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Figure Ground

In the time of disruptions, this personal research project aims to reflect on spatial experiences of laneways in Melbourne.

Urban Design Research

2020 Time of COVID

What makes laneways special

There was a number of reasons behind the launch of this research.
Firstly, the impacts of COVID-19 exposed the bare appearance of Melbourne as people stayed at home, cafes, restaurants and many other businesses were closed. This has become an opportunity to give attention to the shape of the city.
While the architectural discourse of today often focuses on buildings, I found it crucial to understand the qualities of spaces between buildings in a city, as those are what makes the city unique. As the appearance of cities is increasingly becoming homogeneous with high rise modern-looking buildings, how laneways are treated reveals what makes space people-centred.
Melbourne has been known for the laneways that provide people with a better quality of life, especially after the design intervention proposed by Gehl Architects (2004-). However, not all laneways are beautiful and popular; this research hopes to dissect familiar (and some unfamiliar) laneways to highlight the ideas worth discussing. As an architecture student, I do not wish to state what is right or wrong. Instead, I hope viewers acquire a different point of view on the city they live in and think what makes their cities special.

Comfort in the Urban Space

Social Life of Small Urban Spaces by William H. Whyte

Social Life of Small Urban Spaces analyses human behaviours in urbanscapes based on on-site observations. Whyte defines seven essential factors of the urban space: Sittable Space, Street, Sun, Food, Water, Trees, and Triangulation. Presence of these elements contributes to creating a sense of comfort, inviting people to spend time in that particular space. 
 
I found it particularly interesting that these elements set atmospheres or conditions, but do not force people to utilise space in a certain way. While accommodating for the essential programmes such as access to buildings and circulation, combinations of them appeal to our human perception on comfort in the space. They encourage us to determine how we would like to spend time there. The users' agency could strengthen the meaning and existence of public space.
 
Whyte demonstrates how these elements in the public space blur the boundary between buildings and streets. When the components are more effectively integrated into the cityscape, public space is better activated with human comfort at its centre. 
 
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Still from the film: Paley Park
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Blurring the Programmes

Circulation + Primary Function

Concept of the blurred relationship between circulation and occupied space in a city can also be applied to a much smaller scale.

One of the key aspects of the project called 3 x 3 x 3 Library was the interface between the public circulation and the semi-private library. 

The outcome demonstrates how the curved staircase connecting two fixed entry/exit points offers different perceptions and interactions with other users. 
Furthermore, the circulation through space also invites visitors to explore bookshelves as they walk through, encouraging them to engage with space's primary function.
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