Productive Peripheries: New Settlements for HSR Towns

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“There are no cities, in fact, anymore. It goes on like a forest”.
An aerial view of the outskirts of Batu Pahat

Studio Instructor

Calvin Chua


“There are no cities, in fact, anymore. It goes on like a forest. That is the reason why we cannot have old cities anymore; that is gone forever, planned city and so on.”
– Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1955

The High Speed Rail (HSR) network between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore aims to radically transform the territorial and socio-economic landscapes of both countries. On the regional level, the HSR compresses travel time between both capital cities to just 90 minutes, making it more convenient to work and live in both cities. On the local level, the string of HSR stations planned along existing coastal towns – Seremban, Malacca, Muar, Batu Pahat – aims to stimulate economic development by connecting to the larger urban centres of the terminus stations. Similar to other typical HSR developments, the location of these planned stations are a distance away from existing towns, with the aim of creating new urban centres around the

The result is three disparate territorial conditions. The fine and informal urban grains of existing towns, the large and regular mixed-use development plots around the stations, and the space in-between – an indeterminate sprawling agglomeration of factory warehouse boxes, agricultural lands, rest and service areas, terrace shop lots and gated neighbourhoods.

Responding to the existing conditions and projected scenarios, the studio will question through a series of design interventions whether a peripheral area between the HSR station and the existing towns can be turned into a productive landscape. We will spend the first half of the semester recording the territory collectively through a series of maps, typological drawings and photographs. Zooming between the scale of the
building, the city and region, the aim of this exercise is to uncover the relationship between the inherent socio-economic conditions and the resultant built environment of the indeterminate territory. Supporting the initial research will be a case study analysis of existing HSR stations on commuting patterns, development models and urban forms. A study trip to the project sites and meetings with stakeholders will organised to support the studio research.

Utilising the initial research, students will work in pair to formulate a design proposal that negotiates the functional and spatial transition between a selected HSR station and its corresponding town. The proposal should encompass a development strategy that is defined through specific architectural typologies, urban forms and territorial systems. Working at the scale of architecture and urbanism, the project will be represented through models, images and drawings at multiple scales 1:50 to 1:10000.

Collectively, the goal of the studio is to develop a critical response towards emerging spatial forms and systems that falls outside the traditional definitions of urban/rural and town/city; and project a future for the peripheries of these HSR towns.