Tessellar Blog

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tessellation Planning for Arab Lands #1

Warning! This post needs a bit of patience!



Movie posted at Screencast.com


You might already know that I’m experimenting with flash movies – the banner for Nong Chik Heights in the last post was the first output.

Now I’ve created this movie which started as a powerpoint presentation with animation and video clips already embedded. I then added narrated to it.

Next I used “Camtasia 5” (which you can download for a free trial). I recorded the powerpoint on screen using settings suitable for a blog with the small screen and table of contents that you can see here.

The result is a nifty 15 MB file (down from 132 MB). Still, you need time to download this. With a 1 Mbs broadband connection, it took me:

  • to get the thumbnail - 1 minute
  • to download about half before I started watching the movie - 17 minutes
  • I then watched the movie smoothly play before it stalled after - 12 minutes
  • I stopped the movie until it got fully loaded after - 8 minutes
  • .....to watch the final - 4 minutes

This is still much too slow; better perhaps to put it all up as webpages!

I wonder...?

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Project Website

Flash movies are fun to make at Toufee.com

Flash banner

Friends and regular readers must forgive me for this piece of bling - its a flash banner that I've created thanks to toufee.com. At least its cheaper than bling on buildings (often masquerading as high architecture)!

Again, if you've noticed that my posts have been less frequent... well I've been busy! Have a look-in at the Nong Chik Heights website...

I hope you enjoy the upbeat traditional Malay Music. Its "Cik Minah Jando Kayo" which translate roughly to "Miss Minah wealthy widow" from a local slang.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Nicobar Islands

Among the first victims of the tsunami of the 26th December, 2004 were the aboriginies of Nicobar Islands, located less than 100 miles (150 km) north of the epicentre. The official death count was 4500 people, but other estimates are much higher.


From The Nicobar Islands: Linking Past and Future by Philipp Steger


the Nicobar Islands comprise 19 islands in the Bay of Bengal and are inhabited by tribal people of Austronesian descent. This means that they are more closely related to the Malays and Indonesians rather than Indians. The various tribes each have different names but outsiders call them Nicobarese. The people there call themselves "Holchu", which means friends.


From www.andaman.org

The typical village consist of round huts with dome roofs clustered around a community centre called “elpanam” where feasts and meetings are held. The houses are on stilts. Access is via ladders and these are brought into the houses at night.


"On the Nicobar Islands, men and women have approximate equal status. The women have a lot to do with their own choice of husbands, and after marriage they are free to live with either of the couples parents. The Nicobarese men value the women economically because they not only take care of household duties, but also tend to the plantations and gardens”.


From www.andaman.org

“Most of the people of the islands are of the Christian religion, which was taught to them by a man named John Richardson who translated the New Testament into Nicobarese. Besides Christianity, other Nicobarese follow the traditional religion of the islands, which is animistic in nature. They believe in spirits, ghosts, and the existence of the soul. A person becomes a ghost after their death when their soul leaves their body and the ghosts of all the Nicobarese are all around the islands. They believe that the spirits are responsible for all of the occurrences on the island, Shaman are called upon to handle to bad spirits”.



“The Nicobarese have a traditionally horticultural economy, they base their monetary existence on the growing of coconuts, pandanus, areca palms, bananas, mangoes, and other fruits. They also hunt, fish, raise pigs, make pottery, and make canoes”.


From www.andaman.org



References


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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wildlife in The City

I live right at the edge of Kuala Lumpur, a bustling fast-growing city. Yet waking up on lazy Sunday mornings, I might look out of my bedroom and sometimes would be rewarded with a view of a squirrel or two nervously scurrying about under a mango tree just outside. One of the joys of life!


From www.ism.ac.jp

But actually they are not squirrels. An article last Sunday by Mustaffa Babjee in the New Sunday Times put me right. These animals that we call “tupai” in Malay, that have so well adapted to urban life in Kuala Lumpur, are in fact tree shrews. The “tupaia glis” “can be distinguished from the squirrel by its long pointed snout”. They are indigenous to South East Asia. The ones that come around my home look rather thin and scraggy, but I’ve seen chubby ones in a garden next to an oil palm plantation. Perhaps living in the city is not easy for them, but they seem to thrive nevertheless.


From New Sunday Times

“The shrew is a playful little creature which can be fun to watch as it crawl-hops along the top of concrete fence, freezes to stare at you with its relatively big eyes, postures on its haunches with the forelegs held high, as it munches on a fig or small grasshopper”.

With the tessellation idea of the “honeycomb” layout, houses are clustered around courtyards which have small green areas in the middle. These gardens may not be big as far as parks go, but they are big enough to accommodate even the tallest, wide-canopied trees that can be found in Malaysia.



