Terrace Houses

Terrace Houses Review

A shophouse is a popular form of vernacular architectural structure in metropolitan Southeast Asian settings. For commercial activities, there is a store on the ground level and an apartment on the second or third storey. This kind of mixed-use structure is found in the historic centres of most Southeast Asian cities.

Features and specifications of the product


Shops on the bottom level open to a public arcade or “five-foot way,” while apartments on the upper floors make up a typical shophouse. There are rows of shophouses, similar to terraced houses in England and townhouses in the United States, with regular facades and fire barriers between them.

A shophouse, as the name implies, is a building that includes both a retail establishment and a residence. Semi-public functions are found in the area inhabited by the former. Many of these establishments are, and have been for the majority of time, shops, but they may also be restaurants, bars, service providers, factories, or community spaces. This is why it’s important to know what you’re looking at when you’re looking for a location for your business (e.g. a school or clan association). One or more families might live in a residential area, or it can function as a hostel for single employees. According to popular belief, shophouses were once inhabited by single families who used one room for their private living quarters and another for their more prominent family business. There is a possibility, however, that the two areas were always utilised by unconnected individuals or organisations, whether they were renters or residents of the property. If the shophouse has many storeys, the shop and residential space are arranged in relation to one other: A single-story shophouse is more likely to have residential space behind the shop, but two-story shophouses are more likely to have residential space on the upper floors.


Early shophouses in the 19th and early 20th centuries were typically low-rise structures with a number of levels ranging from one to three, with two-storey versions being the most common. As reinforced concrete became more widely available in the early 20th century, shophouses of up to four stories became more popular in the city centres of towns and cities with increasing levels of affluence and population density.

Fronts that are narrow and backs that are deep

It is possible for a shophouse to stretch all the way to the back street, despite having a tiny street frontage. The narrowness of these structures has been attributed to a variety of factors. The concept that buildings were traditionally charged according to street frontage rather than overall area, generating an economic incentive to construct narrow and deep, is one rationale. Additionally, these constructions were built with brick party walls to support the wood beams that supported the roof and floor loads. It was consequently determined by the length of the lumber that was utilised in its construction. Even though shophouses seem to have comparable widths, they are not uniform and modest differences are the norm, particularly when comparing structures erected at various eras, by different owners, and with different materials or technology. Because most Chinese immigrants in Singapore were from the southern coastline regions of China, the architecture of early Niucheshui shophouses was heavily inspired by the southern style of the country’s southern coastal provinces.

Building with a terrace

When two or more buildings stand next to one other along a street, they are known as “shophouses” (in similar vein as a terraced house). The shophouses on each side of it are often separated by a single wall.

Ways” that are “five-foot wide”

However, it is open to the public and shields walkers from the heat and rain even though it is located inside the shophouse’s boundaries. The Royal Ordinances of Philip II of Spain in 1573 may be traced back to this practice’s roots in South China. Rows of two-story buildings with arcades on the bottom level were common in early Manila. “All homes made of brick or tiles have a similar form of front, each having an arcade of a specified depth, exposed to all sides as a continuous and open corridor on both sides of the street,” according to the Raffles Ordinances (1822) for Singapore. British Malayan legislation stipulated that verandahs must extend seven feet out from the road’s edge and have at least five feet of open space on each side. This practise expanded to neighbouring states and local bylaws.

A key factor in the development of the shophouse was its by-laws. Their implementation was difficult since builders naturally desired to maximise the amount of space they could utilise for construction. Shopkeepers still obstruct the arcades with their merchandise, even if municipal officials are required to do so on occasion.

Southeast Asian shophouses do not have this distinction, but if an area’s by-laws are maintained, they may be a valuable feature that shields pedestrians from the sun and rain. Bangkok shophouses, for example, may have a basic ledge without gutters protruding over the pavement, while newer ones may not have this feature at all.

Courtyards inside the building

The shophouse incorporates a number of open-to-the-sky areas that allow for the entry of fresh air and sunshine. Open-air areas, such as back yards, modest airwells and most typically, interior courtyards, are all examples of these spaces. Depending on their size, these courtyards may be used for a variety of purposes around the home, from calm meditation to drying clothes to venting kitchen fumes or toilet odours.

