Exploring Urban Void in South East Asia World Cultural Heritage City, Georgetown
Space have been the fundamental of architecture and enhancing the quality of the space around the urban is primarily important to improve and nourish the place. Throughout the process of economic and social developments, the spaces around us continuously transform and change, resulting in numerous voids. Urban voids are those spaces which defined as underused, functionless, abandoned, or in-between spaces.
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Georgetown, crowned the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site with well-preserved collection of historical and cultural buildings. Despite the quality of the built heritage that has made Georgetown a World Cultural Heritage City, a lack of planning control has led to incoherent urban development resulting in limitation of public space and the development of urban voids. These are the urban voids we are focusing on, vacant land, abandoned property, back alley between shophouses and illegal off-street parking space. All these areas do not have a well-defined function and purpose to serve in the urban system of Georgetown. This paper briefly analyses the site context and assesses the existing urban fabric specifically public spaces and urban spatial formation in the heritage site.
Spaces have become scarce in the high density Georgetown where land is very precious. With limited urban spaces and resources, Georgetown have to take the responsibility of preservation of sense of place in line with conservation of heritage. Urban voids are some kind of in between phase that temporary in transition, like taking a pause in functionality. Utilization of these voids by refining their function can be seen as the opportunity to create a better quality of public space with improved function, social cohesion and environmental sustainability. The neglected spaces can be transformed into key places where the city beats on the rhythm of the community and neighborhood activism. This paper looks into urban voids that urban voids that found within the heritage site in Georgetown, as a potential opportunity for sustainable urban design.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1 THESIS PREAMBLE
CHAPTER 2 URBAN VOIDS
Re-thinking A Lot
Cities for People
The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
CATEGORIES OF URBAN VOIDS
DEVISING VOID TYPOLOGY
CHAPTER 3 CASE STUDIES
CMP BLOCK MUSUEM OF ARTS
PIGALLE BASKETBALL COURT
CHAPTER 4 THE SITE
WORLD CULTURAL HERITAGE SITE
LIST OF TABLES
LIST OF FIGURES
“Culture and climate differ all over the world, but people are the same, they will gather in public if you give them in public if you give them a good place to do it”
– Jan Gehl
There is always an existence of awkward spaces in any given urban, in between buildings and occupying edge conditions. With the discovery of each urban voids, there is the enormity of its hidden potentials in these urban voids.
The research aims to recognize these places that need activation and emphasize the potential of them to create memorable and meaningful experience for people in public. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, experience stays building connection to place and sense of self. Interventions in urban voids bring a transformation impact which creating a key platform for a dynamic and vibrant lifestyle, an establishment of social cohesion and a sense of belonging to the community.
This paper aims to explore and understand the possibility besetting Georgetown in becoming a full-fledged healthy, livable, productive and creative city by drawing parallel between functional case studies.
This paper aims to examine the existing urban voids in Georgetown city and study the potential for transforming them by adopting what’s there in other countries – the interactive and enjoyable public space.
This paper aims to focus on proposal of reclaiming urban voids in Georgetown’s fabric to create vibrant social engagement by shaping the environment of public space.
This paper aims to create a concept of how urban voids can be utilized for the development of environment through a solid theoretical background.
The paper aims to illustrate the idea of void space being rejuvenating and reactivating which act as a trigger for social interaction and creates a scenario for site.
What or why are there the formation of urban voids?
How much is the increase in urban voids and how significant?
Why do they not make a contribution to the city?
What is the history of Georgetown?
How did it become a World Cultural Heritage City?
What are the planning mechanisms?
What is the formation of voids in Georgetown?
How can voids be redeveloped?
How can a void become a public space?
What would such development look like?
How will this improve function, social cohesion and sustainability?
The research design is comprised a methodology plan including the following steps described below:
Step by Step Development
Theory Research – Theory Framework – Case Study – Definition of Urban Void - Introduction of Site – Site Analysis and Mapping – Initial Design Proposal – Finalized Design Proposals – Conclusion
Our research field extends from theoretical foundations urban designers concerning the quality of public spaces and usage, to a practical case study that are in line with the aims and thoughts.
The methods that utilize in this research include a solid theoretical background, an examination of case studies, a defined urban void concept, an establishment context of Georgetown, site analysis and mappings, a design proposal
This research aims to postulate a conceptual design that has the capability and ability to demonstrate potential. The design result is able to evolve and serve the specific characteristics of Georgetown’s urban fabric.
The theories listed below constitute the basis for the development of dissertation topic.
Re-thinking A Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking
Cities for People
The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
[ The Design and Culture of Parking ]
– Eran Ben Joseph
This book studies the surface parking lots issue in built environment. The object of this research topic, urban voids, are largely being used as parking lots in Georgetown. These spaces are in a status of neglected, but what highlights them is their potential of reactivating.
