Module 5: Figure Ground Theories, Urban Form & Urban Morphology
December 2, 2023
Dr Nurul Azreen Azlan, PRBr
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
This module focuses on the physical form of the city, looking at how the geometry of structures and other physical objects (buildings, landscape elements etc) shape urban spaces. Figure ground refers to the 2-dimensional coverage of the land mass by solids (buildings), and voids, the spaces between the solids. By only focusing on the solids and voids, the quality of urban spaces can be assessed by examining the sense of enclosure formed by the solids over the voids. Once the figure ground is extruded to the 3-dimensional form, the ways in which the height of the buildings influence the sense of enclosure is explored together with the textural quality of the urban form. Urban morphology is a method of understanding the ways city has grown (or shrunk) by examining the formation of solids and voids over a certain time frame, thus understanding the patterns of development. It would also enable an assessment of the quality of urban spaces over time. The module concludes with an emphasis on how the design of urban spaces (voids) cannot be separated from the structures (solids) since the very shape of the space and its sense of enclosure is determined by the structures around it, and urban designers need to have a sensitivity towards the 3-dimensional quality of spaces in order to create spaces that can contribute towards a strong sense of place.