Page 1

Akmal Azhar Unit 22 Research Methods Study Thesis BENVGA05

The primary objective of the paper is to study the research methodology extracted from two text surrounding different practises of architectural knowledge. The first text lies in housing category while the second one is purely based on architectural theory. The information from the text are synthesised separately in a different chapter but being held together in the general conclusion towards the end of the discussion. The structure of the essay is constructed from personal arguments which were generated by the contents of the text. The research methods used by the author are being indirectly referred to throughout the essay as supporting points to support the main arguments. 0  

Text 1: Modernisation of the Vernacular Malay House in Kampong Bharu, Kuala Lumpur. The first text is an empirical observation of more than hundred prevailing samples based on three particular architectural variables; roof, wall and pillars. These variables are introduced visibly since the beginning of the research process1. The research is conducted based on the point of view of a local author who has fair knowledge and is familiar with the subject of study. The general structure of the research is organised systematically by following a rigorous routine and order which closely resembles the typical scientific research in other fields of knowledge. The authors have outlined the process involved when collecting the data in the chapter entitled ‘Scope and Methodology of the Study’2. The data is collected qualitatively and frequently refers to secondary resources of the architectural style of a Vernacular Malay House. Finally, the authors shortlists the findings into four different categories in the fourth chapter entitled ‘The Typologies of Vernacular Malay House’3. There is one major issue that is found to be influencing the subject of research and one main argument that could be made from that is; ‘Modernisation is an Environmental Threat for Vernacular Architecture’. The short-terms observation of the research is completed merely on the physical appearance of the subject and in order to truly understand the argument, it is believed that it is necessary to understand the subject internally too.

‘Modernisation is an Environmental Threat for Vernacular Architecture’. Vernacular architecture has been developed periodically and has undergone multiple evolutions before reaching its current form. The architectural elements such as the roof, wall, pillars and all other members bear a different purpose but with one aim; to provide optimum comfort for the occupants within its context. However, the incoming of modernity consequently causing the vernacular architecture to be neglected and jeopardises its survival in the future as the authors evidently state ‘they are constantly deteriorating and vanishing…’4. The main aspect that is alleged to be enormously affected by modernity is the environmental feature of the house. The authors have investigated various housing typologies based on three variables which are the roof, wall and pillars. These variables are chosen due to their dominant character in the sense of practicality and aesthetically to the house. The variables are later broken down into more specific types based on the vernacular order which are discussed in the analysis chapter of the paper5. Each of the selected variables have undergone different impact from modernity. After the data are collected from the samples, the correlation between each of the selected variables are then intersected in order to obtain accurate configurations as depicted in the diagram6. This method is suitable to a study that using physical observation as a basis because it illustrates and summarises the output in a clear way for the authors to work on and more accessible for the reader to comprehend.                                                             1

S R Ju, S. Omar and Y E Ko, 'Modernization of the Vernacular Malay House in Kampong Bharu, Kuala  Lumpur', Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering, May 2012, Vol 11, no 1: 95  2  ibid: 96  3  ibid: 100  4  ibid: 96  5  ibid: 97  6  ibid: 100 


The massive effect of the modernisation can be seen in one of the typologies in the findings which is the Colonial Vernacular House categorised as Typology 37. The ground floor space in this specific typology is transformed into an enclosed space to extend the footprint and provide more protection for the occupants. Nonetheless, this is a completely misguiding principle of a vernacular house which originally proposes to leave the ground floor area open to allow air to pass underneath it thus creating underfloor cooling effect. This environmental implication influenced by modernity is evidently a missing aspect of this research paper. Another typology that is seen impended to the vernacular typology is the Modern Vernacular House coined as Typology 48. In that particular case, one of the controlled variables of the research, the pillars, have been substituted by continuous concrete pillars. This decision has completely switched the multipurpose ground floor space into an unusable negative space. Beforehand, the space was used as a covered area for casual activities such as relaxing, chatting or meeting as well as storage to store harvest or goods. However, the authors have decided not to discuss this issue directly in the paper. The Vernacular Malay House is personally associated with the ethnic Malay and holds many reflections of their culture. Apart from the aforementioned environmental condition, the architecture is conceived to be affected culturally as well. There is one obvious repercussion from the research but has not been discussed farther by the authors; the demolition or decreasing proportions of the serambi or anjung can be witnessed in both Figure 10 and Figure 119. This will result in an adverse cultural impact for the occupant immediately after it discourages the social activity within the house. It is predominantly because of the purpose of the space which is to provide a reception area to entertain the visitor as well as a threshold between outside to the inside boundary of the house. To sum up the argument, the vernacular house in its archetypal form is the definite solution to the climate of the country. Any modern alteration or addition should be carefully studied to preserve the value of the vernacular architecture. A decent strategy to the issue is to sustain the house performance according to its vernacular standard but addition of acceptable modern elements could be introduced in other aspects so the harmony integration of both modern and vernacular could be achieved.