“Parking lots can be aesthetically pleasing, environmentally and architecturally responsible, and used for something other than car storage. “
“Parking lots could be significant public places, contributing as much to their communities as great boulevards, parks, or plazas. For all the acreage they cover, parking lots have received scant attention. It’s time to change that; it’s time to rethink the lot.”
Parking lots are common in many ways where they have the ability to influence the way the users experience the city. In this book, the author shares a different vision for parking’s future. Some of many alternative and non-parking purposes that parking lots have served. He shows us parking lots that are lushly planted with trees and flowers and beautifully integrated with the rest of the built environment. With purposeful design, parking lots could be significant public places, contributing as much as their communities. They can serve as a playground for children or a meeting point for young people to socialize after their working hours.
“Parking lots with or without parked vehicles can be fine space, even great spaces. Lots can be integrated into their surroundings with little or no environmental disruption. They can be social and cultural assets, a stage for open, less controlled behaviors where multiuse and multifunction can be achieved. Lots can be productive places that do environmental work, clean water runoff, generate oxygen, and produce energy. They can also be well designed with attention paid to details, materials and architectural composition. The options are limitless. It is time to shift from modest and lackluster attitudes about parking lots towards attitudes that celebrate and acknowledge the great potential of these spaces. “
In some cities, parking lots cover more than one-third of the metropolitan footprint. Parking lots being part of built environment have a significant impart concerning to environmental issue and in the way we perceive the environment of the city. Undeniable that the existence of parking lots linked to the constant need of spaces for cars, we can see them in a different perspective and bring them closer to the approach design a public space.
– Jan Gehl
In this book, Jan Gehl presents the idea of urban spaces transformation and tackle urban design and planning issues by people centered approach. This book introduces a design proposal on how to enhance the environment of public spaces by emphasizing the human scale.
[ First we shape cities – then they shape us ]
“If we look at the history of cities, we can see clearly that urban structures and planning influence human behavior and the ways in which cities operate.”
This explains the compact urban structure of the medieval cities with the short travel distance, the cozy public square, the layout of main streets and existence of marketplaces sustained their main purpose as the center of trades and craftsmanship.
“More roads, more traffic; fewer roads, less traffic”
The connection between invitations and behavior was seen in the present situation of modern cities which trying to tackle the increasing demand of car traffic. It shows that there is always a mutual relation between city and its people. The immediate cure to relieve the high traffic situation was constructing new roads and parking spaces, filling the potential spaces with vehicles. Consequently, as a direct effect, the volume of vehicle traffic increase.
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The similar concept applied for spaces of city and its pedestrian traffic. The establishment of old cities as walkable cities along with the Mediterranean way of life shows physical planning plays an important role in affecting the behavior of individual and usage of spaces by focusing on the human dimension. “The better city space, more city life”. The better the quality of spaces in the city, the better it will be the quality of city life.
“The conclusion that if better city space is provided, use will increase is apparently valid in large city public spaces, and individual city spaces and all the way down to the single bench or chair. The conclusion is also generally valid in various cultures and parts of the world, in various climates and in different economies and social situations.”
– William Whyte
Based on in-field observations, by looking at human behavior such as sitting and meeting in small urban spaces, such as plazas, William Whyte comes up with the design elements to determine to encourage or discourage the activities. What gives a life to a space, what kills a space?
“A city’s abundant small spaces have key impact on the quality of life. If those spaces are unattractive and left unattended people will respond and retreat from the city streets and eventually have an adverse effect on city in all aspects.”
When it comes to a city, it is always relate to its people. What draws people in and what keeps them out? Small spaces are able to make a huge impact on the quality of life if we can utilize them.
“It is often assumed that children play in the street because they lack playground space. But many children play in the streets because they like to. One of the best play areas we came across was a block on 101st Street in East Harlem. It had its problems, but it worked. The street itself was the play area. Adjoining stoops and fire escapes provided prime viewing across the street and were highly functional for mothers and older people.”
This place have the basic factors that make it a successful and delightful urban space. Places that attract people tend to be relatively free from problems.
“If we learn to take advantages of our small urban spaces, if we design new ones and repair old ones, we will improve the streets and quality of life.”
A good new space generates a new constituency, by drawing people to get into new habits and foster them to use the new paths.
“ A three-dimensional physical space that is part of a city, which may or may not have a functional use, is being used less than its projected full potential” (Ukil, 2017)
“They are the edges lacking effective incorporation, the inner islands empty of activity, and the forgotten debris that remain out of the urban dynamics” (Sola-Morales, 2002)
figure 1.1 figure 1.2
Midtown Manhattan, New York City, United States
In order to tackle the lack of green spaces issue, pocket parks which also known as vest pocket parks or mini parks were introduced into the urban world. Pocket parks are easily imagine, as it only required a vacant lot between or behind a couple of blocks.
