Heritage Building and Facade on The Malioboro Commercial Streetscape in Yogyakarta

AbstractYogyakarta is popular for education and cultural tourism destination. Structures and places of historical significance must have a longer life. However, Yogyakarta Municipality has not enough concern with the heritage building and façade of the Malioboro commercial street the city of Yogyakarta that is important to support education and tourism activities.  A realistic and comprehensive study of the existing built form and physical fabric of the Malioboro commercial street is a significant for developing historical building and façade of the Malioboro central business district. Building and Facade improvements will enhance the streetscape and create a more attractive environment for the visitors and tenants.  The improvement of building facades is also able to stimulate investment, enhance and conserve historic resources. Based on the Malioboro commercial street, this research will analyze some crucial building and façade alignments of roof line, façade ornament, window’s pattern, sign-band, storefront, and bulkhead panels. Based on the existing data, the current development of the building mass and façade on the Malioboro commercial street has not enough attention with the original style of the Malioboro building façade.  Therefore, the research suggest that to establish a contextual framework, new physical form can be generated in harmony within existing form, particularly the existing pattern of the building mass and façade.


Keywords : heritage building, façade, commercial streetscape


Yogyakarta municipality is already well known as a city rich of cultural customs and buildings. Those taglines become media promotion for Yogyakarta tourism as education and cultural city. Based on this character, heritage buildings in Yogyakarta should be preserved and protected respectively. In fact, some heritage buildings in Yogyakarta were slowly changed into “contemporary” eclectic buildings and loosing its original architectural uniqueness. An easy and uncontrolled in changing land and building ownership were suspected to be former factor for this condition (Jawa Pos, 2006). Economic factors then become a major issue concerning on urban characters and changes, particularly on the aspect of urban streetscape. Those changing in building function and building ownership have a great effect on changing building façades. However, local government doesn’t have a specific and complete list of heritage buildings that should be preserved except for famous and tourism-scale heritage building such as Sultan’s Palace (Kraton), Gedung Agung, museums, and the other well known tourism attractions (Kompas Newspaper, February 6, 2009).

Malioboro, a single fragment street connecting Sultan’s palace (Kraton) and Tugu train station, popular as a destination for shopping tourism. Along Malioboro street is fully occupied by commercial function with store and retail buildings. In front of “formal” store, street hawkers offer unique handicraft and accessories. As economic development grows, more commercial building on Maliobore street were built with various changing building façades. More street hawkers, more competition started by Mal Malioboro that built in 1998 with modern façade. For local stores, to compete with Mal Malioboro, a huge signage were placed in storefronts, replacing old signage ones. Those create disharmony with heritage streetscape on the Malioboro streetscape that play as a Chinatown in 18th and 19th century in old Yogyakarta.

The changing of heritage building façade with commercial streetscape is something that is less recognized by tourist and local owners of the Malioboro community. Though a proper preserving of heritage building façade will enhance the streetscape and create a more attractive environment for the visitors and tenants. Based on this issue, this paper is to identify and analyze the Chinatown heritage building and façade of the existing commercial buildings on the Malioboro street focusing on how far it has been changed from its original heritage building and façade.

The methods used in analyzing change on original heritage façade were derived from 6 variables : roof line, façade ornament, window’s pattern, sign-band, storefront, and bulkhead panels. There are 5 scales according to each variable, values ranging from 1 to 5, with increasing value of originated heritage building. Having 5 as value means that those building is still highly retain its original heritage building. The existing building used as sample for this study was conducted with random sampling and consisting of 50 buildings.


II. Heritage Building

Urban design is defined as human responses to physical aspects of urban environment through visual, aesthetical view, and spatial character. Urban design as one form of urban planning implementation in mezzo scale, included preserving heritage sites and buildings, down town revitalization, or developing new town. Heritage sites and buildings form as important part of cities culture. It describes what kind of city we are living in by its historical journey. Investing in our heritage by preserving them will give benefit to the city itself, through strengthen social capital of its communities, economic benefit through heritage tourism, and also as inheritance gift that can be enjoyed by future generations. (Dowel, 1988). Therefore, this paper concerns on the physical aspect of urban environment through visual character as part of urban design process and management.