S R Ju, S. Omar and Y E Ko, 'Modernization of the Vernacular Malay House in Kampong Bharu, Kuala  Lumpur', Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering, May 2012, Vol 11, no 1: 101  8  ibid: 101  9  ibid: 101 


Text 2: Critical Architecture in a Geopolitical World, Peter Eisenmann. The second text is a theoretical text written by a well-known architect and educator discussing particular architectural ideology claimed to be critical architecture. The text itself could be generally understood as a product of individual criticism towards the absence or diminishing situation of criticality in critical architecture in several parts of the world particularly in the newly emerging countries in the East. In Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, the idea of a critical architecture has little relevance…10. Overall, the research was done mostly through secondary research based on various references such as case studies, political ideologies, and architectural period. The association of each references to architecture clearly hint that the target reader for the research are majority would be among the people in the architectural field. One of the first methods used for this research is a case study based on different geographical context to correspond to the geopolitical ideology11 coined by the author. He took several newly developing south East Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong and later analysed the scenario of the politics of location12 of each of them and its relationship to critical architecture. Another variable that is being tested towards the ideology is the economical factor. Critical needs capital. It is one of the earliest mentioned factor in the text because capital is considered as one of the most critical factor for the ideology. Every ideology relies on funding to be developed. The inadequacy of aforesaid factor in the newly emerging nations only restrains the architectural level to become more critical and always resulting to an under-critique work. As the author stated ‘since western capital finds itself unable to continue to provide for the economic...’13. Apart from the economical factor, other variables that are being referred to are the different architectural periods to contextualise the critical architecture ideology such as the Avant-garde architecture style14 and International architecture15. The author further relates the research to different political ideology that influences the critical architecture such as the Western class struggle16 and colonialism17. Political ideology is as important as other variables because it is dealing and controlling the domestic issue of a country and without such connection and involvement, the critical architecture would not come into realisation. The main methodology used in the study which is the case studies of the architecture in the newly developing nation further stimulate to main argument; ‘The Role of Critical Architecture in Shaping Architectural Identity’.


Peter Eisenman, 'Critical Architecture in a Geopolitical World' (1995), Architecture Beyond Architecture,  Cynthia C. Davidson, and Ismail Serageldin, eds. London: Academy Editions: 78  11  ibid: 78  12  ibid: 78  13  ibid: 78  14  ibid: 79  15  ibid: 81  16  ibid: 78  17  ibid: 78 


The Role of Critical Architecture in Shaping Architectural Identity. Self-reflexivity18 is an important attitude in a country’s development and could contribute to its distinct architectural identity. It could be portrayed visually using the medium of architecture. The identity and identification becomes an important issue for a new developing nation in order to have a decent prospective to the world. One way to define an architectural identity is by looking back to the early architecture. The elements from the vernacular architecture should be implemented to construct architecture in a country because it is an actual work of critique from the society towards the context particularly to the environmental condition. In the context of Malaysia, the example could be the Vernacular Malay House. This example could further lead to a new variant of critical architecture that is ‘critical vernacular architecture’ and should be explored in a further research. Another research method that is being applied to the study is by referencing to a particular period of history. This is when critical architecture comes to a critical turning point which happens during the Modern period19. Modern era is directly affecting the critical architecture and architectural identity subsequently through rapid production and consumption activities as stated by the author ‘today they have lost their critical content…’20. An important event that has happened in Modern period that later affecting the production of identity, is International style. The International style21 is a global phenomenon in the architectural vocabulary and later becomes a universal architectural language everywhere. However due to its homogenous language, it has only created the barrier for critical architecture to shape the identity. The homogeneity also disconnects the building from the architectural context which evidently varies according to the geopolitical location of an area. Architecture of accommodation22 is an opposite result to the critical architecture. It only weakens the concept of critical architecture and affects architectural identity due to its passiveness. The author also uses this point to question and criticise the unengaging role played by the society towards architecture. They only respond informally and do not make an effort to appreciate and understand the critical architecture critically. This bad practise proves to be a weak point that should be improved to increase awareness of the society. ‘The critic Walter Benjamin said that the perception of architecture for most people is a casual phenomenon…’23. In comparison, critical is considered as a more active option towards architecture. In order to create an architectural identity, the right attitude is absolutely required. The author sees this as an undesirable result of the whole study. It is only assumed as an avoiding act from implementing the ideology to the architecture.


