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1. INTRODUCTION The urban streets in Asia can vary in different aspects such as the built environment and the patterns of activity from the people living in the very city itself. Many people simply think of architecture as a building with form and spaces, while failing to see the importance of the spaces in between buildings, as emphasized in the book ‘Life between buildings’ (Ghel, 2011). The street in Joseph Rykwert's phrase is human movement institutionalized. An individual may clear or mark out a path in a wilderness, but unless he is followed by others, his path never becomes a road or street, because the road and street are social institutions and it is their acceptance by the community that gives them the name and function. Street as an institution is an equally critical subject beyond its architectural identity. Because every street has an economic function and social significance (Rykwert, 1991). Streets can be differentiated from one another by the unique form from a combination of the built environment and the human pattern which affects the intensity of contact points. In this comparison essay, an analysis will be conducted based on two well-known street areas in urban settings, located in two different Asian countries: 1. Cat street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong 2. Various streets in South Klang, Malaysia Before getting into a deeper understanding of both streets through analysis, a brief introduction to both streets is necessary.




(Figure 1.1.1 Map of Site in Hongkong)

The Upper Lascar Row or Cat street (sometimes also referred to as Cat Alley) is around a 200-meter long road parallel to Hollywood Road where one can find more affordable junk-store knick-knacks and Chinese Communist propaganda. Originally, the area around Cat street was a run-down residential area. Cat Street got its nickname during the old times where some antique stores on Upper Lascar Row sold the stolen items of thieves. Since the Hong Kong locals called the thieves ‘rats’, gradually the buyers who purchased those stolen items were referred to as ‘cats’. After the World War II, Cat street developed into a street selling second-hand articles and became somehow one of Hong Kong’s hub for antiques and curios. Cat street is situated between large high-rise buildings used mainly as residentials for the locals. Due to this, Cat street shows a unique and diverse mix of locals and tourists. Overall, Cat street personifies a rich urban mix of residential and retail environment that can be seen throughout Hong Kong due to the lack of space they have. Naturally, the frequent visitors of this street are mostly tourists, but locals can be seen there going to eat or up above where they live.

(Figure 1.1.2. Row of antique shops)

(Figure 1.1.3. Large residential buildings above cat street)




(Figure 1.2.1 Map of Site in South Klang)

Various streets make up south Klang which includes Jalan Besar, Jalan Raya Timur, Jalan Stesen 1 and Jalan Tengku Diaudin. The river of Klang played a huge role in the development of Klang where it was a strategic location for a port and tin mining activity. The KTM, located in the site, was built to link main towns in the tin mining areas to coastal areas and foreign workers were brought in. As development started to occur, South Klang became a trade centre, attracting people and turning it into a commercialized area. A Chinese businessman built pre-war shophouses with an eclectic style showcasing beautiful ornamentation that has its historical value until today. However, an economic depression happened, and people started to move out to other cities leaving South Klang to a halt at development. Over the years, live have been brought back to South Klang whereby people are constantly reminded of the food there and is known for its ‘Little India’. It has become a commercial area where dwellers there are mostly white collars or of the older generation. The site has a historical value to it filled with people of all cultures and diversity. There is a lack of residential areas including hotels although tourists come from the port situated nearby.

(Figure 1.2.2 Little India)

(Figure 1.2.3. Jalan Stesen 1)


2. BUILT ENVIRONMENT 2.1 Sidewalks / Five-foot walkway It can be observed from both the streets in Hong Kong and South Klang that the movement of people and human interaction are influenced by the built environment surrounding the street, with the size of the corridor by the street playing the biggest role. In Hong Kong, there is a severe issue of land shortage, so buildings are built in a way that is compact to one another causing alleys to be somewhat narrow. Cat street is a long narrow road with a width not large enough for cars to pass through, so it is a safe place for locals and tourists alike to walk along the whole street. The antique shops there are situated right next to each other while stalls are also set up along the sidewalks, spilling out from the shops. This causes the sidewalks to look chaotic but beautiful to some. This vibrancy from the shops and stalls that makes the street livelier as well as the narrow width for people to walk attributes to a higher density of contact point to occur. The way the shops are built right next to each other encourages users to go store to store with little to no distractions. The straight forward direction of the street also pushes the flow of user into the stores on a subconscious level. Distractions that causes people to stop could be the antiques that are displayed by the sidewalks or by the windows of the shops which causes a visual contact and could turn into a chance contact. As above the shops are apartments used for housing the locals, people from above can look below at the busy street happening below them. This visual connection shows a low intensity passive contact where it is a sort of “see and hear� contact. According to Ghel, this type of contact may seem insignificant, however, it could be a prerequisite for other more complex interaction as it could be the start of something new or a source of information about the social world happening around the locals (Page 15).