Paley Park situated amongst the high-rise office buildings, provides a hidden respite for locals and tourists who need a pause from the buzz of city. The elements in the park was crafted to soothe and mitigate city noise and create a tranquil retreat with an approachable walking distance from city. To create a convincing illusion of seclusion and privacy, the park is slightly elevated from the side walk level by four steps. The most symbolic feature of this park is the 6 meters height waterfall that reaches across entire back of small space, producing white noise that helps to mask the sounds of the bustling city.
The comfort of the users is the main concern when designing the park. For this reason, the moveable furniture – wire mesh chairs and tables set on granite floor were designed to provide the users flexibility in organizing themselves in the park. The planters on a grid in the central of the park offers a dim shade, fosters an atmosphere of peaceful. This park seems like a small green space, but it is a breath of air for the concrete city.
figure 2.1 figure 2.2
figure 2.3 figure 2.4
West Distinct, Taichung City, Taiwan
The CMP (Chin Mei Plaza) Block Museum turns the street into art. Before it transformed into what it is today, the park lane was old, broken and crammed. The museum is located at crossroads of bustling downtown in Taichung City.
It is a wall-less living art museum which holds different literature and art exhibition throughout the year. Each exhibition will be shown for a specific period, and its displays present in different themes along with the trend and holiday festive. Art, book store, café, unique boutique store, local culture and daily life all come together in a beautifully designed park-liked environment.
The museum fosters the engagement of artists and characteristic of block to promote interactive and approachable arts. The museum attracts the artist from various fields to produce fascinating and uplifting art creations to encourage appreciation of arts through interactions. The idea of museum takes street blocks and diverts them into creative art place for people to gather, to learn and to share ideas.
figure 3.1 figure 3.2
figure 4.1 figure 4.2
Midtown Detroit, Michigan City, United States
Like many alleys around the world, one back route in Midtown Detroit was broken for years. The alley revolution that happened in Midtown Detroit shows an amazing model for “living alleyways” by rethought and repurposed an unused, unwelcoming alley into revived, energized alleyways. Beyond the cosmetic appearance of alley, there is a dramatic transformation in the usage of a space that people would avoid it previously.
The Green Alley improves the basic condition of alley by demonstrating a design aesthetic and create a gathering space. The space creates a visual interest and welcoming ambience through plantings and lighting which draw people into this retransformed urban environment. While, the Belt has reimagined the commonly unattractive ambience of an alley in dynamic and positive way by turning it into a public art destination. This alley provide a space for youngsters’ murals and artists’ installations.
The approaches of both projects are differ dramatically, yet their vision remains the same, to generate life and energy in alley and build a pedestrian friendly space.
figure 5.2 figure 53
Shanghai City, China
Once was a parking space, it got transformed into an urban garden and constructed entirely of artificial means. Urban Bloom is situated in a tranquil and quiet courtyard with offices, restaurants, shops and schools within striking distance.
Recycled wood pallets and giant colorful foliage filled balloon fill the gaps between modern buildings, form a unique seating area and create interaction visually which aim to encourage passerby take a stop and explore the space. Plentiful varieties of plants and flowers are placed around the space, and as they bloom, the space will create a garden aesthetic, welcoming ambience.
figure 6.2 figure 6.3
Paris City, France
Sandwiched between a pairs of apartment buildings in a Parisian suburb, a fuchsia gate that guides an ablaze and flamboyant basketball. The primary concept of this vibrant void was to make a giant piece of art on Paris’s urban fabric and create a basketball court as a fun playground to all youth to enjoy.
A gradients of gradated hues of canary yellow, burnt orange, cerise pink, royal blue and indigo purple come together throughout the space to correspond to 90’s basketball-inspired aesthetic, blanket the basketball court’s floor and walls. A palette of brilliant and funky colors spice up the compact and irregularly shaped space. This space shows the best compelling example for using appealing color and design to attract people into this void.
Georgetown, Penang state’s capital city on the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia is the first Malaysia city which shaped by British colonialism beginning with the arrival of Francis Light on behalf of the East India Trading Company in year 1786. It begins as the first British Strait Settlement in Southeast Asia in late 18th century. It located in the Strait of Malacca and was once an important shipping channel between East and West in the distant past. Over the last two centuries, Georgetown went through tremendous transformation, from a dense of jungle to one of the center of trade in 19th century and to the current city of living heritage.
