Urban design is fun.

Urban design is the first out of the three design studios I have to complete in my Master of Architecture course. It is generally defined as the process of giving form, shape, and character to groups of buildings, to whole neighborhoods, and the city. It is a framework that orders the elements into a network of streets, squares, and blocks. Urban design is also about making connections between people and places, movement and urban form, nature and the built fabric and the goal is usually to make the urban areas more functional, attractive and sustainable.


Before I take on this design studio, I have had already some interest in urban design. I do like to see how and where the buildings were placed in relation to each other and their significance to the overall masterplan. I have been to many cities with unique urban planning before like Siem Reap (the ancient city of Angkor where the famous Angkor Wat temple is at the centre), Beijing (city spine or axis from Tiananmen Square to Forbidden City and then all the way up straight to Olympic Park, picture below), Paris (the streets and uniform building heights and patterns), Seoul (the Cheonggyecheon River and the public realm along it, picture below), etc. I like to research on the many urban case studies across the world from the ancient or historical city planning to the ones in the present. They are not only useful to my study in this particular studio but also beneficial for my extra knowledge on this field that involves a lot of parties (architect, urban planner, landscape architect, engineers, authority, etc).



After this studio that I have completed, I do discovered many more useful information and knowledge behind a successful urban design. Here below are the top 10 urban design knowledge that I have learnt from my studio which can be seen as the basic principles or guidelines on creating a good urban planning:

(1) Be pedestrian-friendly. Pedestrian streets over vehicular roads.

Urban design is mostly about creating good environment for people to walk, to see, to play, to shop, to eat, etc. Having beautiful pedestrian streets or promenades gives a nice and safe ambience to people. Lesser attention to roads.


(2) Activate ground level. 

Ground level is where all the things should be happening. Skywalks (those pedestrian bridges) are now very popular urban trend to link buildings away and above the roads. They may be useful but they are sometimes bad on preventing people to be on ground level. Try makes the public spaces on the ground to be interesting to draw people to that level.


(3) Continue lines from existing urban or city grid. And create new ones too.

To start on your master planning, try as much as you can to link your newly proposed roads or streets to the existing ones outside your site boundary to create a continuity so that your masterplan isn’t in its ‘own world’. Linking to existing urban patterns (grids) is very important for a continuous uninterrupted flow around or within the urban area.


(4) Have a driver or an overall concept.

It is preferred to have a main strategy before starting on the urban planning. A main concept or driver to your imagined urban development. For example, you can have your site to be transit-oriented (main focus on transportation links), or water-oriented (priority for water views or for various interaction or engagement with people from water). Have a look on some good examples of successful urban projects across the world. Research on them, make them as your precedent studies, and maybe you can find certain interesting elements to be incorporated in your urban design as well.


(5) Emphasize on views, vantage points, visual axis or linkage. See at human scale.

View is important. When you are proposing a street here, try and imagine what would people see at the end of this particular street? It’s best that the planning is done to allow people to have certain intended view (for example, view of a river, view of a sculpture, view of an interesting roof, view of a major park, or view that directs people to another angle, etc). Always see from a human scale.


(6) Have something as the centrepiece of the planning.

It’s always an ideal way to have something that stood out among the rest in your masterplan. It would be boring to have all proposed built forms in your masterplan to have uniform and similar strength, proportion, height or scale. Have one particularly large or tall building (a landmark) as the limelight of the overall masterplan. Or if you think that is unnecessary, have a main public square as the node of your planning. On the other hand, try to propose a few more civic or community buildings like library, aquarium, sports hall, shopping mall, museums, art gallery, etc to create a sense of place and to gives identity to the particular urban area or city.


(7) More parks, plazas or squares. Public realm is the most important.

Create these spaces for people to walk, relax, interact, etc. Public space is the priority in an urban design. Have them designed in a way that it invites people, it engages people, it attracts people, at any time of the day if possible. It’s not about the quantity too as it’s about quality. Having a lot of parks or plazas may not be good as this approach will make people to go on separate ways since they have many choices to make (on which parks or plazas to go).


(8) Connectivity and practicality in mind.

It would be cool to have the urban planning to feature extensive greenery, massive parks, huge waterways, etc. You can be daring in your design. However, kindly think of whether it is practical to have that. Will it interrupts flow of people? Can it be accessed by cars? Can the disabled go over there? Can goods or loading be done over here to cater for this building? Also think about the distance to reach a place from the office, from the mall, from the homes, from the hotel, etc. On the other hand, car park is an ugly building but it is very much needed even if you don’t like it. How are you going to have that in your masterplan while not being a waste of space or being an unpleasant sight? Avoid from having car park taking up ground level and preferably place it in basements or in a podium together with facility floors. You can even propose to treat the facade of the car park podium to be interesting. But let’s not get into detail of buildings as urban design is not about that.


