Pages 1-18 | Received 10 Jan 2016, Accepted 10 Oct 2016, Published online: 09 Dec 2016

The emergence of the creative cities/creative economies notion has re-visited the role of place and given this concept a new lease of life. Widely contested though, urban policy-makers in both developed and developing countries alike are planning and transforming their cities to become a Creative City. A Creative City harnesses on both its culture and economic prowess found in its urban locale as well as the creativity of the people who choose to live in them. This paper examines the possibility of the island-state of Penang to be a Creative City by looking specifically at the architecture industry, which is a sub-sector within the creative industry realm. The paper discusses the findings based on a survey and several interviews of 35 architectural firms in Penang. As suggested in the findings, Penang is still not ready in terms of talent, amenities and leadership to steer the city on its path to be a Creative City. More pertinently, this paper highlights the need to push and uplift the city’s creativity level from currently ‘medium’ to a higher level to withstand global competition for talent and capital.

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Additional author information

Suet Leng Khoo

Dr. Suet Leng Khoo is a senior lecturer in the Department of Development Planning and Management, School of Social Sciences. She received her PhD in development studies from the University of Melbourne, Australia. She has taught a variety of courses in development planning, economic development, project management, and urban development. Her principal research interests are related to the development of creative cities/creative industries, human capital development and heritage conservation.

Nurwati Badarulzaman

Associate Professor Dr. Nurwati Badarulzaman is a lecturer in urban planning at the School of Housing Building and Planning, Universiti Sains Malaysia. She holds the BSc in urban studies and environmental planning (Universty of Wisconsin-Green Bay, USA); Master of Urban and Regional Planning (Virginia State University-Blacksburg, Virginia, USA) and PhD in employment planning (University of Sheffield, UK). Her research interests include urban planning, creative cities, sustainable housing and retailing.

Narimah Samat

Dr Narimah Samat is a professor of geographic information systems at School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia. She holds the BSc in geography/mathematics from the University of Texas, MA from Universiti Sains Malaysia and PhD from University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Her areas of expertise are geographic information systems and urban modelling as well as geographic information systems in social issues analysis. She holds various research projects on the applications of GIS and modelling land use changes and also GIS in social issues analysis (poverty and health). Her present research is using GIS to model urban growth boundary and GIS applications in investigating poverty and inequalities.

Sharifah Rohayah Sheikh Dawood

Sharifah R.S. Dawood is a senior lecturer in the Geography Section, School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia. Her main research interests are economic geography, regional development, and sustainability studies. She has published book chapters, online research report, technical reports, and articles in national and international journals. These including, a chapter for the OECD Reviews of Higher Education in Regional and City Development, journal article for Environment and Planning C (ISI Journal), book chapter for Routledge, and established research networking with University College London. She has also involved in consultation work for industrial engagement projects, including for Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC) and the Northern Corridor Implementation Agency (NCIA), Malaysia.