There are some minimum standards on doing preservation programs. It is identified by Djunaedi (2000)  as follows: (1) Establish standard to determine the object of preservation activity, (2)  Analyzing either the object are define as preserved or nor by preservation committee/team, (3) Method and tools for preservation activity, include demolition or alteration of some building that doesn’t meet preservation requirement standards, and (4) Landmark preservation

In Indonesia, preservation program was based on Preservation and Conservation Act 5/1992 announced by the Government of Indonesia. In this act, the heritage building is defined as a man made artifact with minimal lifetime about 50 years ago or represent architectural trend from minimal 50 years ago. Those heritage buildings should have important value from historical, education, or cultural aspects (UU No. 5, 1992). In the scope of the Yogyakarta Province, the Preservation and Conservation act 5/1992 was translated into local act 11/2005 on management of preserving sites and buildings. According to the Act, the heritage building can be owned by individuals and can be use for some purpose, including for commercial purpose, as long as the new activity doesn’t have any changing affecting to the heritage value of those buildings. Changing ownerships of heritage buildings are permitted, but it has to be acknowledged by the government (Pemerintah Provinsi D.I.Yogyakarta, 2005).

In fact, the implementation of Preservation and conservation act in Indonesia is still not adequate. Government doesn’t have enough financial support to maintain those heritage buildings or even to give incentives (e.g. lower tax building) to building owner who retain the heritage value of his building. As the result, old building contains heritage value in almost all country in Indonesia is not well-maintained, often left vacant, and consist of crumbly structure that seems to be ruin sometime, endanger people who have an activity in those site. It was proofed that if heritage buildings are well-maintained, it could be an investment to promote local economic growth via tourism sector. According to the “Spargo Report 2007,” a significant portion of visitors note heritage buildings as a feature of their visitor experience. This stood at 61% for International & 22% for domestic visitors (Dowel, 1988). It is crucial to maintain urban heritage building, such as the Chinatown Malioboro,  concerning on investment, education and tourism industry in Yogyakarta municipality.

Base on that evidence, some countries begin to preserve their heritage building within appropriate manners. Nanaimo City, provide residential conversion tax exemptions for well-maintained heritage building used as residential, Development Cost Charges exemptions, reduced or no on-site parking requirements, and façade improvement grants (Downtown Nanaimo Partnership, 2004). In Vancouver there is Heritage Façade Rehabilitation Program Policies and Procedures. The program consists of rehabilitate the main façade of the building, to clean and preserve masonry, to clean, repair and repaint window frames and sashes, and to clean and repair the building cornices (City of Vancouver, 2008). In Sidney, each property within the Conservation Area has been assessed for its contribution to the area. The contribution of each property as either contributory, neutral or detracting has been mapped in a database form and as a GIS color map (City of Sydney, 2008). In Cobourg  (Town of Cobourg Heritage Conservation District, 2002) and St.John’s Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (2009), there are heritage guidelines for conservation, consisting of what should be done or not on maintaining heritage building. Therefore, this paper is crucial to identify the heritage Chinatown Malioboro that will be recommended to develop some actions on the Heritage Façade Rehabilitation Program Policies of the Malioboro streetscape in the near future.


III. Commercial Streetscape

Commercial streetscape is often marked by its building façade and signage. In Indonesia, it usually has a massive signage to advertise and play as merchandising strategy to draws customers. The earliest commercial signs included symbols of the merchant’s goods or craft. Emblems were mounted on poles, hung from building, or painted on hanging wooded boards. Such symbolic signs were often important in a society where not all could read     Markham District (2007).Trends in modern signage tends to be bigger, brighter, and more attractive to get attention for people. For commercial building within heritage area, a massive signage leads to the disappearing of heritage atmosphere (Yip, 1995). As equally important as signage is the storefront facade. It plays as a crucial visual element that builds commercial streetscape. By crossing the street, the storefront façade describe the evolution and historical journey of those streets.

As equally important as signage is the storefront facade. It plays as an important visual elements that build commercial streetscape. By crossing the street, the storefront façade describe the evolution and historical journey of those street. Facades also experience significant change during a building’s life and hold the most potential for alterations affecting both the building and the streetscaper St.John’s Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (2009).


