Aldeia (DO) Publico – The Public’s Village

The cultural values of the Portuguese Settlement— situated in an area along Sungai Ujong, Malacca— are slowly fading and being forgotten. Community values, economic growth, new developments and unjust treatment from the governing body are some of the few issues which may have caused this rich community to lose its cultural values day by day.

The fundamental question for the research was to explore how public spaces could contribute to the improvement of social interactions within the community and adjacent neighbourhoods. The idea of creating multiple or different public spaces is to provide a place for people to mingle, meander and socialise. It gels the public attractions with the public interaction spaces and consecutively public experiences.

This cultural and community-based project sought to enhance the continuing relationship between the Portuguese Settlement community and the Straits of Malacca by exploring sustainable ways to preserve traditional culture while managing development. Instead of the typical site analysis and measurement that are done at the beginning of every project, this project took a participatory approach to better understand the community.

The ground floor comprises 10 restaurants; two culinary workshops; three cottage industries; three café kitchens; a microbrewery; an open space for a wet market; and a void deck. Level one consists of a community hall and an open space for microfarm and garden, while level two comprises 10 homestay units and a park.

Before the start of this project, a group of semester one architecture students from Taylor’s University gave a presentation to the community members to propose two designs which were done based on the feedback of their expectations. The project was mainly driven by communication with the locals and the experience of their lifestyles during the site visit, whereby the qualitative data collected reflected the needs and expectations of the community.

Some studies were conducted during the site visit to identify local resources that were found around the site. After several interviews and communication sessions with the community leader and local fishermen, it was established that timber (cengal wood) was abundant at a nearby village and the project was designed mainly based on this finding. As the site is close to the sea, corrosion is one of the disadvantages that played a part in the design. To minimise corrosion, timber is only used to support the roofs of the structure, while the columns are made up of I-beams and subsequently concrete piling. Timber plays a large part in rejuvenating the sense of tropical architecture in the settlement, giving the community not only a sense of place, but also a local and Malaysian cultural identity.

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