Theories of archi and urbanism comparative-essay

1 SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, BUILDING & DESIGN Centre for Modern Architecture Studies in Southeast Asia (MASSA) Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Architecture) THEORIES OF ARCHITECTURE & URBANISM [ARC61303] Project: ‘Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space’ PART 2: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS ESSAY Name: Tan Sheau Hui Student ID: 0319235 Tutor: Mr Nicholas Ng

Transcript of Theories of archi and urbanism comparative-essay

Page 1: Theories of archi and urbanism comparative-essay



Centre for Modern Architecture Studies in Southeast Asia (MASSA)

Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Architecture)


Project: ‘Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space’


Name: Tan Sheau Hui

Student ID: 0319235

Tutor: Mr Nicholas Ng

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1.0 Introduction 3

2.0 Comparative Analysis 6

3.0 Conclusion 16

4.0 References 17

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1.0 Introduction

All cities in this world are organised by different urban systems and layout,

bounded by their very own context including the history, culture and social aspects as

well as the climatic and topography conditions. The urban planning of a city would

generate various forms of contact in public spaces between buildings, thus influencing

the human behaviour and social activities of certain area. The architecture that brings

impact to the daily life of human, has become a crucial contributor in defining the sense

of the place and shaping the identity of the city.

This paper is a comparative analysis on two case studies, Ho Chi Minh City

near Nguyen Hue Street area and a local site at Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) in

Kuala Lumpur. A study based on the patterns of social activities, types of ‘contact

points’, varying degrees of contact intensity is compared between the two cities.

Although the human culture and behaviour in Nguyen Hue and Jalan TAR are

noticeably vary as the results of their own long history and traditions, both cities have

a number of similarities in terms of the types of contacts and activities at public spaces

in between the buildings.

Urban Morphology & Historical Development

To start with, land planning and urban pattern of the two cities are being studied.

The development of history in Ho Chi Minh city came about its French colonial period

in 1864-1940. Saigon (HCMC former name) used to be a loose gathering of buildings

than a town structured settlement until French developed it by forming a regular

rectangular grid-like pattern with city blocks; boulevard and avenues as main axis

running from north-west to south-west respectively at right angles, with the port

depicted the core of the grid. Since then, Saigon had developed from a small market

town into the thriving metropolis which later was renamed Ho Chi Minh city. The

systematic grid pattern has significantly influence the way of life in the city when the

buildings, road layout and vegetation all followed the grids, in turns, forming human

circulation and intermediate contact points at a rather organised pattern.

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Figure 1.1 (left) shows Saigon town map during its pre-colonial period

Figure 1.2 (right) shows Saigon map during its French colonial period (1864-1940)

Figure 1.3 shows Saigon’s city blocks and grid-like pattern with wide tree-lined

avenues. Notre Dame Cathedral is on the upper left rim with Rue Catinat leading

towards it from the river.

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As for Jalan TAR, the city pattern is more spontaneously formed over time

resulting in segregated building block forms and zones. The early development during

the British colonial period in 1920s centred mainly around Dataran Merdeka while

sprawled development along the start of Jalan TAR. A burst of development after

gaining independence of the country grew northwards of the street, with small

settlements started to grow away from the street. Towards the 1980s, urbanisation of

Kuala Lumpur leads to a more proper planning with reclamation of rivers while small

settlements were replaced by high rise buildings. This segregated urban pattern of

Jalan TAR formed throughout the decades has contributed to the spontaneous

formation of building blocks, nodes and contact points, thus shaping the city life in a

rather free manner unbounded by specific rigidity.

Figure 1.4 (left) shows Kuala Lumpur map in 1920s.

Figure 1.5 (right) shows Kuala Lumpur map in 1957.

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2.0 Comparative Analysis

Social Activities

Based on Jan Gehl’s “Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space”, outdoor

activities can be categorised into three types: necessary activities, optional activities

and social activities. This study focuses on the social activities, which are the events

that occur depends on the presence of others in public spaces. Different types of

places trigger different types of social activities to happen. For instance, in private

outdoor spaces within private dwellings, meeting and conversation often happen

among family members and neighbours while on the other hand, in a city square within

public buildings, more types and levels of social interaction take place as more people

are gathered, from the passive contacts between unknown characters which could

further developed into chance contacts; to close friendships contacts.

These spontaneously occurred social activities are the resultant of or events

that are indirectly supported whenever necessary and optional activities are given

better conditions in public spaces (Gehl, 2006). In the case of a poorly designed and

maintained streets or city spaces, the lack of attraction or comfort would lead to the

minimum activity to take place as people would hurry home. Conversely, in a well-

established environment, there is a greater possible of human activities to take place,

in a completely different and broad spectrum.

Figure 2.1 shows area studied in Ho Chi Minh near Nguyen Hue Street, with its

landmarks highlighted.

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In the area studied around Nguyen Hue Street, various types of commercial

and office buildings providing daily necessary activities for the local communities and

white collar workers such as working and grocery shopping; have consequently

resulted in communal and social interaction in certain public spaces in between the

building blocks. Some of which take place throughout the day whilst others occurs

during certain hours in a day or during certain festival seasons in a year.