IV. Heritage building and façade of the commercial street in Malioboro Yogyakarta

From the town planning views, the urban design of Yogyakarta city have a unique meaning. It is belief that Yogyakarta city were built based on cosmological thinking represent in straight line from southern sea and northern mountain, with Sultan’s palace (Kraton) in the center. The straight line describes human’s journey as a single line, from his birth, his earthly possession, to his consciousness of God. Malioboro, located near Sultan’s palace (Kraton) also represent as center o human’s earthly possession. In facts, the Malioboro Street was planned as economic activity center. The economic activity in the Malioboro Street began to raise as the Chinatown and began to develop in those area. The growth of Chinatown in Malioboro Street began when the first Sultan Hamengkubuwono appointed Tan Jin Sing (China captain) in 1755. Given Javanese name as Setjodiningrat, he lived near the Malioboro Street and since then Chinatown were growth and develop economic activities  (Usman, 2006).

When Beringharjo Market was built then, the economic activities on the Malioboro street tends to growth higher than other streets. The Malioboro Chinatown was extended to the north and it become an ordinary view of this street. In early 1900, influence of colonial style building was represented in Grand Hotel de Yogya (now Hotel Garuda). In 1948, the Malioboro Street plays its historical functions on Netherland’s military aggression. In 1970’s, Malioboro street also play as a center for cultural activity as a stage for amateurs artist (Usman, 2006).

From its development, Malioboro street have a significant historical value to be treat as heritage area and those all building along its side were defined as heritage building. The original façade of Malioboro street is a commercial functions with architectural building style adapted from colonial, Chinese, and Javanese style. Economic activity that still play a significant role created typical building in Malioboro street with mainly multiple storied commercial buildings containing residential hotels. In this Chinatown architectural style, shops would occupy the ground floors  while the upper floor contains space for residential usages (Usman, 2006).

In general, the original heritage façade on the Malioboro Street can be viewed as having a number of important key elements based on  Bell’s (1988) recommendation:

  1. 1.       Roof line,

There is an established pattern of roofline on the Malioboro Street. Consist of “ruko” (rumah toko or a House and Shop) buildings with 2-3 storey-building are the major façade components. Most of them have a simple Chinese roof style and for some buildings were built with colonial roof style, created a rhythm of roof line, and an-almost continuous cornice line.

  1. 2.       Façade ornament,

Façade ornament on the Malioboro commercial streetscapeincluding colors (originated color of the Malioboro streetscape is nearly up to terracotta), transoms, lettering signage (old fonts style and size, old spelling), and originated ornaments such as Javanese ornament on the hanging signage.

  1. 3.       Window’s pattern,

Originated windows pattern were adopted from Chinese and colonial style. Usually made of timberwith two flanked windows, open forward by its right side and left side. Behind those flanks, there is a railing with simple pattern usually made of steel.

  1. 4.       Sign-band,

The originated sign-band on the Malioboro street was formed as painted letters on the display windows or placed above the storefront. Overhanging signage could be found in store front veranda.

  1. 5.       Storefront,

A typical 19th century storefront in the Malioboro street consisted of sliding door made of timber or metal material to prevent those store from thieves. This provides a direct entry access to store and seller.



Rapid economic growth has changing commercial streetscape on the Malioboro Street. From an ancient and full of heritage value represent combined architectural style of colonial, Chinese and Javanese style to modern architecture style. Triggered by the Malioboro Mall and a high market competition, some of heritage-style store change its landscape into modern ones in the way to get more visitors and buyers. The most visible changing is a massive signage that often irritating visual view of the Malioboro street. There is no punishment or fine policy by the government in the case of unmanaged signage and visual pollution. Changing on commercial streetscape of the Malioboro Street include changing on the storefront. Timber sliding door and windows were changed into metal steel material. Street hawkers occupying store’s verandah also play a significant role on changing the heritage façade of the Malioboro streetscape. Although the Malioboro Street is well known by the existence of street vendors as a unique value on shopping tourism attraction, basically those street hawkers are not well managed. They placed their merchandise by hanging them on the storefront of the heritage building behind street hawkers, irritating visual view by covering heritage façade ornament and seems that they don not have any attention on preserving those heritage buildings and facades .

However, though the economic effect already change some of old buildings, some of them still retain and preserving its heritage values. From those building, some of them are still used with the same or even a different function as it was used before and some of them are vacant. The preserving old buildings comes in several ways, like renovating or rehabilitating the old building ones but still keep the heritage style, especially on its exterior and storefront. Garuda Hotel, Beringharjo Market, and library center are some of buildings with heritage style. Those buildings still used with the same function as it was used before.

