A Visible Transition: Evolution of Urban Artefacts as The Fragments of Collective Memories Within The Context of New Village

Written by Chai Yi Yang, and Sarly Adre Sarkum

Department of Architecture, Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya (UM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Abstract
“One can say that the city itself is the collective memory of its people, and like memory it is associated with objects and places. The city is the locus of the collective memory.” - (Rossi, 1982)

The Italian architect, Aldo Rossi once accentuated the relationship between memories and places as his architectural theory. Introduced by British Colonialism originally as internment camps to confine rural civilian populations during the 1950s, ‘New Village’ is now a living artefact which encapsulates memories of urban history. In the context of New Village, the research is formalized to examine this theory and explore the meanings within. In recent decades, ‘New Villages’ has undergone a dynamic shift in morphological, functional, and behavioral aspects due to rapid urbanism. As a heritage for the next generation, these settlements are encountering a constant decline in sense of place and identity, which are connected to the collective memory referring to the theory stated by Rossi. Therefore, the research aims to search for the significance of collective memory lies within the evolution of urban artefacts, to safeguard the fundamental characteristics of New Village through the test of time. By adopting the visual-analytical method and interview contents, the study will focus on a specific case study area: Serdang New Village. Conclusively, the research will outline and analyze the transition of urban artefacts as a representation of people’s collective memory in New Village.

1.    Introduction
The presence of New Villages (also known as Kampung Baru or 新村xīn cūn) in Peninsular Malaysia (formerly known as Federation of Malaya) historical context is unique as they were formed deliberately in responding to ‘a state of emergency’ [1], instead of a natural pioneering process of settlements by inhabitants themselves. Considered as a major resolution of British counterinsurgency strategy against the armed Communist revolt, New Villages are originally emergency resettlement of around 1.2 million rural dwellers within 480 of ‘new’ villages, situated at rubber estates, tin mines, and around existing towns [2]. Constituted by the British military under Brigg’s Plan [3], the resettlement act itself was a massive operation of great historic significance and an unprecedented socioeconomic revolution which restructured scattered rural dwellers into semi-urban communities [4]. Parallel to Malaysia’s economic boom for the past decades, New Villages have experienced vigorous changes in its urban geography, which directly impacts the genius loci of New Villages, compromising its locality and characteristics as the next generations’ heritage. Apart from the changes in the morphological aspect, certain New Villages have become prospered while others were stagnated socioeconomically [5]. Based on the literature reviews [6-16], there were many references discussed the theory of Aldo Rossi stated the city is the locus of collective memory. Nevertheless, very few of them looking through the perspective of people’s memories collectively by relating to a particular or regional context. The research gap is identified as there is a missing link which addresses the multi-layered memories traced upon the dynamic transition of New Village and its urban artefacts that represents the evolution of an emergency resettlement. Taking Serdang New Village as the case study area due to its drastic transition of urban geography over the past decades and its location near to the urban sprawl of Kuala Lumpur, the paper aims to study the relationship between the evolution of urban artefacts and people’s collective memories within the context of New Villages.
 

Figure 1. Serdang New Village & Selected Urban Artefacts as Case Study

Figure 1. Serdang New Village & Selected Urban Artefacts as Case Study

2.    Methodology
In this qualitative research, the phenomenological research approach is chosen since the study is formed based on investigating a phenomenon by describing and interpreting a specific context, experience, or substance- whereby the phenomenon is referring to the collective memories embedded within the built environment and the specific context referring to the evolution of urban artefact in Serdang New Village. The collected data is mainly observational- based and carried forward into a two-step formal analysis- the typological analysis and the analogical analysis that were adopted from Aldo Rossi’s theory [17]. Referenced to the Design Research and Typology [18], the research apply an inductive approach with the framework of formal architectural analyses covering main aspects as such:
 

Table 1. Domains of Architecture Terminology Adopted from Design Research and Typology [18]

Table 1. Domains of Architecture Terminology Adopted from Design Research and Typology [18]

The typological analysis focuses on interpreting the selected urban artefacts according to these domains of architecture terminology [19], whereas the analogical reasoning aligns the evolution of the architecture terminology [20] in parallel with the history and transition of New Village. The analysed data is apprehended to understand the relationship between the evolution of urban artefacts and people’s collective memories within the context of New Village. Correspondingly, the research represents a visible transition through the interpretations hinged on a specific context and history.