(9) Be green. 

Everything is about sustainability now in the architecture world. It’s good to bring the nature back into your masterplan by proposing parks with extensive landscaping (or even lakes, etc) as people love to enjoy the nature if it’s provided and it’s beautiful. Be green in this case also means having your masterplan to work in a way that you envisioned it to be energy efficient by having the future built forms in the site to have maximum exposure to natural daylight, making use of wind direction, sun orientation, etc.


(10) Think about land use, setbacks and mass of buildings. 

This is where standard comes in. There is the setbacks to buildings that you have to provide when setting out your proposed location of new built forms. Each authority has their own set of guidelines on it, and it includes also on the mass of building (height, density limit, etc). As for the zoning, try to think over and over again why would you want to propose a hotel here instead of at the other places in your site. That’s one of the examples. If you can’t find good reason for it, then it’s not a good urban design decision. Work on it again.


In conclusion, urban design is mostly about people and its about the spaces between buildings (roads, streets, parks, boulevards, lanes, plazas, walkways, etc). Social system goes above vehicular system. People over cars. A good urban design facilitates human interaction, activates dead spaces, ensures smooth flow and permeability, and caters to a demand-seeking future. A masterplan should be flexible, able to adapt to future changes or addition of new built forms if possible. It should be done to prepare the site to meet demands in the future especially when all the cities now are growing fast with increasing need for more residential, commercial, leisure or tourism developments. When you are designing a masterplan, imagine being in there yourself, what do you want to see, where do you want to go, what do you want to do once you are in that space? Have plenty of good reasoning to all the design making decisions you have make, and then you will have an excellent masterplan. There is no right or wrong but there is a point where we know whether it works or not. It requires a lot of thinking in macro-scale. That’s what differentiates urban design from architecture.


(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)


Pritzker Prize 2010: SANAA

Have you heard of SANAA? It is an architectural firm based in Tokyo, Japan which stands for Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates. It was founded in 1995 by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. These two architects had their greatest achievement this year as they are honoured with world premier architecture prize, Pritzker Prize 2010.

Often referred to the ‘Nobel Prize of Architecture’, this prize is awarded every year to a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. We have seen many famous international architects winning this, Sir James Stirling (1981), Ieoh Ming Pei (1983), Richard Meier (1984), Kenzo Tange (1987), Frank Gehry (1989), Robert Venturi (1991), Tadao Ando (1995), Renzo Piano (1998), Norman Foster (1999), Rem Koolhaas (2000), Herzog and de Meuron (2001), Glenn Murcutt (2002), Zaha Hadid (2004), Jean Nouvel (2008), Peter Zumthor (2009)….and some others in other years…

Congratulation to SANAA for being honoured with this award. I wish myself can be awarded with this prize too in near future! The prize also marks the contribution of the architect to the built environment that involves mainly architecture. I do not know about both winning architects before they are awarded with Pritzker Prize. After they are awarded, then they become famous…this is another advantage of the award.

Their works can be summarized as:

‘architecture that is simultaneously delicate and powerful, precise and fluid, ingenious but not overly or overtly clever’

This section below shows the jury citation of the winning architects, that provide description of the characteristics of architecture produced by SANAA and some famous examples of their brilliant works:

(taken from http://www.pritzkerprize.com/laureates/2010/jury.html)

For more than 15 years, architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa have worked together in their collaborative partnership, SANAA, where it is virtually impossible to untangle which individual is responsible for what aspect of a particular project. Each building is ultimately a work that comes from the union of their two minds. Together they have produced major commissions, such as the O-Museum in Nagano and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa (both in Japan), the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum (Ohio), De Kunstline Theater and Cultural Center (Almere, the Netherlands), the New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York, NY), and the recent Rolex Learning Center (Lausanne, Switzerland).

The buildings by Sejima and Nishizawa seem deceptively simple. The architects hold a vision of a building as a seamless whole, where the physical presence retreats and forms a sensuous background for people, objects, activities, and landscapes. They explore like few others the phenomenal properties of continuous space, lightness, transparency, and materiality to create a subtle synthesis. Sejima and Nishizawa’s architecture stands in direct contrast with the bombastic and rhetorical. Instead, they seek the essential qualities of architecture that result in a much-appreciated straightforwardness, economy of means, and restraint in their work.