The prospect of having pocket parks with trees that bear fruits and berries in front of every house opened up the possibility of introducing some species of wildlife to the neighbourhood. Get the food-chain set up, perhaps artificially augmented, then more animals like the “tupai” can happily live there.

Wanted – landscape architects for flora and fauna!



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Monday, January 21, 2008

Tessellation Planning for Arab Lands (Preview)

I'm sorry that my posts are less frequent this year. But I haven't been idle!

This is a preview of a video that I will post soon. It is based on a preliminary proposal to a developer for a projevt in Oman.



It is still early days; the ideas are still tentative. But I'm working on the idea that dwellings and human settlements all round the world are similar in some respects and different in others. There is always a tension between the two - the universal and the particular.

There are not many things more universal than geometry, and what I'm doing is developing an alternative not only to the rectilinear grid, but also to the simulation of "organic" forms.

For a real project, a more thorough understanding of local culture, climate and practices, as well as meaningful local involvement would be required.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Reissue: Quadruple Houses in France

Mulhouse was a free city until 1798 when it became part of France. It was already celebrated for the manufacture of printed cotton goods, and subsequently became a leading centre of the textile and engineering industries.




It also became a pioneer of the French concept of the "Cite Ouvriere" or "Worker’s City". This originated in 1853 when a company was formed to solve the acute lack of decent and hygienic housing. The scion of the textile industry, Jean Dollfus, gave financial backing. In particular, the company came up with a plan whereby the workers could own their own homes - a predecessor of the modern mortgage home loan.



The architect, Emile Muller, built houses based on models from other European countries, including, most interestingly, cluster houses like those in Shrewsbury and Derbyshire, England introduced by Clarles Bage. Models of these workers' houses in Mulhouse were presented during the World Fair of Paris in 1867.



By 1870 the company had built 3000 houses.



References:
Reinventer l'habitat Intermediaire(pdf)3.2 MB
Cite Manifeste
Cite Ouvriere
Thanks to Jean Piret who pointed out some broken links that I hope are now OK!


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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nong Chik Heights Project # 2

The hillside Honeycomb project in Johor Bahru is moving along fast.


Watch on YouTube

This video is based on a presentation given about 6 weeks ago.



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Friday, January 11, 2008

The Toda Mund


From Anthony Walker

The British representative of Coimbatore in the 1820’s, liked the cool climate of the highlands of Nilgiri Hills and bought land from the local inhabitants, often square kilometers of land for the price of a meal! In particular, he bought land from the Toda tribe for the princely sum of one rupee, and on this land was built Ootacamund, which is a popular hill station (in what is now Tamil Nadu) until today.


A Toda Village, from Anthony R. Walker

The Toda people have inhabited the highest parts of Nilgris mountains in Tamil Nadu for a very long time, co-existing with other communities in a loose caste-based relationship. They subsisted on cattle-herding and dairy farming,treating their buffaloes as sacred. The Todas numbered only 700 to 900 in the last century.


A Toda mund, 1869, Samuel Bourne, from Wikimedia

They live in settlements of 3 to 7 huts, or ‘munds’, barrelled-shaped A-frames 3m high 5.5 long 2.7m wide. Bamboo frames sticking out othe ground are lashed together with rattan and thatch with dried grass. At thefront and back are stones, usually, granite. The stones are decorated, with a tiny meter square entrnce to protect against wild animals.




Building a Toda Mund, from Wikimedia


References:


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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Round vs Rectangular Houses

I am myself surprised that there are so many examples of round traditional houses. Round houses will continue to provide a lot of material for this blog. Yet there are few modern examples of circular houses: Buck Fuller’s Dymaxion is a case in point: it is marvel of fantastic ideas, all in one house, but one of its failures is that it just half-tackles the issue fitting in more rooms; and then, it doesn’t try to answer at all how these houses assemble together to form neighbourhoods, towns and cities.


Twin Dymaxion


This is the great advantage of rectangular houses and rectilinear grids: rectangular houses are easily partitioned into smaller rectangular rooms; the house can grow by attaching new rectangular rooms to the existing structures; two rectangular houses can be built next to each other in a regular arrangement. This is the theory as to why the pre-agricultural Natufian civilization, which probably built the world's first houses, moved from circular to rectangular houses.

Urbanization, having high numbers of people living next to each other, meant individuals had to accept greater limits to their freedoms.

When an authoritarian power could decide that a town would have a regular layout, the orderly form of the rectilinear grid proved itself not only amenable to central planning , it was also convenient to the individual householders. This was something they could live with.

