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Frontal Voids for Community and Urban Connectivity Rashidah AB. RAHMAN Associate Professor Department of Architecture Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Shah Alam, Selangor MALAYSIA rashidah212@yahoo.com / rashidah212@salam.uitm.edu.my

Nik Mohamad Faris MOHD FAUZI Student BSc. (Arch)(Hons) Department of Architecture Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Shah Alam, Selangor MALAYSIA farisfauzi14@gmail.com

ABSTRACT This paper describes an architectural experiment to utilize ‘frontal voids’ to enhance community interaction and their connection to the city. It applied the ‘connective approach that stresses human connection to nature at a local scale’. This proposed scheme is one of the selected finalists for an alternative affordable housing design competition for the city of Putrajaya, Malaysia. The client, Putrajaya Holdings Sdn Bhd (PJH) is a real corporation and master-developer of the city. Inevitably the economic return from this development is one of the primary considerations. PJH required that the selling price per unit ranges from MYR150k to MYR380k for an average size of 120 square meters per unit. The key issue is that the middle to upper-middle income groups who were targeted to live here typically prefer landed-properties. Another issue is the Malaysian’s propensity towards renovating their homes, which is not permissible in Putrajaya. There are strict urban design guidelines to maintain the city image as a new administrative capital. The goal was to provide spatial flexibility with a sense of ‘landed-living’ that accommodates family-structure dynamics and creates simultaneously a vibrant mixed-development environment. The buyers’ affordability status and ‘family-size’ would be accommodated through flexible ‘land-plots in the air’. The ‘fixed landplots’ would coordinate with the strata titles. Buyers get to choose the basic starter unit with ample ‘land-plot’ or mix-and-match various versions. Extension could be made as the tenants’ economic standing improves. The unused ‘land-plot’ could become gardens/vegetable patches, or rented-out if necessary. Various possible unit combinations are digitally simulated in 3D to generate a connected façade for this urban residential block. The costing aspect is also simulated to stay within the selling price range. This paper illustrates the potentiality of 3D computer simulation to document the tectonic of the frontal voids to connect the community with the city. Keywords: frontal voids, connectivity, housing, urban, community, Putrajaya

INTRODUCTION This paper is written in the context of Putrajaya as the new Administrative Capital of Malaysia. The City of Putrajaya marks the largest urban development project in Frontal Voids for Community and Urban Connectivity. Rashidah AB. RAHMAN and Nik Mohamad Faris MOHD FAUZI


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the country. The total development area covers 4,931 hectares and is still ongoing since its construction began in August 1995 (Figure 1). Putrajaya Holdings Sdn Bhd (PJH) is the master developer of the city. Projects cover government buildings, housing, infrastructure, public utilities and amenities. The focus has now shifted to commercial projects. PJH works hand in hand with the city's local authority, Perbadanan Putrajaya, to implement the masterplan that envisages Putrajaya as ‗A Garden City, An Intelligent City‘. Therefore, all Putrajaya projects carry the master developer's signature of prestige, sustainability, innovation and aesthetics, underscored by the harmony of diverse elements. Continuing this legacy, PJH strives to be the leader in eco-responsive and responsible development. Of the city‘s total land area, about 38% is being developed into parks, lakes and wetlands while the remaining is reserved for government offices, commercial and residential areas, as well as public utilities and amenities. The centre-piece of the city is the 600hectare man-made Putrajaya Lake as its principal landscape feature and serves as a climate moderator. Putrajaya is also located within the Multimedia Super Corridor and so is a great promoter of the Government‘s e-Government initiative. When the city is fully developed, it will have a total of 64,000 housing units with a population of around 320,000 people. At this point, only 50% of the City has been developed [1][2].