This economy of means, however, does not become a simple reductive operation in the architects’ hands. Instead, it is an intense and rigorous investigation anchored in hard work and steely determination. It is a constant process of refinement, where each client’s program is fully investigated and multiple design possibilities are explored through numerous drawings and models that check every alternative. Ideas are considered and discarded, reconsidered and reworked until only the essential qualities of a design remain. The result is a deft union of structure and organization, of logical purpose and precise beauty.

It may be tempting to view Sejima and Nishizawa’s refined compositions of lightness and transparency as elitist or rarefied. Their aesthetic, however, is one of inclusion. Their approach is fresh, always offering new possibilities within the normal constraints of an architectural project as it systematically takes the next step. They use common, everyday materials while remaining attuned to the possibilities of contemporary technology; their understanding of space does not reproduce conventional models. They often opt for non-hierarchical spaces, or in their own words, the “equivalence of spaces,” creating unpretentious, democratic buildings according to the task and budget at hand.

 One example is the Almere project in the Netherlands, with its many simple classrooms and workshops, all presenting privileged views of the sea. Another example is the Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne, a space to be used by students day and night. Sejima and Nishizawa originally conceived it as a multi-story building, but, in the course of their deliberation, it became a single yet vast, flowing space. The building’s many spaces (library, restaurant, exhibition areas, offices, etc.) are differentiated not by walls but by undulations of a continuous floor, which rises and falls to accommodate the different uses, while allowing vistas across this internal “landscape for people.”

The relation of the building to its context is of utmost importance to Sejima and Nishizawa. They have called public buildings “mountains in the landscape,” believing that they should never lose the natural and meaningful connection with their surroundings. The New Museum in New York feels at home in the rough Bowery area of the city. Their glass-enclosed museums, such as the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio, blur the borders between inside and out, providing direct and changing views to the surroundings.

While Sejima and Nishizawa have not published theoretical treatises to date, they are cerebral architects, whose work is based on rigorous investigation and guided by strong and clearly defined concepts. The appointment of Kazuyo Sejima as the director of the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale is a tribute to this.

For architecture that is simultaneously delicate and powerful, precise and fluid, ingenious but not overly or overtly clever; for the creation of buildings that successfully interact with their contexts and the activities they contain, creating a sense of fullness and experiential richness; for a singular architectural language that springs from a collaborative process that is both unique and inspirational; for their notable completed buildings and the promise of new projects together, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa are the recipients of the 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

[All the pictures of the works by SANAA are from http://www.pritzkerprize.com/laureates/2010/works.html]

[All info in reference to the main website: http://www.pritzkerprize.com/index.html]

You may refer to that for more info. Who will be winning for 2011 then?

Race to Get Higher (Skyscrapers) Presentation

Yay..English module ended…

the end of semester is coming around the corner…

and I’m glad that the module of Communication Principles 111 ended, it is actually English language module..

Today is the presentation in a group of two students….

the topic me and my friend will be talking about is Race to Get Higher, which is all about skyscrapers…

The Power Point presentation will be put on the next post, in JPEG format, the presentation brief will be also included for reference purpose. Remember, copyrights reserved

Before we start the presentation, both of use felt nervous, my friend even went to washroom twice, and I started to feel uncomfortable. Anyway, it is always like this. During the presentation, everything started to settle down, and our presentation went on smoothly. Everybody is paying attention while listening, since this is a quite interesting topic.

As our presentation ended, we listened to the others one in the cold freezing room. Then, dismissed….then, take exam docket……..then, lunch……..then, return home…….then, write this post…haha

How ideas started in architecture?

What is the most important thing for an architect?

It is the idea, the thinking of the architects, and the brains play significant role here…an architect can’t have his or her brain empty with no idea for even a single day…no matter the same idea for a specific design or a different ones, which is way better.

Other skills might be important, like craftmanship, drawing, rendering, software usage, etc…but there are actually specialized professions for them; model makers, draftsmans, IT expert, etc…. but the most important, the key for an architect is still the idea and the creativity behind the idea…

As we are learning to become professional architect in the future, get our approach to famous buildings around the world and learn about the idea behind the design that turned from drawings to reality buildings.

Some examples below are of big and tall buildings which I loved the most, but currently I am reading a book entitled (Small Building, Extreme Idea) which is quite a good book on idea behind the designs too…no matter small or big structures, there must be an idea lies behind it that only architects will know, it is hardly to be understand by ordinary people, this is how special architects are!


Idea from surrounding:

– related to the city, skyline and its architecture that defines the city.

– related to the background, landscape, surrounding built environment or nature.

Example: Petronas Twin Towers.

