Seeking Guidance
Architecture as Cultural Production
Hi all,

I am required to designing a project of high density multi-level housing in Malaysia, and initially a few ideas came into my mind,

1. Housing design should focus on individuality rather than a collective community as in every individual posses own distinctive culture.

2. In history, people built their house with climate, topography and their culture in mind, but now, people in Malaysia used to personalize, modify or even renovates their house which is provided by architects. Vast modification in multi-level housing is usually not permitted.

3. I realize that housing design should be culturally grounded.

So initially, I came out with an idea where each user has opportunity to modify their spaces to suit their own needs, but the question is,
how can I get to know the culture of the users, when they are individually different?

If it is impossible to know all of it, I would think that the design should rather focus on,
How to foster creativity of users in dealing with their own environment?
How to give a variety of options to the users in creating diversity of spaces in order to suit the needs of the users?

What do you think?
J Lim
Architecture as Cultural Production
Dear J Lim, Your topic reminds me of my thoughts on the conflict between the anonymousnes, featurelessness and characterlessness nature, of mass-produced housing and the feeling and need for some degree of individual variation and difference.

My resolution of this conflict was to propose that such housing could and should have a mass-produced CORE of essential service spaces for water,waste and power and the design and build of the remaining spaces left to the needs of the individual.

How one achieves such a resolution is by having the CORE spaces occupy some but not all of the available site, so that the CORE build sits within a plot of land that can be built upon as needed by the individual owner / occupier. Footnote: There was a pilot scheme some years ago done in Pakistan and reported in the journal "Mimar".

The problem with any design of mass-housing is that there is the conflict between between using universally repeating features and designs to keep down the cost of the project and at the same time having a degree or range of design variability in elements, so that the overall design does not look as though made by a mindless robot. So I would suggest you look at the work of the Belgian architect Lucian Kroll.
Frank John Snelling


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