Figure 1. Putrajaya Development Source: Putrajaya Holdings

Due to the development phasing strategy, the current urban fabric is highly monocultural. The first phase emphasized construction of all governmental buildings and ministries and housing for the government staff. As such, the majority 98% of the current population are also government officers from all categories. Without enough commercial activities and a rich mix of people, the vibrancy of a typical city is lacking. In order to remedy this situation, in late 2011 PJH called for an Alternative Affordable Housing Design Competition as a measure to offer residential variability and entice a greater diversity of Putrajaya population and enhancing the liveability of the city. Various land parcels in different precincts of Putrajaya have been offered as the test-bed. The key issue is that the middle to upper-middle income groups who are targeted to live here typically prefer landedproperties. Another issue is the Malaysian‘s propensity towards renovating their homes - implying design inadequacy to fulfill user needs - which is not permissible in Putrajaya. There are strict urban design guidelines to maintain the city image. As a planned city, every parcel of land has been designated with a specific land-use, plinth size, plot-ratio, building setbacks, building heights and height control, etc., under the detailed urban design (DUD) guidelines for each lot. This paper describes an architectural experiment to address these issues. This proposed scheme is one of the selected finalists in the competition. Utilizing the concept of ‗frontal voids‘, the scheme attempts to enhance community interaction and their connection to the city through nature-relatedness besides promoting a flexible living strategy. Frontal Voids for Community and Urban Connectivity. Rashidah AB. RAHMAN and Nik Mohamad Faris MOHD FAUZI


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MULTI-STOREY HOUSING AND THE CITY All around the world, the apartment blocks are a familiar sight. Very often, the accommodation offered is uniform. Design is based on floor-grouping and repeated until the required density is achieved. Life in these blocks sounds highly impersonal. Individuality of the future residents does not have a place. There appears to be an ‗absence of delight, variety, personality and even idiosyncrasy‘ in these residential offerings [3]. The Australian architect Karl Fender (SP Setia, 2011) reiterates this problem. ‗One of the failures of most apartment buildings is that they‘re very repetitive, but not in an inventive way. Like extruded forms, they become quite bland‘. This is unfortunate, particularly because buying a house, in any category, tends to be a lifetime investment, often consuming at least 1/3 of a family income. Not surprisingly, there is a demand for more flexible housing arrangement. As early as the 19th century, Andre Godin talked about the need to accommodate changes within a family structure as they live in these apartments [4]. In 2011, the architect Farshid Moussavi highlighted the same. Life in a multi-storey building is also dissimilar to living in landed-properties. Aside from the restrictive boundaries and views, the detachment from the earth is aggravated when located within an urban area. Home et al (2010) documented the importance of the contact with nature for city dwellers. It is not known however whether residents‘ appreciation of the forms of urban green spaces is constant across different contexts. Nevertheless, if the green spaces could enhance the quality of life in the city then integration between multi-storey living and nature is a worthwhile endeavour. It also follows that ‗cities will be improved if urban nature is made more attractive to residents‘. The Urban Environmental Accords—Green City Declaration was signed by mayors from around the world on June 5th, 2005. The intent was to build ecologically sustainable, economically dynamic, and socially equitable futures for urban citizens [5]. A major part of the Accords is to better understand the factors that contribute to enhancing life satisfaction, particularly those associated with environmental quality and sustainability. The targeted segment of society is not only the adults. Children living in urban environments often have limited if not without access to nature (Cheng and Monroe, 2012). Parents prohibit their children from exploring unfamiliar areas because of concern for safety or the demands on their time. This limitation may influence children‘s development. Based on empirical research experiences with nature have a positive influence on children. It is thus logical to provide easy access to natural areas in urban development plans, ‗not only to promote healthy communities for children and their families but also to provide opportunities for children to develop a connection to nature‘. All along, nature has often been regarded as a form of material resource. However, another alternative is to see connectivity with nature as being a part of community, not just as a raw material for production. This involves a sense of belonging, not only of each other but also for the sense of place for the community. It is one that exists on a human time scale. Connectivity with nature conceptualizes and measures a value orientation. This underlies environmental concern and behavior (Dutcher et al, 2007). To suggest the extreme, Winter (2000) considered disconnection from the natural world as contributing to our planet‘s destruction. There is a gap between many people‘s feelings and attitudes about environmental problems and their own actions. This gap needs to shrink and there has to be greater concern for the environment through environmentally responsible behavior. One way to accomplish this is to increase nature relatedness. Embracing our connection to nature makes our lives richer and more meaningful. Becoming more nature related may make us Frontal Voids for Community and Urban Connectivity. Rashidah AB. RAHMAN and Nik Mohamad Faris MOHD FAUZI


