Shophouse, Part 1 A Study on Colonial Cities and Architecture in
Southeast Asia, Transaction of Architectural Institute of Japan, vol. 413, 1990, pp.161-172.
2. ditto., Typology of Roofed Continuous Walkways in Modern Town Planning, Part 2 A Study on Colonial Cities
and Architecture in Southeast Asia, AIJ Transaction, vol. 458, 1994, pp.145-153.
3. ditto., Settlement Improvements in the Former Hong Kong Colony According to Reports by O. Chadwick, Part 3
A Study on Colonial Cities and Architecture in Southeast Asia, AIJ Transaction, vol. 567, 2003, pp.179-184.
4. Archives and Oral History Department of Singapore, Five Foot Way Traders, Singapore, 1985.5
5. Schoch, Lilli N., Kaki Lima and Streethawkers in Indonesia, Jakarta, 1986.
6. Nieuhof, Johan, Travels and Voyages to East Indies, 1987, rp., p.277.
7. Oud Batavia, 1919
8. Johannes Rach En Zijn Werk, 1778, reprented 1928.
9. Greig, Doreen, The Reluctant Colonists, 1987.
10. Hong Kong Colonial Government, Verandah Regulation, British Parliamentary Papers: Hong Kong, 1978.
11. Mr. Chadwick's Report on Sanitary Condition of Hong Kong, British Parliamentary Papers: Hong Kong, 1978.
12. Taiwan Institute of Public Health, Sanitary Condition of Taiwan, 1910.
13. Yoeh, B. S. A., Contesting Space Power Relations and the Urban Built Environment in Colonial Singapore, 1996.