Georgetown shaped by mingle of different cultures from numerous ethnicities that has developed over the centuries. The historic city of Georgetown appears as an extraordinary representation of a multi-culture commercial center which established the exchanges of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European culture and encompassed an impressive collection of notable buildings of different style reflected the culturally diverse community. With more than 200 years of cultural interactions between East and West, the urban fabric of Georgetown reflects the influences by possessing a rich collection of architecture in diverse styles, dotted with traditional Chinese shophouses, nostalgic colonial buildings, cramped roads, magnificent old temples, clan residences and plentiful social amenities.
figure 7: location of Georgetown
By retaining a captivating fusion of eastern and western influences, Georgetown acknowledged as having a distinctive cultural and architectural urban fabric. The well-preserved of heritage buildings in Georgetown has been inscribed as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site on 7th July 2008 for its living history, culture, architecture and tradition.
“Georgetown, historic city of the Straits of Malacca has developed over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between east and West in the Straits of Malacca. The influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the town with a specific multicultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible. Featuring residential and commercial buildings, Georgetown represents the British era from the end of the 18th century. The town constitutes a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.” (UNESCO)
The status of Georgetown as remarkable example of historic colonial city is defined by fulfilled the following outstanding value:
Criterion (ii): Georgetown represents exceptional examples of multi-cultural trading towns in East and Southeast Asia, forged from the mercantile and exchanges of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures and three successive European colonial powers for almost 500 years, each with its imprints on the architecture and urban form, technology and monumental art. The town shows different stages of development and the successive changes over a long span of time and are thus complementary.
Criterion (iii): Georgetown is living testimony to the multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, and European colonial influences. This multi-cultural tangible and intangible heritage is expressed in the great variety of religious buildings of different faiths, ethnic quarters, the many languages, worship and religious festivals, dances, costumes, art and music, food, and daily life.
Criterion (iv): Georgetown reflects a mixture of influences which have created a unique architecture, culture and townscape without parallel anywhere in East and South Asia. In particular, they demonstrate an exceptional range of shophouses and townhouses. These buildings show many different types and stages of development of the building type, some originating in the Dutch or Portuguese periods. (UNESCO)
figure 8: Core and buffer zones within Georgetown UNESCO World Heritage Site
The World Heritage Site covers nearly 2.6km2 of the city center. The core zone of this heritage site which surrounded by the Strait of Malacca has a coverage of 1,093,800 m2 in area with more than 1,700 historic buildings, including the important administrative buildings such as City Hall and State Assembly Building. This core zone aligned on four main streets of Lebuh Pantai, Pengkalan Weld, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling and Lorong Love, as well as the other perpendicular streets. This designated core zone is bordered by 1,500,400 m2 buffer zone, bounded by stretch of sea area, Jalan Pragin to the south-west corner and Jalan Transfer to the north-west corner.
Figure 1.1: Paley Park at Manhattan City
Figure 1.2: Paley Park at Manhattan City
Figure 2.1: CMP Block Musuem of Arts at Taichung City
Figure 2.2: CMP Block Musuem of Arts at Taichung City
Figure 2.3: CMP Block Musuem of Arts at Taichung City
Figure 2.4: CMP Block Musuem of Arts at Taichung City
Figure 3.1: Green Alley at Michigan City
Figure 3.2: Green Alley at Michigan City
Figure 4.1: The Belt at Michigan City
Figure 4.2: The Belt at Michigan City
Figure 5.1: Urban Bloom at Shanghai City
Figure 5.2: Urban Bloom at Shanghai City
Figure 5.3: Urban Bloom at Shanghai City
Figure 6.1: Pigalle Basketball Court at Paris City
Figure 6.2: Pigalle Basketball Court at Paris City
Figure 6.3: Pigalle Basketball Court at Paris City
Figure 6.4: Pigalle Basketball Court at Paris City
Figure 7: Location of Georgetown
Figure 8: Core and buffer zones within Georgetow UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Pier Carlo Palermo, Davide Ponzini. 2014. Place-making and Urban Development. London: Routledge.
- Derek Thomas. 2016. Placemaking: An Urban Design Methodology. New York: Routledge.
- George Redmond. 2017. Glasgow City Development Plan. Glasgow City Council.
- Jasim Azhar, Morten Gjerde. 2016. Re-thinking the Role of Urban In-Between Spaces. Victoria University of Wellington.
- William H. Whyte. 1980. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. New York: Project for Public Spaces.
- Eran Ben-Joseph. 2012. Rethinking A Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
- Jan Gehl. 2010. Cities for People. Washington, DC: Island Press.
- Jan Gehl. 2001. Life between Buildings: Using Public Space. 4th edition. Copenhagen: Arkitektens Forlag.
- Jan Gehl. 2013. How to Study Public Life. Washington, DC: Island Press.
- UNESCO. 2008. Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1223 [30/10/2018]
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