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happier. As individuals become more related to nature, they may feel more positive emotions, a sense of well-being that result in more proenvironmental behaviors. ‗If people feel good about their natural environment, value and care about it, they might behave in ways that respect and protect it‘ (Nisbet et al, 2009). This is further supported by Mayer et al (2009). They carried out three studies that contrasted people who had spent time in an actual natural setting to those who had been exposed to an urban setting, virtual nature, or a virtual urban scene. Exposure to the natural world decreases negative behaviors and states such as aggression, anxiety, depression, illness and increases positive ones (e.g., affect, health, cognitive capacity). ‗Connectedness to nature does, in fact, promote proenvironmental actions. When practitioners think of how to create settings to help clients feel better, they may want to think of more than simply how nature can restore depleted attentional capacity and reduce stress. They may also want to think of how people need to feel a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves and that this need may be fulfilled through a sense of belonging or connectedness to the natural world‘ (Mayer et al, 2009). This is again emphasized by Karl Fender. ‗To feel that you belong somewhere, though, you need ways to create community opportunities‘. This includes outdoor gardens besides facilities for exercise and swimming, cinema, and even communal kitchen. In their study of 12 housing estates in Porto Alegre, Brazil, da Luz Reis and Dias Lay (2010) found a correlation ‗between degrees of satisfaction with the aesthetics of open spaces and degrees of satisfaction with the housing estates‘. For the majority of residents in the blocks of flats, the aesthetics of open spaces in the estates is an important aspect. In all the housing estates, the residents considered provision of vegetation as an aspect frequently related to positive aesthetics of open spaces. The presence of nature provides a more beautiful landscape. Vemuri et al (2011) concluded that ‗higher levels of subjective environmental quality in urban communities consistently lead to higher levels of life satisfaction regardless of whether it is measured at the individual or neighborhood scale of analysis‘. It would appear that the perceived existence of and ease of access to natural surroundings has a positive impact on individual and neighborhood satisfaction throughout the urban environment.

PROJECT METHODOLOGY The proposed scheme is located on a 15000.52 sq.m. site at parcel 18M1, Precinct 18, Putrajaya. It is a parcel within the core-island of Putrajaya even though slightly on the outskirt of the main Boulevard. The DUD outlined it as a mixeddevelopment project and not purely a residential one. The required Gross Floor Area (GFA) is 67473sq.m. with 20% commercial and 80% residential. Based on the given plot ratio (4.5), required building setbacks, height control (42 meters), etc., the approach was to accommodate the commercial spaces on the first two floors whilst the other floors above would be fully residential floors. Basement car-parks are possible for this land-parcel. PJH also required a minimum 337 units of residences. The plinth size (75%) implies that open green on the ground level will be very limited in order to maximize the commercial floor at street level. In order to overcome this limitation, the design goal was to find an alternative means of increasing green spaces whilst providing spatial flexibility with a sense of ‗landedliving‘ that accommodates family-structure dynamics and creates simultaneously a vibrant mixed-development environment through Industrialised Building System and technologies. The scheme experimented with the perimeter block design with the intention of optimizing the green pockets (Figure 2). Frontal Voids for Community and Urban Connectivity. Rashidah AB. RAHMAN and Nik Mohamad Faris MOHD FAUZI


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Figure 2. Design Strategies and Development of Form Source: Mohd. Fauzi (2012)

The study of existing research indicates the importance of the connection to nature for quality living in an urban context. It is particularly relevant to Putrajaya given its design vision as an Intelligent-Garden City. It also implies greater expectations from the future residents. In contrast to the current life-style that appears to be lacking in social interaction, there is a need for a greater sense of belonging within the smaller-scale neighbourhood and together with this, a promotion for more environmental-conscious place-making. Based on the research background, the proposed scheme embarked on applying the ‗connective approach that stresses human connection to nature at a local scale‘ (Crewe and Forsyth, 2010). What this means is that the connective approach focuses on the site and neighborhood levels in terms of ecological process and human connections to nature as well as the overall context to the city. In this proposal, the double volume frontal voids will serve as the green connector. It is a strategy to integrate the feel of landed living surrounding multi-storey housing units (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Developing the Frontal Voids Source: Mohd. Fauzi (2012)