3.    Data Collection and Analysis
The broad variety of urban artefacts collected is an immediate display of the imageability of Serdang New Village, demonstrating its urban fabric, texture and dynamic. These artefacts are further analyzed to study their intrinsic anatomy or ‘type’ independently, then being aligned analogically to the history of Serdang New Village. From the chronographic study of the evolution of Serdang New Village and its urban artefacts, there are a few milestones that marked the change of an era that can be summarised: the preoccupation era (before 1948); the emergency resettlement (1948 - the mid-1950s); a self-supported community (from late 1950s - 1980s); the economic boom (late 1980s – 2000s); and modernisation era (present). These 5 different conjunctions of eras represent an eccentric change of the village and its geography, resulting in the evolution of its urban artefacts in Figure 3.
 

Figure 2. Example of Typological findings arranged in chronology order to construct an analogical comparison to the historical timeline of Serdang New Village

Figure 2. Example of Typological findings arranged in chronology order to construct an analogical comparison to the historical timeline of Serdang New Village
 
From the findings from Figure 2, the analogical analyses for the 5 generations of evolution are being anatomized and interpreted in the following table:

Table 2. Analogical Analysis of the Urban Artefacts in Generation 1
 

Table 2. Analogical Analysis of the Urban Artefacts in Generation 1

Table 3. Analogical Analysis of the Urban Artefacts in Generation 2
 

Table 3. Analogical Analysis of the Urban Artefacts in Generation 2


Table 4. Analogical Analysis of the Urban Artefacts in Generation 3
 

Table 4. Analogical Analysis of the Urban Artefacts in Generation 3

Based on the analyses, the requisite characteristics of urban artefacts as fragments of collective memories within the context of New Villages can be concluded as: undergoes domestic inhabitation which overlaps between historical and cultural domain; a relative and profound representation which complements the whole; analogical reasoning to be related with its history; and rustic, utilitarian, and dialectical typological domains. The value of urban artefacts revolves around the polemic viewpoints between a universal, national narrative or a localized yet democratic history. In the context of this research, the artefacts of New Villages n Malaysia signify the localized and democratic history instead. Since the urban artefacts of Serdang New Village were originated from a dialectical and democratic means, a sole urban artefact in Serdang hardly convey its quality for the evocation of collective memories independently, but it works together with other urban artefacts to echo an imageability that could relate to its history. Therefore, they are interpreted as ‘fragments’ of collective memories, rather than commemorative monuments nor formal archive for a history.

4.    Conclusion
The urban artefacts and the embedded collective memories of New Villages are in the verge of change- they are never permanent, but transient as the urbanization is imminent. Thus, the core of discourse should not revolve around the unending polemic between the positivity and negativity of the transition of urban artefacts, but to manage changes is what critically matters. A gradual process of formalization and structured reposition to apply a zoning layout is a good start, considering it as a tool for latent conservation of mainly intangible qualities [21]. Through a relatively formal understanding of the seemingly informal settlements, the developments could be conducted without compromising the typicality of the places. The research considers that architecture around us has shaped the collective memories of a place, while the people perceive the identity of the place crafted by these memories has built their new memories upon. In the end, the research is a lens not only into the inherent relationship of the research subjects, but also into my earnest hope to recollect such fragments of memories as voices which continues to reflect, contemplate, and inspire into the present and future.

