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building like a bee

building like a bee

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Published by Mazlin Ghazali
G. Umakanthan, Building Like a Bee,New Straits Times,Saturday June,2005, Property Times Page 6
G. Umakanthan, Building Like a Bee,New Straits Times,Saturday June,2005, Property Times Page 6

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Published by: Mazlin Ghazali on Dec 23, 2008
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02/01/2013

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New Straits Times - Property Times 4 June 2005 issue -
Building likea bee
G.Um a ka nt ha n
Can something six hundred years old find meaning in today\u2019s modern civilisation? More pertinently,
can it have the power to positively influence the way we live?
Mazlin Ghazali seems to think so. In fact, this Cardiff-trained architect has harboured this conviction
for so long that he practically lives and breathes it.
\u201cIt\u201d, in this case, is a 15th Century Islamic architectural pattern involving tessellation.
Since he started practising his vocation in 1984, Mazlin has been looking at ways to adapt the art
concept into township planning as he feels it is the answer to conventional terrace housing layouts,
which he describes as \u201cboring and unsafe\u201d.

And now, 21 years later, his passion has paid off - his concept for a more efficient form of living won
the Gold Award at the 16th International Invention, Innovation, Industrial Design and Technology
Exhibition held in Kuala Lumpur from May 19 to 21, while the Korean Invention Promotions

Association presented him with the \u201cMost Commercialisable Invention\u201d award at the same exhibition.

Mazlin says terrace housing has long been considered the densest form of property development and
in Malaysia it has become the stereotyped form to accommodate the masses, with the exception of
box-likehighrise flats.

However, what bothered him was that if this style is so efficient, why doesn\u2019t it exist in nature?
\u201cI believe man must live in harmony with Mother Nature and there are only so many shapes and forms
that can coexist with nature,\u201d he says.
That\u2019s where tessellation - the method of repeating patterns so that there is no overlap and no gaps -

comes into the picture. Akin to the laying of tiles, Mazlin, who is regarded as an authority on social
housing, says it also describes the honeycomb pattern used in beehives and which was the basis for
his Honeycomb System of Housing.

\u201cIn honeycomb housing, the tessellation method of planning allows all houses to be built around small
parks with large shade trees in hexagonal cul-de-sacs,\u201d he explains.
\u201cThese can be efficiently interlocked to form townships that, if seen from the sky, resembles the bees\u2019
honeycomb.\u201d
It was this concept that won him the two awards recently.
Mazlin says artists and craftsmen have for centuries been using tessellation as a tool to create visual
effects on surfaces, with tiling being the most common product.
Muslim craftsmen in 15th century Spain created beautifully complex visual effects by tessellating a
small, simple tile pattern, from which intricate and complex patterns were built up.
In honeycomb housing, Mazlin says, the creative power of tessellation is not merely decorative but
representative of functional space.

Here, a small triangular tile that he calls the \u201cmother tile\u201d is the basicbuilding block to create a layout that can contain three requisite elements of a township plan, which Mazlin colour codes as yellow for roads; red for houses and gardens; and green for public green areas and parks.

These coloured segments are called \u201cdaughter tiles\u201d.
Mazlin says, \u201cthe mother tile, and close variations of it, tessellate according to simple rules to form
what appears to be a complex and intricate pattern. Daughter tiles meet and link up with similar ones
in adjoining tiles.
\u201cDaughter tiles of the same colour form conjoined tiles. It is the complex shape of these interlocking
daughter tiles that we perceive, rather than the simplicity of the triangular grid.\u201d

Conjoined house and garden tiles form the basis of new house types. Linked honeycomb houses are
ideally joined back-to-back and are accessed through different cul-de-sacs, as is the case with the
duplex and triplex layout plans that Mazlin has patterned out.

However, the houses can also be linked side-by-side, as in the case of the quadruplex and sextuplex
designs.
Courtyard neighbourhoods
A \u201ccourtyard neighbourhood tile\u201d, containing the elements necessary to form a small community, is
created by tessellating the mother tiles to form a hexagon. Communal space is in the middle,
surrounded by the houses.

An access road runs by each unit, on the perimeter of its courtyard space, to form an efficient
circulation system. This design allows for the creation of a spatial boundary - a central area that can
become the communal focus: There is a sense of entry into the space, and there is a clear, common
perception of the neighbourhood.

To create a bigger neighbourhood out of this, the courtyard neighbourhood tile is tessellated. This causes the roads to be linked, creating cul-de-sac neighbourhoods without any loss of efficiency in land use.

Dwelling units can be linked into multi-unit blocks along the tile boundaries. Joining many courtyard
and cul-de-sac neighbourhood tiles on a real site, Mazlin says, is simple and efficient.
\u201cThis results in more liveable space and helps build better relationships between people, people and
cars and people and their environment.\u201d
Safe and secure

Since houses are built around a small park with plentiful shady trees, this communal garden is easily
accessible to all in the cul-de-sac, allowing it to act as a social focus to promote small, friendly
neighbourhoods.

It is a defensible space as well, as it acts naturally to reduce crime in the sense that strangers are
quickly spotted. The short winding roads put a stop to speeding traffic, and certainly dissuade snatch
thieves on motorcycles - therefore becoming safe for children and pedestrians as well.

The network of roads in honeycomb housing consists of looping cul-de-sacs and short connecting
roads leading to distributor roads. This pattern slows traffic down naturally, while the short, connecting
roads with no access to the houses provide space for visitors to park.

It is very easy to get lost when looking for a house in a typical Malaysian township. Petaling Jaya is a
fine example: Make one wrong turn and you will easily compound this mistake with other mistakes,
taking you further and further away from where you want to go.

The road system in the tessellation method allows people to navigate the streets without any worry of
getting lost.

For example, in a 100-acre site, the main access road can be 66ft-wide linked to smaller 50ft-wide
distribution roads. The houses are accessed from cul-de-sacs in a hierarchical fashion with each cul-
de-sac related by name or number to the distribution road it is linked to.

\u201cThe fact that smaller roads do not connect to other small roads means that if you make a wrong turn

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