The buyers‘ affordability status and ‗family-size‘ would be accommodated through flexible ‗land-plots in the air‘. The ‗fixed land-plots‘ measuring 12m x 10m would coordinate with the strata titles. Buyers get to choose the basic starter unit with ample ‗un-built land-plot‘ or mix-and-match various versions (Figure 5). Frontal Voids for Community and Urban Connectivity. Rashidah AB. RAHMAN and Nik Mohamad Faris MOHD FAUZI


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Figure 5. Starter Unit and Typologies Source: Mohd. Fauzi (2012)

Aside from the commercial lots, PJH required that the selling price per residential unit ranges from MYR150k to MYR380k for an average size of 120 square meters per unit. The costing aspect is thus simulated to stay within the selling price range. At 60sqm, the starter unit costing RM120,000 could fit the lower budget of fresh graduates who have just started their first job. Extension could be made as the tenants‘ economic standing improves. The unused ‗land-plot‘ could become gardens/vegetable patches, or rented-out if necessary. Families with grown-up children who have moved out may dismantle their full unit into a smaller indoor living whilst enlarging the outdoor terrace within their own plot. Various possible unit combinations are digitally simulated in 3D to generate a connected façade for this urban residential block. Unlike the typical multi-storey housing with fixed appearance, it is expected that this scheme will continuously transform itself over time (Figure 6). This approach allows more controlled changes to the living units whilst offering a degree of freedom and self-expression for the occupants. The unbuilt parts of the individual units will further enrich the green feel of the double volume frontal voids, besides enhancing the natural ventilation.

Figure 6. Frontal Voids and a Living Facade Source: Mohd. Fauzi (2012) Frontal Voids for Community and Urban Connectivity. Rashidah AB. RAHMAN and Nik Mohamad Faris MOHD FAUZI


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RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Inevitably the economic return from this development is one of the primary considerations. This scheme banked on the frontal voids to extend continuously the closeness to nature from the ground level upward. Besides offering a greater sense of green open spaces, this also enhances the positive views for the residents. Moreover, people are willing to pay a premium for a preferred view. FisherGewirtzman et al (2005) recorded that ‗visual openness to any type of view, especially of open air and water, contributes to the quality of dwelling and to the satisfaction of the residents and their willingness to pay for such quality‘. In their study on the high-density living in Hong Kong, Parvin et al (2008) noted that ‗the multilayered spaces that generally accommodate extreme high-density pedestrian movement and co-presence are commonly designed with spacious atriums, double– triple height circulation spaces, wider corridors, footbridges, etc. These spatial elements help the space users orient themselves towards the overall environment. The double volume frontal voids in this scheme function in the same way within the urban context (Figure 7). The movement spaces extending through the multilevel spaces within the complex and through its surrounding areas result in an interconnected space system with continually varied visual experiences.

Figure 7. Frontal Voids for Multidirectional Visual Field Source: Mohd. Fauzi (2012)

Simply being located within a city does not mean that a community is connected to the city. In this proposal, the frontal voids will serve as visual connector to the distant views of important landmarks within Putrajaya, particularly the iconic structures along the City spine. This is again inline with Parvin et al‘s (2008) assertion that the visual accessibility of the movement spaces as a whole appears to be crucial in influencing the way in which people experience the spaces and how they use the whole complex. They concluded that ‗Multidirectional visual fields in multilevel single spaces like atriums, or free flowing double–triple or multiple height open spaces, helps users to attain better spatial perception and orientation in the complex built environment‘, besides connecting the community to the city. A greater sense of association and belonging between this neighbourhood and Frontal Voids for Community and Urban Connectivity. Rashidah AB. RAHMAN and Nik Mohamad Faris MOHD FAUZI


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Putrajaya is thus possibly emphasised. The elevated positions of the frontal voids are advantageous in this case (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Frontal Voids to Connect Community to the City Source: Mohd. Fauzi (2012)

