Friday, 13 March 2009


(Edited 15:40, March 14, 2009: "synergistic, multi...etc." added)
(Edited 15:03, March 13, 2009)

I enjoyed the tutorials yesterday afternoon. But one or two issues came up as particularly disturbing. We need to discuss this. We'll have to take a second look at our brief to do that. The relevant portion is:

· To introduce the effects of urban context to architectural design
· To introduce the importance of sociology to architectural design
· To emphasize the importance of plan / section integration into the design process

Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of the subject, students will be able to:

1. Study and analyze the spatial poetics and programmatic design of a simple building
2. Design architectural spaces which respond to multiple urban issues
3. Generate design through conscious understanding of architectural rhythm, pattern, composition and organization.
4. Analyze the social and cultural context of the site
5. Produce drawings (both 2D and 3D), modeling and verbal presentation to communicate and visualize architectural design and ideas.


You are to design a synergestic & multiple use building which can rejuvenate its immediate site context, (a building which is) sympathetic to Ipoh's architectural heritage. (This should be a) building that will help in the regeneration of inner-city Ipoh. The building should be architecturally appealing and at the same time accessible to both the local population and visitors from out of state or country. The nature of the design should seek to espouse, as far as possible, the Genius Loci of Ipoh as a unique town in its own right, taking into account its position as the capital city of Perak. Attention should also be focused on the revival of the old town as an attractive place for public interaction. The function of the building should be agreed with your lecturers, but should be carefully chosen to achieve the purpose of urban regeneration.

The total built-up area of the building, which should be at least 2 storeys in height, should be not more than 600 square metres.

This I've highlighted in red. I don't mean that the brief is disturbing. I mean the misinterpretation by some students is disturbing. Some have responded by getting too caught up with the design of social programs to act as solutions to social problems that they detect. Problems such as unemployment of certain sectors of the Ipoh populace, the student lepak problem, etc. Some feel that they must address some social problem to meet the requirements of the brief. The conviction is laudable, but...

The troubling thing is that this urge has given rise to some unusual hybrid building programs that can't be accepted as "synergestic". Hey, guys, chill Man.. Have a rethink. Something's cramping your style.

The ability to analyse (by observation, interviews & other means of research) the social and cultural context of the site doesn't, for me, imply that you have to correspondingly come up with a social and cultural program to tackle the social and cultural ills discovered.

It does mean, however, that the building program you propose for that site will not, or should not, exacerbate or reinforce those ills. That is, to me, all the degree of social sensitivity you need. As architects we need to then quickly get down to the real contribution we can make. And that is to create a composition of place with the architectonic materials that any architect uses, whether they be hard or soft, whether they be concrete and steel or light and space. And I reckon you should have a wonderfully sweat-free time doing that.

And the good news is that the desired "regeneration of inner-city" will happen inevitably when you do that . You would have created a "happening place and thing" in it's own right. Happening places and things always attract people. People always need accommodation and utilities and facilities. Need almost always catalyses regeneration. Bingo!

This one's obviously marked out. You really need to consider designing ONE building that is implicitly spelt out as having the following characteristics..

a) a building for the general, non-exclusive public...meaning the general public can walk through all the spaces in the building

b) a building with most of its accommodation on the ground (plus minus 2 levels)...SO THAT it can engage with the general urban fabric (mainly prewar). [That's why we went to Ipoh la, and studied all those old buildings.]

c) a building that runs the full gamut on the private-to-public scale. Put it another way, there will be private spaces and public spaces in your building, the full range. But I reckon it will lean more heavily on the public space because of reason (a).

Incidently, I think there's Thing 3. But I can't seem to find the text in the brief to justify this. It's a hunch. It will be up to the more perceptive, astute and cheeky ones among you to help me out on this.

I know we're all animal lovers and all... I love animals, too... (I used to have guppies and Java sparrows and owls and terrapins and dogs and cats...until I moved to a condo). But, really, for Project 2 I think we should be designing for Mainly people, don't you think? We have only a precious 600 sq.m. to spare.

And, in any case, if you MUST design for non-humans (machines included) I'd rather you design for ghosts. At least they were humans, and it would make a fantastic scheme... ~shudder, shudder~.

Looking forward to the Orange Dot!


Bentuckee said...

I think that "fun" needs to be stressed in this project or else it's going to be a kinda serious project. well, i was thinking of serious scheme at first but then was later enlightened by Ian that actually "fun" can achieve the same ultimate result - promoting Ipoh with its unique identity and to excite the people (all ages, races and believes) with the new proposed development.

ian ng said... various levels:

CONTENT LEVEL: There must be issues in the culture and history of Ipoh that are based on humour, and the work of a local cartoonist is most certainly one of them. Or, if you find Ipoh needing a super kindergarten, you might stumble upon the Montessorie Method which is entirely based on learning through play--surely directly related to fun?

APPROACH LEVEL: You can take any program and approach it from the intent of making building users and visitors ENJOY the program. It could be a coffin centre but you could conciously design it with the aim of making people go through your building route and come out with a smile. Like enjoy and leave with a pleasant memory la. The fun way?

MANAGEMENT LEVEL: This is not about the project itself but about your attitude towards learning. It's about the learning experience you design for yourself. It's got to do with attitude. Whether you're gonna be light hearted and wonky minded about it all and give yourself limitless avenues for lateral and crazy imaginings. Many ways for destressing. So that you're casting an enormous net for creative ideas while u have a blast. And of course you'd be wise enuf to "close the show" early enough for you to get down to the production of outcomes with ample time to spare. Not least, with full assurance that the intellectual underpinnings for your proposal are rock solid, cos you'd gone hog-wild (mad) upstairs.