Vision of locals from above

Shops spilling over sidewalk Narrow pathway for people to walk

(Figure 2.1.1 Street section of Cat street)


In South Klang, the pre-war shophouses were built with a five-foot walkway situated next to the sidewalks by the roads. As it is only five feet wide, it has a higher chance of contact by pedestrians. As the ground floor of the shophouses are of commercial use occupied by shops or eating places, it becomes a corridor for people to window-shop or look for refreshments. The five-foot walkway acts as an intimate space, allowing human interaction from shop owners to pedestrians, pedestrian to pedestrian as well as shop owners to shop owners. Similar to Cat street, some shops tend to spill out onto the five-foot walkway which forces people to use the sidewalk. This may seem like a good thing where more chance of contact could occur but as the climate is hot and humid, people do not like being under the sun, so pedestrians tend to walk faster on sidewalks, reducing the chance of contact. The five-foot walkway of South Klang and the narrow roads of Cat street seem similar but differ as the people that use the street are different. Overall, the way the width of the pathway on both streets were designed and built in a way that encourages a high chance of contact and interaction on both streets however, it can be observed that in Cat street the street has a noticeable liveliness which shows the interaction and high intensity of the contacts whereas in South Klang, there is a lower interaction among some groups of people resulting in a lower chance of contact due to human behaviour. This point will be further explained later in the section of contact points.

It is widely utilized as it acts as a cover to shield pedestrians from the sun of Malaysia’s hot tropical climate and rain.

(Figure 2.1.2 Five-foot walkway)

Signages reduces the pace of people, encouraging the chance of interaction between passersby.

(Figure 2.1.3 Spillage of shops onto sidewalk)


2.2 Types of seating Besides the width of the corridor on both streets, seating plays a role in human relationship as it creates a public space for interaction to occur while people stop to rest or observe the surrounding. In Cat street, as the street itself is very narrow, there is no space for seating such as chairs to be placed onto the roads for the public. Shop owners tend to sit by the sidewalk next to the shops when business is slow as they wait for pedestrians to walk by and browse. The street was designed to have a smooth flow of pedestrians to walk through the street to shop and browse at the antiques. Although seating is scarce, it has a low impact on the chance contact of the site. The entrance of Cat street is ladder street where it is a large stairscape connecting Hollywood road and Lok Ku road. Hong Kong is also known for its stair culture as stairs are a crucial typology of vernacular pedestrian infrastructure. In the dense hilly context of Hong Kong, stairs act not only as movement corridors which allow access to areas otherwise inaccessible, but also as vibrant public spaces with crucial social, cultural, environmental, and heritage value. People tend to sit on stairs to rest or chit chat, have smoke breaks by the side and to sell small items on the landings. This culture intensifies the contacts there allowing for more chance interactions between users.

(Figure 2.2.1 Shop owner sitting outside his shop)


At South Klang, seating is also not common on the five-foot walkways and the sidewalks for the public. Similar to Cat street, shop owners sit outside their shops watching people go by. The chance of contact between pedestrian to shop owners is high however the chance of contact of pedestrian to pedestrian is low. In South Klang, there is a lack of public space where people can sit by for optional activities which causes a lack of social activities. In the alleys, it is usually occupied by intoxicated people where they sit by the side. Taking into account of the crime rate in Malaysia, people tend to avoid alleys like that which results in no contact.


3. NODES AND CONTACT POINTS 3.1 Cat street, Hong Kong 1. Man Mo Dim Sum – An eatery famous for locals and tourists alike. Open from 12.30pm to 10pm. 2. Cat street itself 3. Junction of Cat street and Tung street 4. Liang Yi Museum 3.2 South Klang, Malaysia 1. Chong Kok kopitiam – An eatery famous to its locals. Open from 6.30am to 6pm 2. Jalan Tengku Diaudin – Also known as Little India of South Klang, famous for the Indian shops there rich with Indian culture 3. Junction of Jalan Besar and Jalan Raya Timur 4. Galeri Diraja Sultan Abdul Aziz



1 4


(Figure 3.1.1 Contact points of Cat Street)



(Figure 3.1.2 Man mo dim sum)

(Figure 3.1.3 Cat street)



(Figure 3.1.4 Junction of Cat st. and Tung st.)