Walls of celebration

Masonry (typically locally built baked clay bricks) is used to build the party walls that divide most shophouses from their neighbours, and they are structural, load-bearing walls, meaning that they distribute the weight of a building’s roof and upper levels to the ground. Pre-colonial Southeast Asia’s wood post-and-beam frame architecture was replaced with party walls, a huge alteration. Masonry was employed to support high weights, give seclusion and security, and, most significantly, act as a fire barrier in densely populated metropolitan areas. Reinforced concrete beams are also used in modern shophouses, however the materials are different.


The roofs of most shophouses are sloped and covered with orange clay tiles. Attap, a kind of coconut frond thatch formerly used in traditional building, has been replaced with synthetic materials. Clay tiles were more expensive since they were more durable and resistant to fire.

Joists and joist spacing

Traditionally, the roof and flooring of shophouses were supported by structural (i.e. load-bearing) wood beams. Wooden planks were also used to make the floor, which had small holes between them to enable air to pass through and enabling the structure to “breathe” properly. Building customs in the area dictated the use of wood for structural elements like rafters and floor joists. In contrast, modern shophouses are constructed with reinforced concrete beams and slabs rather than wood studs and beams.

Colors used on the outside of a building

Colorful facades of shophouses are a big draw for tourists, who love strolling around the areas. Off-white was the traditional colour for the plaster on many shophouses. Indigo and ochre were very popular early colours because of the wide variety of pigments available. Pastels like rose pink, baby blue and light yellow were fashionable in the mid-20th century; they remain the colours that most people connect with these structures. A wide range of vibrant colours, such as deep red, black, silver, gold, and even purple, are currently being used in many newly constructed or refurbished shophouses.

Decorative elements on the outside of the building

The façade decorating of traditional shophouses is influenced by Malay, Chinese, and European cultures. Egg-and-dart mouldings and ionic or Corinthian capitals on ornamental pillasters are examples of European neoclassical design. Woodwork in the shape of carved panels has been adopted from the Malay architecture heritage. There are louvres, screens and fretwork on the fascia boards. These legendary creatures and butterfly-shaped windows stem from the Chinese heritage of Sino-Portuguese influences and Sino-Chinese mythology. Peranakan pastel coloured glazed tiles with floral or geometric themes are another tradition. A shophouse’s level of embellishment was largely determined by the wealth of the owner and the location in which it was located. Shophouse facades in urban areas and (former) boomtowns tend to be more ornate than those in the countryside.

Masonry-heavy Art Deco and Streamline Modernism. Between the 1930s and the 1950s, modern fashions would take hold. In modern variants from the 1950s through the 1980s, ornate ornamentation were absent, and instead geometric and utilitarian shapes were used in place of them. Buildings started to take on postmodern and revivalist styles in the 1990s.

Modern architecture

Reinforced concrete is used in modern shophouse construction. Beams and piers, constructed on a grid, support the weight of cargo. In order to save money, the pier spacing is decided by the quantity of steel required to support the broader beams. As an example, if a parcel of land is 40 metres wide and 12 metres deep, it might be utilised to build 10 shophouses each measuring 4 metres wide and 12 metres deep, or 8 shophouses each measuring 5 metres wide and 12 metres deep.

Reconfiguration of shophouses may be accomplished by simply demolishing the partition walls, which makes it possible to have many businesses in the same row of shops.

It’s possible to build a row of shophouses by exposing roughly 50-60cm of rebar at the ends of each row. New rebar is used to connect to the old rebar and continue the beam’s construction, eliminating the need for additional structural piers.

A brief history of the term and its current use

During colonial times, the shophouse began to take shape in the late 18th century. After the colonial period, shophouses deteriorated and were eventually abandoned or demolished (by demolition work or, on occasions, fire).

Since the early 1960s in Singapore, a Land Acquisition Act (Act) for urban development impacted many shophouse owners and wrought severe compensating injustice on them when their shophouses were taken in order to meet redevelopment efforts. Blocks of ancient shophouses have been bulldozed throughout the years for high-density constructions or government facilities.