It is obviously a great convenience to have the natural environment on your doorstep. This has important implications for the various age-groups expected to reside here. It is also a good strategy to promote inter-generation family living. The frontal voids serving as neighbourhood open spaces may play a role in the quality of life for the older people. Studies have shown that the presence of natural open spaces (NOS) nearby is associated with people‘s physical and mental health. Another potential linkage between the frontal voids as NOS that could improve the quality of place-making includes social interaction or social activity that may take place in such neighborhood settings (Sugiyama et al, 2009). This setting is also logical for sunny Malaysia. Older people could exercise under shade and at near distance to home and toilet facilities. The attributes of NOS such as pleasantness, safety in and around the open space, and distance to it are relevant to older people‘s life satisfaction. The findings suggest that older people who have pleasant and safe NOS within a comfortable walking distance are more likely to be satisfied with life than those who have to walk the distance for such green spaces. The pleasantness factor also includes the adequacy for children to play, for adults to chat with others, a variety of activities to engage in (or to watch), the quality of trees and plants, and the presence of facilities such as toilets and shelter. The dimension of safety covers both daytime and nighttime safety in NOS and in paths to NOS and lack of crime in NOS (Sugiyama et al, 2009). With the frontal voids being right at their doorsteps whilst simultaneously serving as NOS, the general qualities people expect in a local park, such as attractiveness, comfort, and safety are all integrated in the community through connectivity with nature. Whilst recognizing the lifestyle of Generation Y and the location of this scheme within the Multimedia Super Corridor, the importance of nature-based recreation cannot be doubted. It is understandable that ‗in a time of competing play and leisure opportunities, outdoor play among children and youth seems to increasingly lose out against the fast-paced, easily accessible, and often highly interactive electronic video games and other mainstream media‘. However, Article 31 in the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that ‗play is a fundamental right of all children (Human Rights Directorate, 1991) and that play is essential for children to develop intellectually, physically, emotionally, and socially. Through play children learn to express their thoughts and feelings, develop language and social skills, and become aware of cultural diversity in their community‘ (Staempfli, 2009). Children whose homes had more nearby nature coped better with Frontal Voids for Community and Urban Connectivity. Rashidah AB. RAHMAN and Nik Mohamad Faris MOHD FAUZI


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life stress than those whose homes lacked nearby natural areas according to Cheng and Monroe (2012). Having nature so close to home is also beneficial for safetymonitoring of the children - if not by their own parents perhaps by the older grandparents. The study suggests that children‘s perception of connection to nature consists of enjoyment of nature, empathy for creatures, sense of oneness, and sense of responsibility. Proenvironmental action and behavior is pertinent for Putrajaya. The society, especially future generation, needs to be embedded with this positive attitude to achieve the Intelligent-Garden City vision. Environmental psychology theories emphasise that ‗the experience of living in a high quality natural environment consistently predict higher life satisfaction both for individuals and for neighborhoods—perceiving that one lives in a clean and green urban environment always makes a positive difference‘ (Vemuri et al, 2011). Green design features, open green spaces, indoor air quality, and energy efficiency were important issues to even conventional homeowners. So better marketing of sales points related to these issues maybe important when targeting the average homebuyer. According to their study on four specific communities in Florida, Noiseux and Hostetler (2010) found new homeowners perceive ―green‖ positively and green design features were an important consideration for them, both in green and conventional master-planned communities. This insight is valuable to the future of green development.

CONCLUSION Including green elements through the frontal voids and having living units as flexible plots in the air, may benefit future high-rise communities and environment besides improving sales. The issues faced by existing multi-storey housing may be resolved via this creative sustainable relationship with the urban environment that is more considerate of consumer-needs. An overview of the frontal voids as a concept for enhancing connectivity of the community in a multi-storey affordable housing within Putrajaya has been presented. The paper also outlines the potentials and opportunities where such connectivity occurs and highlights the experiment as a form of smart living by design. The potentiality of 3D computer simulation to document the tectonic of the frontal voids to connect the community with the city through a living façade has also been expressed.