5.    References

1.    Nyce, R., Chinese New Villages in Malaya: A Community Study, ed. S. Gordon. 1973, Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Sociological Research Institute Ltd.
2.    Soon, L.A., A Social Economic Study of a Chinese New Village, in Department of Anthropology and Sociology. 1984, University of Malaya: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
3.    Newsinger, J., British Counterinsurgency. 2015, Bashingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
4.    Voon, P.K., The Chinese New Villages in Malaysia: Impact of Demographic Changes and Response Strategies, in A Study on Regional and Ethnic Diversities of Poverty Problems in Malaysia, M. Fujimaki, Editor. 2009, College of Letters, Ritsumeikan University: Kyoto, Japan. p. 53-84.
5.    Nooi, P.S. and T.T. Hong, New Villages in Malaysia: Living Conditions and Political Trends. Malaysian Journal of Chinese Studies, 2013. 2(2): p. 17-27.
6.    Seungkoo, J., Aldo Rossi: Architecture and Memory. Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering, 2003. 2(1).
7.    Eisenman, P. and A. Rossi, Aldo Rossi in America: 1976-1979. 1979, Cambridge: MIT Press.
8.    Sherer, D., Aldo Rossi: The Architecture and Art of the Analogous City, P.U.S.o. Architecture, Editor. 2018.
9.    Hornstein, S., Losing Site: Architecture, Memory and Place. Ashgate Studies in Architecture. 2011, Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.
10.    Lyndon, D., Spatial Recall: Memory in Architecture and Landscape, ed. M. Treib. 2009, Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.
11.    Yates, F., The Art of Memory, in Frances Yates: Selected Works. 1966, University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
12.    Haobsh, S., Urban Artifact or Urban Detachment, in Aldo Rossi, L'architettura Della Città. 2013.
13.    Brand, R., Urban Artifacts and Social Practices in a Contested City. Journal of Urban Technology, 2009.
16(2): p. 35-60.
14.    Ponsi, A., Analogy and Design, ed. A. Shugaar. 2015, Virginia, United States: University of Virginia Press.
15.    Harrison, M., Urban Artifacts and a Theory of the City/ Typological Questions/ Post Functionalism, in
Design Fundamentals. 2012.
16.    Mishra, P.S. and M. Singh, The Urbanism of Rossi. Time, Space and People, 2013. 13: p. 28-33.
17.    Rossi, A., The Architecture of The City. 1982, United States: MIT Press.
18.    Jong, T.D. and L.V. Duin, Design and Research Typology.
19.    Carl, P., Type, Field, Culture, Praxis. Arcitectural Design, 2011. 21(1).
20.    Majeeda, S.R. and B.H. Al-Majidi, Analogical Reasoning in Architecture. Al Qadisiyah Journal for Engineering Sciences, 2019. 12: p. 038-048.
21.    Knox, P. and S. Pinch, eds. Urban Social Geography. 2010, Pearson Education Limited: Edinburgh Gate, England.
 
Authors Biography

Chai Yi Yang currently pursuing the Master of Architecture (RIBA Part II) studies at the Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya. He joined ICOMOS Malaysia as an associate member. His research interest revolves around heritage conservation, urban designs, architectural theories, and philosophy. He is expected to complete his Master Degree in the year 2021.

Assoc. Prof. (Ind.) Ar. Sarly Adre Sarkum is an architecture futurist, sustainability proponent and design activist. He is currently a Past President on Council in the Malaysia Green Building Council which is under the auspices of the World Green Building Council. He was also the Deputy President of Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (The Malaysian Institute of Architects) for 2017-2019. He was the editor in chief for ‘Architecture Malaysia’ magazine which is the premier architecture journal for the Malaysian Institute of Architects. He holds 2 degrees in architecture, one form the University of Liverpool UK and the other from University of Science Malaysia. Currently he is an academic Advisor to the Masters of Green Architecture in Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM). Universiti Malaya, Malaysia’s top Ranked University, has also appointed him as an Associate Professor Industry for the University.

This research paper was presented at the 2021 CABE Malaysia Chapter online Conference.

You can watch the conference in full.

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