(Figure 3.1.5. Liang Yi museum)


3 1


2 (Figure 3.2.1. Contact points of South Klang)



(Figure 3.2.2. Chong Kok kopitiam)


(Figure 3.2.4 Junction of Jalan Besar and Jalan Raya Timur)

(Figure 3.2.3. Little India)


(Figure 3.2.5. Galeri Sultan Abdul Aziz)


4. NODE TYPES AND PATTERNS OF ACTIVITY 4.1 Man Mo Dim Sum and Chong Kok Kopitiam Man Mo Dim Sum is situated at the centre of Cat Street, making it a stop point where people could grab something to eat while having a conversation. The one significant point that makes Man Mo a distinct stop point is its architecture as compared to the shops beside it. It is designed in a more modern concept as compared to the old and traditional antique shops by the side. This causes an optional activity of people stopping and gazing upon the contrast, increasing the chance of passive contact. Locals and tourists are attracted into this eatery and as it is a small shop, sharing of tables is common which evokes interaction between customers which could lead from a passive contact to friends. Pedestrians get attracted by the stimulation of the senses of smell from the food and sight from the people and architecture. The level of intensity is high as both necessary and optional activity results in social activity of people initiating conversation among one another. Due to opening hours, intensity is low during the morning but high throughout the rest of the day.

(Figure 4.1.1. Tables by the sidewalk outside ManMo DimSum)

Tables outside act as another factor which attracts people as Ghel mentioned that people attract people (Page 23) because customers can watch pedestrians go by.

(Figure 4.1.2 ManMo dimsum as contact point)

Optional activity occurs here because visitors stop by the shops to browse.

Necessary activity occurs here because this road is a straight road and people are bound to pass by the shop while walking to their destination.


Chong Kok is situated on Jalan Besat where the target users of Chong Kok are the white-collar workers who eat before work, during lunch breaks or after work. As it is situated in a strategic location, nearby the KTM, it is necessary for many people to walk by encouraging them to stop to grab food. This forces people to walk around the tables to cross the shop which initiates passive contact of pedestrians and customers. Chong Kok and Man Mo are similar except the fact that Chong Koks architecture does not contribute as a factor for people to stop by as the rhythm of the architecture style is similar throughout the block. Both serve good food with many hungry customers to attract more people.

Due to opening hours, intensity is high during the day until evening and low at night. The shop is very narrow causing the tables to spill out onto the five-foot walkway as well as the sidewalk. There is a high intensity as friends and acquaintances go by to have a meal together while conversing.

(Figure 4.1.3 Chong Kok kopitiam)


4.2 Cat street and Little India/Jalan Besar Although Cat street is a 24 hour public street, there is a low chance of contact and low intensity of activities during the day as most of the shops open after 12pm. While pedestrians pass by the entrance of Cat street, some would be stopped and attracted by the stalls and antiques pouring over the sidewalks and over the entrance. There is an abundance of diverse people as most of them are tourists from all over the world. This causes a unique mix of people, making it interesting to strike up a conversation to find out more about the person. Locals also come together in groups as close friends where they browse and shop for knick-knacks. The vibrancy, business, people and tradition of Cat Street all factor in to make a unique stop point where all sorts of contacts can take place between pedestrians to pedestrians, shop owners to shop owners and pedestrians to shop owners during bargaining. Necessary activity is high here as people walk by ladder street to get to the streets parallel to Cat street

(Figure 4.2.1 Ladder street by the main entrance of Cat street)

(Figure 4.2.2. Ladder street)

Chance contact is high here as people stay around ladder street for optional activities such as smoke breaks or to rest which could result in social activities of initiating conversation and becoming friends.


Jalan Tengku Diaudin, also known as Little India and Jalan besar Little India is a vibrant part of South Klang where it is significantly livelier as compared to the rest of South Klang. However, as the people that are most frequent on the site are white collars, they spend most of their time in their offices and Klang becomes more of a transitional place where mostly necessary activity occurs. The pace of the people are fast and they do not slow down to have more chances of interaction. The width of the walkway is narrow just like Cat street, but the chance of contact and the intensity is different due to the type of people that frequent there as well as the activities that occur. Cat street is filled with mostly tourist and locals in their homes on top who look down onto the street below whereas South Klang is mostly filled with locals with white collars in their offices on top. Nonetheless, optional activity still occurs at a low intensity where shop owners make conversation among one another as they sit outside their stores.

White collars do not look out the window to stop and ‘smell the roses’ as they simply do not have the time while they are working. This behaviour of the working people results in a lack of optional activity which leads to a lack of social activity.

