Thursday, February 14, 2008

A small town development in Maran

Maran is a small town on the old trunk road from Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan on the east coast of peninsula Malaysia. Using the new expressway, its about two and a half hours from KL, and 45 minutes from Kuantan. It’s the district administrative centre for the district which bears the same name. I was very enthusiastic about this project because it was an opportunity to plan a new neighbourhood with an urban character. This proposal is for the development of of 40 acres of land just adjacent to the existing town. The houses are right next to shops and within walking distance of offices and schools.

Movie of Small Town Development

I’ve adopted a “Mosaic” layout - this uses a tessellation pattern based on the rectangle rather than the hexagon. Tessellation planning here produces the normal quadruplex (quarter-detached) and also the “Corner Quarter-Detached House”. Some of the quadruplexes are then turned into “Garden Townhouses”.

The Mosaic tessellation

The density is quite high: nearly 20 units per acre compared to the normal 12 to 14 units per acre for normal terrace houses. This high density was achieved by introducing the “Garden Townhouse” building type.

Movie of Garden Townhouse

The single-storey terrace house had been the most common building type for developers building in rural small towns. But as the cost of building land has escalated, this type of houses have become more expensive and has left the demand for houses priced less than RM100,000 largely unmet. However, potential housebuyers here, unlike those in urban areas, are not quite ready to accept living in apartments. This is where the “garden townhouse” comes in; an apartment on the first floor sits on another one on the ground floor, but they both have their own access, car porch and little garden. I would expect them to be priced about 10% less than single storey terrace houses.

These townhouses are mixed in with quadruplex houses or, as I call them here – “Quarter-detached Houses”. In particular, have a look at the “corner quadruplex”: four units are linked together , but they are each accessed from different cu-de-sacs. Approaching one of these houses, it looks like a detached houses, because you can’t see any of its neighbours.

Movie of Corner Quadruplex

The planning and design of this new neighbourhood promotes high-density, mixes house-types, affordability categories, and commercial and residential land-use. But its not “New Urbanism” . I rather like like cul-de-sacs: they can provide a sense of privacy, community and security for people living right next to ‘downtown’. New-urbanists instintively hate them! But I think what they really hate are the long, low-density, monotonous dead-ends that are quite common in their suburbs.

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