WOU shows support for restoration of historical pillboxes

The winning entries in the poster competition on the adaptive reuse of the historical military pillboxes at Teluk Kumbar offered designs that highlight the historical significance of the structures, promote tourism, and benefit the local community.

The competition was organised by WOU and the George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) to generate creative ideas for viable new uses of the newly renovated World War II pillboxes, while preserving their historical value. The competition opened for submissions for two months until July 15th.

The two winners were a lecturer from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang, and a freelance architectural designer from Kuala Lumpur.

Ts Farhana poses with her winning poster. At left is Dr Nurul ‘Ulyani.

Ts Farhana Mohd Razif, attached to USM’s School of Housing, Building and Planning has a master’s degree in architecture. Her proposal to transform the pillboxes into “glamping” sites aims to attract holidaymakers and tourists, boosting the local economy and enriching the community. Embracing the pillbox’s stunning sea view, she skillfully designed three rooms that could accommodate up to six people, complete with a barbeque pit for gatherings and interactions with the local community.

Meanwhile Tan Chee Sing’s proposal, “Remembering our collective past through theatrical events”, recommended a “bunker theatre” for the pillboxes. He indicated that the theatre could showcase World War II history through documentaries, movies and plays, as well as host sepak takraw games, weddings, open houses and talks.

Tan happily explains his design.

Both winners received RM2,000 cash prize and a certificate from Penang State Executive Councillor for Tourism and Creative Economy, YB Wong Hon Wai, during a simple ceremony at Komtar on 26 September 2023.

Among those present at the event were Board of Governors member Janice Yeap, School of Technology and Engineering Science (STE) senior lecturer Dr Teoh Ping Chow, STE lecturer Dr Nurul ‘Ulyani Mohd Najib, and Centre for Research and Innovation (CeRI) chairman Assoc Prof Dr Chew Cheng Meng from WOU, and GTWHI general manager Dr Ang Ming Chee.

YB Wong (centre) presents prizes to the winners.

In October 2020, four World War II pillboxes were discovered in Teluk Kumbar during upgrading works, and three of them have already been restored.

Pillboxes, also known as bunkers, are concrete dug-in guard posts used in wartime, often camouflaged. These miniature fortresses were built by the British and are historical legacies that must be preserved for future generations.

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