In the Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley, the cities were not all laid out in a perfect orthogonal layout. They were not all centrally planned; they have been described as semi-grids. Semi-grids perhaps evolved as a matter of a convenience, where a series of rectangular houses are added on, one by one, along a path. Perhaps Mohenjo Daro’s grid was not imposed by a dictator!


Mohenjo Daro


There have been rulers who imagined and then built for themselves round cities. The structure at the centre of the circle is given prominence. But the houses themselves are not round. In the Round City of Baghdad they were rows of buildings that form a circumference of the circle. Such buildings are inflexible - not easy to plan and build. In Circleville in Ohio, US, the citizens found the shape a nuisance and increasingly ignored it as the town grew.


Round City of Baghdad


In Denmark near Copenhagen is an interesting example of a circular neighbourhood. No round houses here, and furthermore, the neighbourhoods don’t relate to each other in a circular geometry. Not much of an improvement from the Yanomamo.


Brondby, Copenhagen



The Round Yanomamo Communal House


Round houses in a round neighbourhood in a round city in a round planet. This fanciful idea does not work!

But happily, being impractical does not make them less interesting...

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Old Wooden Shophouses in Sungei Petani


Semeling

What did the first shop houses look like? Travelling to the Sungei Bujang Archaelogical Museum, located in the rural countryside, I took some pictures of simple shop houses in two small towns – Semeling, then Tanjong Dawai on the coast.


Tanjung Dawai

The early shop houses were probably single storey shop houses with large overhanging roofs over a walkway. They would have had attap roofs, but were later superceded by zinc.


Tanjung Dawai

There are also examples of two storey shop timber houses. These were a fire risk and have been discouraged by by-laws since the 19th Century. But you can still find them in out of the way small towns.


Tanjung Dawai

There is also an example of small-town Chinese fishermen terrace houses.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The First Houses

These can be found among the pre-agricultural villages of the Near East.


Natufian Sites of the Near East

These houses were part of the first villages, initially only ‘base camps’ for nomads who were making the transition to a more sedentary life. The Natufian culture ( named after a site at Wadi-al Natuf in Israel) started 15,500 to 12,500 BC in an area in Jordan, then extended to cover the Levant, from Euphrates to Sinai between 12,500 to 10,000 BC.

These were the earliest evidence of sedentary communities: pre-agicultural hunters, gatherers and “harvesters of cereals”.


Round Houses in Ain Mallaha

The houses grouped together in clusters of about six , in villages covering about 2,000 square meters. They were partially built into the ground with sides supported by stone walls. The homes had one or two hearths and leave traces of concentric circle of posts, and signs of substantial construction.


Reconstruction of a Semi - Round House in Ain Mallaha

Fine examples of Natufian houses were uncovered in, among others, Ain Mallaha. Every base camp suggests the rebuilding of houses, indicating temporary abandonment of the settlement. Domestic structures were about 3 to 6 m in diameter, with either rounded or squarish fireplaces. A rare case is the semicircular housein Ain Mallaha which is 9 m in diameter, where a series of post holes was preserved.

This was followed by the Khimian Phase around 9,500BC, named after the Khiam site west of the northern end of the Dead Sea. Here the round houses came out of the ground and clay appears to have started to be used as building material.

The next step in the evolution of houses occurred in Mureybetian culture that came about 9500BC, named after the site at Tel Mureybet near the Euphrates in Syria. Here the first rectangular constructions known in the Near East, or in the world first appear (though some houses have rounded corners).

Houses and stores were built out of chalk blocks chipped into cigar shapes and bonded with mortar. The houses are more sophisticated with special raised sleeping spaces, seperate hearths and storage areas. They had flat mud roofs supported by joists.
Between the houses were communal open spaces with several large fire-pits – pebbles stored the heat from the fire lit on its surface but retained the heat and stored it over a longer period. This was where communal cooking done.

The great innovation of the Natufian, Khimian and Mureybetian cultures was sedentary life sustained by the old hunter-gatherer practices, as well as the harvesting of wild cereals. Nomads and hunter-gatherers control their population by weaning the number of children by not weaning them for two years to limit the size of the group which is continually o the move; sedentism allowed the intervals between births to be reduced. The people then went on to unselfconciously ‘selected’ wild cereals which they deemed more suitable.

From Circular to Rectangular Homes

The evolution of the circular houses into rectangular ones with rectangular rooms appear to be a response to to the consequences of sedentary life and farming. There was now more need for storage space , for larger families. There was also greater need to defend their villages now they had more material possessions to protect. Rectangular houses allowed more people to be gathered into small spaces: box-shaped rooms and houses fit together more efficiently, allow more interior rooms, and makes use of more shared walls.

References

  • Peter Watson, “Ideas: a History of Thought and Invention from Fire to Freud”, 2005

Images

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