Settlement Patterns Kuala Lumpur: The Dynamics of Urban Form

Wahlmodul M.A. Arch und M. Sc. Urb.
Wintersemester 2017-18


Kuala Lumpur, founded by Chinese tin miners as a jungle outpost, has grown into a metropolis of 1,5 million inhabitants. The city features a downtown area with global appeal, the juxtaposition of high-rise buildings and low-rise neighbourhoods is, at least for western eyes, typical for an Asian metropolis. Yet, upon closer inspection, these neighbourhoods called ‘kampungs’ seem to be a very unique feature in a city that is still developing without mercy. All of these quarters differ in terms of development, location, size, occupancy, density and urban condition. In Malay language, ‘kampung‘ means village as physical and administrative entity as well as community in a social sense.


The ethnic diversity of Muslim-Malay, Confucian-Chinese and Hindu-Indian population depicts a complex and multi-layered society. Furthermore, Kuala Lumpur is subject to vast changes. Political demands, population increase and global trends, to name a few, lead to severe competition, especially for the housing market. As an effect, existing built and social patterns are disrupted and often destroyed. At the same time new urban patterns and configurations emerge. Sometimes isolated, or woven into existing city fabric. As a result, kampungs are subject to constant change. At the same time, one can observe that the settlement patterns of kampungs can be remarkably stable entities, showing a high degree of flexibility towards pressure or change that stems from the vast urban development in the overall city. Which dynamics are responsible for this?

Course Description

The seminar will give an in-depth view of the current urban development in Malaysia and its context of South-East-Asia. Depending on the number of participating students, a minimum of six residential areas will be critically analysed and assessed. The students are expected to produce a comprehensive analysis in form of plans, diagrams and written report.

Students will learn about the current processes of urbanisation and understand its dynamic forces within the context of Malaysia. Exemplary settlement patterns are discussed, analysed and evaluated from the perspective of urban and architectural form, including a reflection on the cultural codes of the Malaysian society.

The key intention of the seminar is to:
- Understand the specific historic development of the residential quarters
- Assess and understand the settlement patterns of kampungs under spatial and morphologic terms

The present situation is described, and the spatial and morphologic conception analysed in qualitative and quantitative measures. The seminar will conclude on the question how the urban form of the residential quarters correlate with the current economic and social challenges in Malaysia. This question can be applied to similar global contexts and stimulate further debate on the issue of dynamics in urban and architectural transformation.