In the area studied in Ho Chi Minh, most of the places where there are

possibility of contacts take place along the streets with vendors and at the road junction

area in between two or more active spaces. This condition could be related back to

Gehl’s theory where social activities evolve from activities linked to the other two

activity categories, necessary and optional activity.

Figure 2.2 (left) shows the map of Le Loi Street.

Figure 2.3 (right) shows Le Loi Street and the daily activities occurs among locals on

the street. (Street vendors, motorcyclists and local community)

Le Loi Street, an example adopted from Ho Chi Minh is a necessary interval

path between two tourist landmarks, with locals having the chance to vendor along the

street. The street vendors set in front of the shops have resulted in a seamless

connection with the roadway, where it allows the motorcyclists to stop by easily to view

or purchase the items on sold, thus creating higher chance of contacts among vendors

and shoppers. Conversation between motorcyclist and vendors and the meetings of

locals along the street being carried out in a spontaneous manner is the resultant

activity caused by the necessary and optional activity on the street, with the good

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architectural effect caused by the well-established vegetation canopies which provide

sun shading for the street users.

Figure 2.4 shows the well-structured vegetation canopy system along Le Loi Street.

Figure 2.5 shows area studied near Jalan TAR, with its landmarks highlighted.

As for the area studied around Jalan TAR, social activities are found to be

happened mostly in plazas in front of commercial and office buildings and along the

streets where stalls are set up. This patterns are found to be similar compared to Ho

Chi Minh, where social activities are triggered by the daily tasks and activities.

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Figure 2.6 shows the five foot arch walkway applied in front of shop houses.

Along Jalan TAR, five foot veranda walkway is one of the significant built form

established in front of every shop houses as a climatic protection for pedestrians,

creating a positive environment for people to stop by and rest. In reference to

Kenneth ’s “Towards a Critical Regionalism”, it is necessary to remind ourselves that

the tactile is an important dimension in the perception of built form, as one has in mind

the complementary sensory perceptions registered by the labile body (Frampton,

1983); the factor well aware by urban planners, in this case, has created a comfortable

environment for pedestrians, triggering the sense of enclosure, and this could further

lead to the possibility of social interactions within the five foot walkway.

Figure 2.7 (left) shows the map of Lorong Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR).

Figure 2.8 (right) shows Lorong TAR and the daily activities occurs among locals on

the street. (Street vendors, pedestrians and local community)

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Along Lorong Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR), the back street of Jalan TAR, the

behaviour of the shop houses that are opened for business at the rear street, has

allowed a higher chance for pedestrians to venture into the shops rather than merely

from the front street. The well-maintained walkway causes stalls and food truck

businesses to grow along the back street, while consequently inviting more visitors on

a daily basis. Street facilities including public seatings and booths set up has provided

possibility to sit and chat, thus leading to conservations and meaningful interaction

among local vendors and pedestrians throughout the day, again reflecting Gehl’s

theory regarding social activities that occur given good conditions.

The patterns of social activities studied based on Le Loi Street and Lorong TAR

shows the importance of necessary and optional activities for social events to take

place in an area. Nevertheless, the different cultural context of both cases has

achieved the theory in different ways. The preference for motorcycle transport in Le

Loi Street has resulted in street stalls set up near to the roadway for the ease of

approaching motorcyclists. On the other hand, the behaviour of two open facades of

shop houses in Lorong TAR has caused stalls to be set up on the back lane, with

seating facilities provided for walking pedestrians.

Contact Points

One of the elements of the city proposed by Kevin Lynch in “The Image of The

City” known as nodes is defined as strategic focus points for orientation like squares

and junctions (Lynch, 1960). In most cases, this is the points where chance of contacts

are higher when large number of people meet in public spaces, consequently lead to

higher intimacy of human interaction, which defines the term contact point. Hence,

defining the term ‘nodes’ and ‘contact points’ could be of the similar intention, where

they studies the depth and intensity of everyday human experience based on human

perception and the directional senses of people, without necessarily bounded by

physical forms or elements. The difference that define both urban ideas is that node

is defined through the vision of people way-finding the hue and orientation while

contact point is defined through experience of the visual and sensory elements created

between the connections of people.

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Figure 2.9 shows Bitexco Financial Tower at the road junction between Ho Tung Mau

and Hai Trieu.

Contact points of varying degrees of contact intensity are studied in the two

cities. In Ho Chi Minh, a road junction between Ho Tung Mau and Hai Trieu is found

to be a contact point of moderate intensity, where several levels of social contacts are

covered. It is a transitional point for office workers to rest during dining and leisure

hours. There are three main buildings which defined the human behaviour of the street


Figure 2.10 shows the open plaza of Bitexco Financial Tower during after-working


Bitexco Financial Tower is a skyscraper which offers Saigon Skydeck has

invited tourists despite daily office workers. A pedestrian-friendly open plaza in front

of the tower with sitting benches, tree shades and welcoming water features has

provided chances of contact when it serves as a point of family, colleagues and friend

gathering. A high intensity of contact occurs during after-working hours followed by

rather low intensity contact throughout the day with local shoppers and pedestrians.