ENDNOTES [1] http://www.ppj.gov.my, retrieved 10 Sept. 2011. [2] http://www.pjh.com.my, retrieved 10 Sept. 2011. [3] Copplestone, Trewin (1991) ‗Multi-unit Housing‘, Twentieth Century World Architecture. London: Brian Todd Publishing House Limited. [4] Copan, Richard and Neumann, Stan (2001) Le Familistére de Guise. England: ARTE France Développement. [5] Fecht, J. (2005) ‗San Fransisco Mayor proclaims urban environmental movement‘, CITYMAYORS Environment 14; retrieved 11 March 2012, http://www.citymayors.com/environment/environment_day.html.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Crewe, K. and Forsyth, A. (2011) ‗Compactness and connection in environmental design: insights from ecoburbs and ecocities for design with nature‘, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, vol. 38, pages 267-288. Frontal Voids for Community and Urban Connectivity. Rashidah AB. RAHMAN and Nik Mohamad Faris MOHD FAUZI


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da Luz Reis, A. T. and Dias Lay, M. C. (2010) ‗Internal and External Aesthetics of Housing Estates‘, Environment and Behavior, Vol. 42, No. 2, 271-294. Home, R., Bauer, N. and Hunziker, M. (2010) ‗Cultural and Biological Determinants in the Evaluation of Urban Green Spaces‘, Environment and Behavior, 42(4), 494–523. Mayer, F. S., McPherson Frantz, C. Bruehlman-Senecal, E. and Dolliver, K. (2009) ‗Why Is Nature Beneficial? The Role of Connectedness to Nature‘, Environment and Behavior, Vol. 41, No. 5, 607-643. Parvin, A., Min, A. Y. and Beisi, J. (2008) ‗Effect of visibility on multilevel movement: a study of the high-density compact built environment in Hong Kong‘, URBAN DESIGN International, 13, 169–181. Fisher-Gewirtzman, D., Pinsly, D. S., Wagner, I. A. and Burt, M. (2005) ‗Vieworiented three-dimensional visual analysis models for the urban environment‘, URBAN DESIGN International, 10, 23–37. Vemuri, A. W., Grove, J. M., Wilson, M. A. and Burch Jr., W. R. (2011) ‗A Tale of Two Scales: Evaluating the Relationship Among Life Satisfaction, Social Capital, Income, and the Natural Environment at Individual and Neighborhood Levels in Metropolitan Baltimore‘, Environment and Behavior, 43(1), 3–25. Sugiyama, T., Thompson, C. W. and Alves, S. (2009) ‗Associations Between Neighborhood Open Space Attributes and Quality of Life for Older People in Britain‘, Environment and Behavior, Vol. 41, No. 1, 3-21. Staempfli, Marianne B. (2009) ‗Reintroducing Adventure Into Children‘s Outdoor Play Environments‘, Environment and Behavior, Vol. 41, No. 2, 268-280. Moussavi, Farshid (2011) ‗Property Development, Iconic and Islamic Architecture, Housing and Development Issues‘, Aga Khan Award for Architecture Lecture, 31 Oct. 2011, Dewan Negeri SUK, Shah Alam. Noiseux, K. and Hostetler, M. E. (2010) ‗Do Homebuyers Want Green Features in Their Communities?‘, Environment and Behavior, 42(5), 551–580. Nisbet, E. K., Zelenski, J. M. and Murphy, S. A. (2009) ‗The Nature Relatedness Scale Linking Individuals‘ Connection With Nature to Environmental Concern and Behavior‘, Environment and Behavior, Vol. 41, No. 5, 715-740. Cheng, J. C-H. and Monroe, M. C. (2012) ‗Connection to Nature: Children's Affective Attitude Toward Nature‘, Environment and Behavior, 44(1), 31–49. Dutcher, D. D., Finley, J. C., Luloff, A. E. and Johnson, J. B. (2007) ‗Connectivity With Nature as a Measure of Environmental Values‘, Environment and Behavior, Vol. 39, No. 4, 474-493. SP Setia Berhad (2011) ‗Karl Fender - An Architect and His City‘, Setia Today Lifestyle, No. 2011, v.5, 2-5; www.spsetia.com.my.

Frontal Voids for Community and Urban Connectivity. Rashidah AB. RAHMAN and Nik Mohamad Faris MOHD FAUZI

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