The analysis of this study focuses on how far the change of present condition of Malioboro streetscape from its original heritage style. It is noted that the focus of the study is merely on the building façade or building envelope, it does not include the interior of the building. Data needed for this study were conducted from direct observation on the Malioboro Street with random sampling consisting of 36 buildings, in which 75% were commercial buildings on west side and the rest 25% were commercial buildings on east side of the Malioboro Street (see Appendix 1 Figure 1).

The analysis method is to quantifying 5 streetscape aspects onto given value range from 1 to 5. Standard and means of those given value were defined as follows:

1 = totally changes, nothing left

2 = too much changes

3 = renovation with some original ornaments missing

4 = renovation with retaining its original facade

5 = same as original building and facade

From the scoring methods (see Appendix 2: Table 1), 50 buildings are having score within the range 5 – 25. It can be divided into three groups:

  • Retains heritage building: having score within range 20-25
  • Changes but still can be retained: having score within range 10-20
  • Major changes: having score within range 5-10

Based on the classifications, 62% of 50 buildings (31 buildings) are classified as having major changes, including its overall façade, storefront, and signage. While 26% (13 buildings) are in the “middle class” by having some changes but still retaining some heritage aspects. The rest of 12% (6 buildings) are classified as retaining heritage building. The change condition is on almost upper building façades (including roofline, window ornament, upper-façade ornaments) of the Malioboro commercial street still retaining its (Chinatown) old style. Those conditions have a relationship with the main functions of its buildings. Having mixed function with multiple-storey building, the ground floor of the Malioboro commercial street buildings is used as a shop and storage, while the upper floor of those buildings is used as residence. Any changes made on the ground floor are to attract people to come, take a look, and buy. However, the upper floor is not frequently used as much as the ground floor and it is often left vacant and retained automatically.

Variety of commodity sale in each store also has an influence in the maintaining of building and Malioboro streetscape. Store that sells souvenirs and antique are tend to retain its old building style because it support in selling their commodities. Retained hertitage building also found in the building who still owned by the same family as the old ones (usually find as traditional drug store, restaurant, or bakery shop). While in building that have major change, it is founded in building that sell modern lifestyle, such as distro, mal, or mobile-phone. That because they don’t need “heritage atmosphere” to support their sales activity.


  1. 1.       Roof Line

Based from the observation, roof line is a key factor that often found retained, with little change by renovation or they are still the same to the old one.  Because the upper floor is not used as much as the ground floor, so it often left with no maintenance.


A well-retained roof style, same as original while the right building have a totally changed roof style

The Chinese roof style has been renovated and changed from its original color

  1. 2.       Façade Ornament

The upper façade is often retained. A massive change in façade ornament usually found on any “big stores,” that are using the upper floor as much as the ground floor.

Massive change on façade ornament found in “big store” with 4 storey-building


Original façade ornament


  1. Window’s Pattern

Upper windows generally shall be of ‘punched’ design and vertically proportioned. Horizontal strip windows are not in keeping with traditionaloriginal patterns of design and are to be avoided. However, some of original pattern of windows pattern are still  found on some original building style and façade in the  Malioboro  Chinatown


Originalwindows pattern as found in Restoran Cirebon

  1. Sign-band

Most of heritage buildings on the Malioboro commercial street are using massive sign band to attract people or public. Those massive sign-bands are mostly covering the upper windows and  façade of buildings that still have its original style of Chinatown building in Yogyakarta.


Massive sign-band that cover up facade building behind them


  1. Storefront

Most of buildings in Malioboro street have changed its storefront become modern style. Some that still retain its storefront were the old store or still owned by the same family as previous usage.


Old façade and modern storefront

Storefront that retained its old style, even its old interior style



This research suggests that commercial function and economic competition among commercial buildings on the Malioboro Street have altered its heritage value by changing its original façade to modern ones. Any massive sign-bands cover many original building façades due to promotion board and this action creates a visual pollution on the Malioboro urban streetscape. If this trend still happens, by the next few years, it is possible that the Malioboro Street is full by commercial sign-bands, and there will be nothing heritage atmosphere left. To prevent this situation, the heritage guideline for commercial buildings on the Malioboro Street is crucially needed. The research recommends that the propose heritage guideline will cover guidelines for sign-band, façade ornament, storefront, windows pattern, and roofline. The next step on implementing the heritage guideline, continuous support from local residence and government is very crucial. The implementation of the heritage guideline should be done in line with law enforcement to guarantee the objective of the conservation on historical building in Yogyakarta Municipality.



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