Between 1956 and 1966, Malaysia implemented a series of rent control laws that affected the owners and inhabitants of colonial shophouses. The most recent Control of Rent Act of 1966 subjected privately held structures built before 1948, including a large number of shophouses, to rent price limits in an effort to ease housing shortages and provide enough affordable accommodation for the growing urban population. A lack of rental income on the sites where shophouses are built led to a stagnant urban district, but the shophouses themselves were effectively preserved, despite the fact that whole blocks of shophouses were demolished during the economic upswing in the 1970’s (from government acquisitions to destruction from fires). Many pre-1948 shophouses were redeveloped or destroyed for redevelopment when the act was repealed in 1997; as a consequence, many poorer tenants were priced out and many of the structures were drastically changed or demolished for redevelopment. Illegal sealing of shophouses for the cultivation and harvesting of edible bird’s nests has also been observed, resulting in long-term harm to the structures’ interiors.

As a result of the Land Acquisition Act, several shophouses in Singapore have enjoyed a rebirth of sorts, with some restored and rebuilt to house theatres, cheap hotels, and teahouses. ‘ The value of some shophouses has increased significantly, for example in Singapore, two out of every three shophouse units sold for between S$1.7-$5.5 million (US $1.1-4.4), while larger units sold for between S$10-$12.5 million (US $8-$10 million), a sharp increase from 2010, while average per-square-foot prices increased 21 percent from 2010. It was 74 percent more expensive to live in Singapore in 2011 than it was in 2007.

Even though historic shophouses in heavily developed states such as Kuala Lumpur and Johor have suffered greatly due to lack of preservation efforts, the preservation of historic shophouses in Penang and Malacca (which state capitals, George Town and Malacca Town, have been gazetted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008) received more attention due to emerging historical preservation movements in both states, experiencing similar levels of rejuvenations as Singapore. Older shophouse tenants in both cities have been forced out by increasing rental and purchase prices in historic neighbourhoods as a result of gentrification. At RM2,000 per square foot (US$660) in 2012, the price of a pre-World War II shophouse in George Town was on par with that of the most expensive condominium apartments in Kuala Lumpur’s city centre



Shophouse-inspired chophouses are a unique Singaporean architectural form, and the title is a pun on the word “shophouse.” In the same way as shophouses have a shopfront on the ground level, chophouses have a living area on the first storey. The chophouse, on the other hand, was designed to accommodate a higher population density, up to 200 people. Chophouses, with their high density of people, were notorious for their cramped quarters and poor sanitary standards.

Immigrants arrived, and as a result, both the homes and individual rooms became cramped, gloomy, and airless cubicles. Many houses intended for a single family wind up housing 10 or more people. Because of the cramped living quarters and lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation, it was difficult to prepare and consume meals.

Rehousing efforts, which also accommodated the many hundreds of thousands who lived in palm hut slums, led to most of the chophouses in Singapore being demolished, with several remaining in Little India.

Most of Singapore’s chophouses were destroyed during the country’s post-independence rehousing efforts, leaving just a handful of the original structures standing.


It’s common to refer to the bottom floor of a shop office as a “shop,” but it may also apply to the upper levels, which are reached through stairwells integrated into the building’s front. It was typical for big corporations to use this type of construction in early twentieth-century metropolitan centres near commercial areas, when expanding activities need more space. If the building offers the required features, a shop office might serve as both a business and a residential space (i.e. proper plumbing). As a strategy to maximise office and retail space in certain shopoffices, some may have five-foot ways on the floor above ground level.

A ubiquitous feature of Malaysia’s contemporary urban and suburban environment, rows of shopoffices have been built in great numbers since the late twentieth century, sometimes with adjoining residential projects.

In certain places of Southeast Asia, shophouses are still utilised as mixed-use structures where people live and work. An active market exists for acquiring and repairing old buildings for residential use in the architectural community. Some parts of Southeast Asia’s real estate market value renovated shophouses quite highly.

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