A shophouse is a vernacular architectural building type that is commonly seen in areas such as urban Southeast Asia. This hybrid building form characterises the historical centres of most towns and cities in the region.

Typically, shophouses consist of shops on the ground floor which open up to a public arcade or "five-foot way", and which have residential accommodation upstairs. The shophouses would abut each other to form rows with regular facade,fire walls and adherence to street alignment.

As its name suggests, a shophouse often contains a shop with separate residential spaces. More generally, space occupied by the former contains a semi-public function. While this usually is, and historically usually was, a shop, it could just as easily be a food and beverage outlet (e.g. coffeeshop or bar), a service provider (e.g. clinic or barber), an industrial activity (e.g. cottage industry or auto workshop) or a community space (e.g. a school or clan association).

Residential spaces are meant to accommodate one or more families, or serve as a dormitory for single workers. Popular belief holds that shophouses were initially occupied by single families, with their private living areas in one space and the more public family business in another. However, it is possible that the two spaces were always usually used by unrelated persons or groups, who may be tenants or resident owners. The position of the shop and residential space depends on the number of floors of the shophouse: A single storey shophouse tends to include residential space behind the shop, while residential spaces in shophouses of two or more storeys are typically located above the shop.

 The covered walkway along the road is within the shophouse property line but is for public use, providing pedestrians shade from sun and rain.

One of the most important features of the shophouse is the use of a variety of open-to-sky spaces to admit natural daylight as well as natural air. These open-to-sky spaces may be back yards, small airwells and most commonly, internal courtyards. Depending on their size, these courtyards may be landscaped spaces for quiet reflection, places to dry laundry, vents for cooking fumes or toilet odours or spaces for any number of household activities.

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