– located in the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

– the main religion in the country is Islam, hence the design would be based on Islamic principles.

– KL has a variety of different types of architecture, but in putting KL forward, Cesar Pelli, the architect is designing the buildings based on modernism.

– he designed the buildings to be striking(of glass and steel)  to put it as the contrast and main landmark of not only the city but as well as the country, giving great impact towards the surrounding built environment.

– he designed the buildings that suit perfectly with the surrounding cityscape, skyline and the natural background.


– 452m in height, 88 floors, located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, connected by the world tallest skybridge 170m above ground, designed by Cesar Pelli, current world tallest twin buildings, first Asia’s world tallest buildings.


Idea in collaboration with other profession:

– cooperation with artists, engineers, urban planners, or others.

– works together to solve several related issues.

Example: Beijing National Stadium.

– foreign architects (Jacquez Herzog and Pierre de Meuron) came from Swiss to China for the design with new experience.

– they went for research on cultures, traditions, beliefs and history of Chinese people.

– they met with a famous Chinese artist, Ai WeiWei.

– the artist helped them to find a suitable form for the design of the stadium.

– the stadium is to be of complex structure as Chinese people love complex thing.

– then, they thought of bird nest, a suitable form for their design.

– Bird nests are found a lot on trees and can be seen easily especially during winter season when all the trees had no leaves at all!

– they got the idea as soon as they observe the bird nest, a very potential structure for their stadium, even birds can build it, why not people?


– main stadium for Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games, located in Olympic Green, Beijing, China, capacity of 80 000 seatings, architects: Jacquez Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, world largest steel construction.


Idea with traditional elements:

– basically related to the origins of place; culture, religion, tradition, history, or even ways of life.

– can be incorporated in traditional as well as modern designs.

Example: Taipei 101

– design of the body based on bamboo plants ( bamboo is seen as a plant that is harmonious with the wind based on Chinese beliefs)

– there are 8 boxes in the body, each with 8 floors (8 is a prosperous number based on Chinese beliefs too)

– there are structures of dragon head (Chinese legendary belief that it will helps protect the building) on each corner of the top of boxes that produces a sawtooth corner to ease the wind pressure on the building.

– there are structures of ancient Chinese coin on the center of the  four side at the top of the base of the building.

– there are structures of wind figure based on Chinese tradition on the center of each facade on the top of each boxes.

– as you viewed the building from above, it is seen as a combination of square and circle (In Chinese belief, these two shapes stay harmonious and balanced together; circle represents the sky while square represents the earth).

– the great thing is that so many traditional elements are incorporated into the modern-looking building of Taipei 101..great..


– 509m in height, 101 floors, located in Taipei, Taiwan, designed by C.Y.Lee and Partners, current world tallest completed building to top of spire (architectural detail).


Idea with the form:

– Main point in design of specific structure is within its form.

– Playing of form through transformation or even a simple form projected from plan to create an elegant design.

Example: Shanghai World Financial Center

– the plan is a square shape area.

– basic form is a square prism.

– it is then intersected by two swiping arch to form a vertically evolving six-sided shape in plan.

– then, it tapers off into a single diagonal line on the apex of the building.

– a trapezoidal aperture is added to allow wind to pass through, to enhance the design of the building and to give an exciting  feeling to visitors at the  world highest observation deck (474m) to enjoy the view with a feeling of floating on air.


– 492m in height, 101 floors, located in Shanghai, China, designed by Kohn Pederson Fox, world tallest completed building to top of roof and highest occupied floor, world highest observation deck (474m).


Idea with extreme actions:

– with the aid of technology and modern engineering, any extreme actions can be done on a design of specific structure.

– give people a “OMG” feeling when looking at the specific structure.

– actions on design like rotating, twisting or even hanging are now made possible.

Example: CCTV Headquarters Tower.

– two separate towers sliding towards the central point but did not met together directly.

– The new CCTV building is not a traditional structure, but in the form of a three-dimensional continuous cranked loop formed by a 9-storey podium joining two 50-storey high leaning towers, which are linked at the top via a 13-storey cantilevered “overhang” structure at 36 storeys above the ground. The irregular grid on the building’s facades is an expression of the forces travelling throughout its structure.


– 234m, 50 floors, designed by Rem Koolhaas, located in Beijing, China, great structural challenge especially on its location at the seismic zone.


There are many other prominent examples and many other ideas, there you have to check it out yourself, you may share your brilliant ideas or thoughts with me as well, or you may want to ask some questions, i would be very grateful to hear your response too..very simple, just leave a comment, and I wil lbe surely replying to ur questions….