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Figure 2.11 shows Nhu Lan, an eatery with its addition of food stalls.

On the opposite, Nhu Lan, a bakery and eatery is a place for dining and meeting.

As ‘people attract people’, the high concentration of people led to the addition of

multiple food stalls in front of the eateries, has attracted an even higher flow of people.

Mekong Housing Bank, on the other hand has minimal outdoor activities throughout

the day. Despite the building function, the moderate intensity of social contact at the

street junction is drawn by the properly paved walkway and crossings, which enhance

walkability while the limitations of car parks has led to high usage of bicycle and

motorcycles, consequently generate possibility of passive contacts. However, due to

the high rise building typologies of the point, high intensity of contact could hardly be

reached throughout the day as only indoor activities happen most of the time.

Figure 2.12 shows Ton That Dam with the street markets selling daily items.

Another types of contact point noticed is the street markets, with Ton That Dam

taken as one of the example. The flea market along the street forms a continuous

linear movement of necessary and social activities for local communities and tourists.

High chance for contacts are created by the multiple protruding verandas from shops

which enhance the intimacy and visual connection among people. Due to the low rise

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building typology and with the residences placed above the retail shops, the local

community especially the neighbourhood has a strong bond of connection with each

other. When a close friendship is established, higher level of social contacts take place.

Besides, extended roofs of shops with stall canopies also create accidental spaces for

pedestrians to take on shelter while mingling with each other, establishing meaningful

interaction and relationship among people. This urban behaviour tends to be humane,

hence establishing a high intensity contact point.

Figure 2.13 shows the plaza in front of Sogo shopping mall with large amount of tree


In Jalan TAR area, a plaza located in front of Sogo Shopping Mall is a moderate

intensity of contact point having the similar traits as Ho Tung Mau and Hai Trieu road

junction in Ho Chi Minh. The high rise shopping mall provide a place for daily

necessary and optional activities mainly for the locals and occasionally the tourists.

The well-maintained plaza at the entrance has been a suitable place for short meetings

and rest for pedestrians. Sufficient amount of vegetation canopies and buffers as well

as the well paved wide walkway has provided proper environment for chances of

contact throughout the day. The stepped entrance has unintentionally become the

place to sit on when waiting for someone or for taking on shelter. The open area has

provided space for street performances to take place during weekend, while

decorations are made during festive months to attract more visitors. The contact point

tends to be high intensity during weekend or certain seasons and moderate on

common days.

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Figure 2.14 shows Jalan Masjid India, with bazaar on the left and shop houses and

residential mixed used building on the right of Masjid India.

Another contact point to be compared is Jalan Masjid India, where it is the place

of very high concentration of people who come for daily shopping and dining at the

flea market, also known as bazaar and the shop houses.

Figure 2.15 shows the bazaar beside Masjid India, which are opened for business

every day.

Simiar to Ton That Dam market, it is a market place with crowds of people on a daily

basis which triggers high chance of social contact. Different than Ton That Damn

market which sells mainly food and grocery, this bazaar offers dry items especially

clothing, textiles and accessories, which are of the popular items sold in Jalan TAR

area. Its location at the road junction has invited high intensity of visitors from different


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Figure 2.16 shows the residential and retail mixed used building in Jalan Masjid India.

Sharing the road junction as the bazaar is a block of residential and retail shops

mixed use medium rise building, where rows of shop houses with mainly textile trading

are found. The residential units with opened balconies have allowed visual connection

towards the street and also among the neighbours, at which passive contacts would

occur. Different than Ton That Dam which is occupied with high intensity of contacts

throughout the day, Masjid India junction has different intensity on alternate hours,

with high intensity during after-working hours and moderate intensity throughout the


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3.0 Conclusion

In conclusion, everyday human activities plays an important role in defining the

behaviour of a city. Based on both of the studied cities, the establishment of

connections between indoors and outdoors combined with proper walkways and

resting places in front of the buildings has greatly affected the human behaviour on

the public street and spaces. Even though there are cultural differences which leads

to different languages of built form being communicated on both cases, the types of

contact points identified are more or less behaving in the similar manner. There is no

right or wrong in the spatial planning of the cities, however the categorization of

activities based on the social engagements help defining the quality of space and the

intensity of human experiences and feelings which are always connected with the

building. As Juhani Pallasmaa stated in “The Geometry of Feeling”, architecture is a

direct expression of existence, of human presence in the world (Pallasmaa, 1994),

hence human and contacts should be among the primary elements to be assessed

when an urban formation and pattern is studied as a city grows with the very existence

of human, and human experiences define the sense of the place.

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4.0 References

Frampton, K. (1983). "Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture

of Resistance", In Foster, H. (1983) The Anti-Aesthetic. Essays on Postmodern

Culture. New York: New Press.

Gehl, J. (2011). Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space. Washington: Island


Ho Chi Minh City: Development on Fast-forward. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2017, from


Lynch, K. A. (1960). The Image of The City. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Pallasmaa, J. (1985). The Geometry of Feeling: A Look at The Phenomenology of

Architecture. In J. Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the

Senses (pp. 44-49). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.