Peter Eisenman, 'Critical Architecture in a Geopolitical World' (1995), Architecture Beyond Architecture,  Cynthia C. Davidson, and Ismail Serageldin, eds. London: Academy Editions: 79  19  ibid: 80  20  ibid: 80  21  ibid: 81  22  ibid: 79  23  ibid: 79 


As a consequence of the negative and unavoidable results of the critical architecture to the built environment, an external input is needed to reinforce back the ideology. Media24 is the perfect solution as it is the medium of communication and makes the ideology more accessible to enlighten the society. The presence of media is seen as a catalyst to inform the critical architecture. Nevertheless, this approach would be a bit challenging to be applied in the area of case studies because of the young age of the industry in the chosen countries in south East Asia. The author uses media as the example to support the research because of the impact that the media could give to the society. However he does not clearly mentions the type of media, but the reader could assume it to be the typical one such as architectural manifestoes and other written works. Another factor that discourages the critical architecture is the absence of class struggles25. The Eastern society operated in a different system compared with the West and the class system is almost not visible in the studied cases. The boundaries between classes is unclear and in a country like Indonesia, the gap between poor and rich is very wide which results in completely isolated and disconnected communities, which inhibit the class struggles to happen. There is no intermediate class between the two groups. These contrasting ways of living help explain the reasons for non-existence of neither critical architecture nor the architectural identity in such parts of the world. The author took an example from a significant event that happens in the history to demonstrate the society’s influence towards architecture. In conclusion, critical architecture requires evolution and revolution. In more elaborate terms, evolution should begin to revisit the purpose media. Running in parallel to that, revolution of the perception of society should also start to rise. The deficiency of enabling mechanism26 offers no motivation for the architecture in such countries to achieve the sufficient level of critical architecture. Once the adequate amount of criticality is reached, the identity will indirectly start to emerge. The conclusion is evident in the existing example of Menara Mesiniaga27, designed by the architect Ken Yeang and built in one of the studied areas, Malaysia. In this building, Yeang critically researched few factors that are affecting architecture, particularly the environment which later helps to formulate a distinct national identity and a new typology of high-rise building. The case study is best to show that both aspects, critical architecture and architectural identity are crucial for a newly emerging nation and should work symbiotically as well as run in parallel in the same period of time.


Peter Eisenman, 'Critical Architecture in a Geopolitical World' (1995), Architecture Beyond Architecture,  Cynthia C. Davidson, and Ismail Serageldin, eds. London: Academy Editions: 81  25  ibid: 79  26  ibid: 79  27  ibid: 80 


General Conclusion: Vernacular Typology, Critical Ideology. Overall, although both texts are evaluated separately, yet there is an interesting overlapping argument. For example, in the new typology derived from the study of Vernacular Malay House, the typology 3 and 4 are indeed results of critical ideology towards architecture. They are two products produced when more external inputs and social critiques are implemented into the design. Unfortunately, in this case, the outcome proves to be undesirable since it is affecting the environmental performance of the architecture. This new ideology should be adopted to suit the sensitive framework of the Vernacular Malay House. It cannot be denied that the vernacular architecture needs criticality so as to sustain its survival in the near future. The amalgamation of critical ideology and vernacular typology will create a new architectural framework that could be a new model of architecture everywhere, particularly the newly emerging countries. Both results are closely related to each other despite the fact that they originate from completely different groups of architectural knowledge. These evidently demonstrate how the different types of research methods could integrate and unify different arguments, consequently, inventing a new and original architectural knowledge.


Bibliography 1. S R Ju, S. Omar and Y E Ko, 'Modernization of the Vernacular Malay House in Kampong Bharu, Kuala Lumpur', Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering, May 2012, Vol 11, no 1: 95-102 2. Peter Eisenman, 'Critical Architecture in a Geopolitical World' (1995), Architecture Beyond Architecture, Cynthia C. Davidson, and Ismail Serageldin, eds. London: Academy Editions. 


Research Methods Essay  

Writing exercise for thesis The Bartlett UCL