(Figure 4.2.3. Offices above Jalan Besar)


4.2 Junction of Cat street and Tung Street At this junction, antique and food stalls are still abundant. Chances of interaction is similar to that of Cat street because this junction is situated right by it. Pedestrians would be stopped by the entrance of Cat street due to the spillage and vibrancy. This encourages chance of interaction among people before crossing the street. A significant note of this junction is that there is a lack of vehicular traffic resulting in a higher chance of interaction and human activity on the junction. Friends and close friends would use this junction to get to Cat street for a day out of shopping and eating. Passive contact also occurs when pedestrians pass by the shops while browsing around.

Necessary activity occurs as people use this junction to cross to another street. High social and optional activity. Chance contact occurs when people walk by each other slowly or stop to look at the shops.

(Figure 4.3.1. Junction of Cat street and Tung street)


Junction of Jalan Besar and Jalan Raya Timur This junction is a major junction as it crosses the path of two main roads in South Klang. The KTM is situated right infront of the junction resulting in a high rate of necessary activity as people use it to get to their next destination. On this junction, there are many cars and no traffic lights so it is difficult for people to cross. Due to this, people concentrate on crossing the road and walk by fast, leaving no time and chance for interaction to occur.

High necessary activity, low optional and social activity.

Passive contact here is high as people walk by each other quickly to cross the busy road.

(Figure 4.3.2. Junction of Jalan Besar and Jalan Raya Timur)


4.4 Liang Yi Museum Liang Yi museum is a private museum situated on Hollywood where necessary activity occurs when people walk by to get to their destination. It is a busy road with plenty of locals and tourists because of the eateries, shops and art murals that appeal to many. The usual people that visits the museum would be the tourists and students of Hong Kong where appointments are to be made beforehand. In the museum, intensity is high as visitors are guided with a tour guide and stopped at the collections to discuss upon. The everchanging collections keeps the museum interesting and allows opinions to be discussed and shared among one another whether strangers or not.

Necessary activity or servers and tour guides working.

Chance, acquaintances, friends and close friends contact is high because of open discussions as well as the events that happen. Events are also common here which provides a common ground for people to initiate conversation and make friends.

(Figure 4.4.1. Event happening in Liang Yi museum)


Galeri Sultan Abdul Aziz Galeri Sultan Abdul Aziz is a public museum situated on Jalan Besar. Necessary activity here is high as people would definitely walk by when they are going to the KTM or the post office next door. However, being a public library, the intensity of optional and social activity is low as not many people visit the museum including the tourists. This could be due to the exhibition that is never changing and has been displayed for almost a hundred years. Events do not take place here and public seating is also lacking which does not allow people to stop and relax. Nonetheless, the architecture of the building might attract some people as it looks like a white castle from the outside.

Chance contact could occur when pedestrians walk by and are stopped by the unique architecture.

(Figure 4.4.2. Exterior of Galeri Diraja Sultan Abdul Aziz)


5. CONCLUSION In conclusion, it is clear that besides the contact points itself that could show the differences of both streets, the built environment as well as the frequent user of the site comes hand in hand to contribute to the intensity of the contact points. As stated by Ghel, when the quality of the physical environment is good, a broad and diverse spectrum of human activities can partake where interaction and establishment of contacts is easier (Page 11). Although both the built environments were on average and almost similar with the narrow sidewalks and lack of seating, Cat street provides more high intensity contact points due to close ties of locals and tourists as well as the vibrant spatial quality of the site. However, problems of lack of social interaction at South Klang cannot be solved by simply adding seating on sidewalks as human comfort plays a role as well. Although it may seem like a good and pretty idea for more seating on sidewalks to watch the street, pedestrians would most likely prefer to stay under the five-foot walkway canopy as it provides shelter from the hot sun. People are selective with places to stay at such as on the stairs between shops behind grills as it has full coverage and a layer of protection. Many considerations need to be taken into account of to make a conducive environment for social interaction to happen. As future architects, before designing a place deemed unique, one must first study and analyse the site in all aspects from sun, wind, noise to a deeper understand of the community that makes the site what it is and gives it meaning. This way, a site would be used to its full potential while being truly unique and continuously evoking the senses of the users.


6. REFERENCES 1. Christ, M.C. (2016). Transverse studio. 2. Gehl, J. (1987) Life between buildings: Using public space. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold 3. Gehl, J. & Matan, A. (2009). Two perspectives on public spaces. Building Research & Information, 3791), 106-109. 4. Rykwert, J. (1978). The street: The use of its history.: M.I.T. Press. 5. Backpackerlee. (2011, June 4). The Madness of Hong Kong's Markets. 6. Nextstophongkong. (n.d.). Antique Street & Cat Street - Hong Kong Street Market. 7. Gibbons, A. (2016, November 01). Kevin Lynch: The Image of the City. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from

Theories of architecture and urbanism project 2  
Theories of architecture and urbanism project 2