2009-01-12

Urban Meet Place

            I am writing this subjected to one of an urban project that I have done in my school during past semester. This is neither a form of critic nor prescriptive theory, but a compilation of thoughts and design process. I will start this writing by saying that I have no preconceived idea in the this urban project, until the observation base on my own senses, and experiences and studies towards the site – Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Johor Bahru. The difference of the project is due to the question addressed.




Why Do People Meet?
          People meet to survive. Two crucial factors are concerned in the urban environment which will affect the design and how people interact – human behaviorism and psychological factors. Base on my observation for the current context, people tend to withdraw from the hot sun, social activities only take places under shading area, semi-private space. Strangers  withdraw against each other  when confront.

Intensity of meeting distinguishs the spatial needs. Architecture provides variety opportunity for human to meet each other, where buildings, solid void, façade, spatial quality, height, scale and proportion can greatly influence it. 


Concept of Revival
            Subjected to concept proposed in the master plan – revivalism. Revive in terms of density, value of historical elements and human value. What could be possibly planned to an existing urban environment? First, building height and scale factor has to be defined.

Building Height and Scale Factor
           Height of the building and the number of storey proposed has to be justified. A skyscraper of condominium which exist in the fabric within 4-story tend to destroy the convention function of private spaces such as courtyard, balcony and garden due to the human psychological factors, human do not want to be watched like a golden fish in the aquarium. Secondly, skyscraper block views, sunlight and wind. Lifts destroy social value, introducing lifeless transition between spaces.
Building scale need to be justified. A massive skyscraper might fail to be experience well by the user, the lack of part-whole relationship, but just a visual landmark from a distance.  Therefore, should the proposal meet the existing urban fabric?  So what is the role of a small building? It is yet to be justified.

           The role of a building in small scale may not be as tall as a high-rise building, serving as a visual landmark, and to bring density into the city but rather, a small building may improve the urban environment by enhancing the activities, density, and serves as a connective tissue in between building spaces. Therefore, raise the building up, defragmentation, cut and slice to establish the spatial connection.


Concept of Connection
The role of a building in the current context should be a connective tissue in between the building of different period, visually and spatially. Many people might think that building style should not contrast the neighbour in order to bring harmony in terms of the image, and the environment but the inverse should be occurred. Look at the architecture timeline, from the art and craft movement, simplicity, deconstruction to the late style. So what could be possible to be a 21st century architecture style? An avant-garde forms after every long period due to the forming of a new paradigm, the ever-changing human socio needs, the syntaxes and the question that we addressed. Le Corbu’s villa was once an astonishing project, the 5 points which made it a modern style. So how do we inherit such spirit in our context?

            In the context of the Jalan Wong Ah Fook, pleasure can hardly be perceived simply because of the lack of tension and stimulation, the unexpected spatial experiences but yet respond to the socio-cultural and context. To revive the old but yet to stay modern, architecture has to change base on current contest instead of duplicating the current image. Create a contrast instead, the fundamental principal of achieving harmony, just like yin and yang, the white is noted when only there is a black. Therefore, a building has to deconstruct. Deconstruct to an extend where the ambience provide pleasure promote multiple surfaces reading, ambiguity, spatial diversity… to celebrate the current pluralistic life.

            To connect human and building in space, the design elements have to be précised and to be justified. The juxtaposition of various building component to stimulate human senses, connects human and space through psychological and ontological sense of being. Walls, grid, convex and concave, ramps,  cantilevered beam…


Space 'Making'
            Human exists in metaphysical space. Space cannot be made but yet the creativity of containing space is concerned. Gestalt theory of simplicity, spatial reification explains and became a justification tools for architectural elements.

City is not a solution when the spaces are not well defined. The part-whole relationship should be concerned in city place making, to avoid confusion and mental stress in the city.


Summary
            The whole spine of Jalan Wong Ah Fook need to be revived in a sense that buildings are able to define spaces well, works with neighbours in a semi-lattices pattern. To address the connection between new building, heritage, human and space, visual and spatial quality are concerned. The interconnectedness of space making tools, juxtaposition of elements, complex system, multiple surfaces, intersection and interaction of human, the level of intensity of meeting gives spatial diversity, density gradient, human behaviorism and pattern flow need to be established.