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The Ritual Art of Offering as Catalyst for Sustainable Urban Intervention

The Ritual Art of Offering as Catalyst for Sustainable Urban Intervention

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Published by Hafiz Amirrol
Proceeding for the ISUF Conference, Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 2007
Proceeding for the ISUF Conference, Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 2007

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A Ritual Art of Offering as Catalyst for Sustainable Urban Intervention

Syed Sobri Zubir1 and Mohd Hafiz Amirrol1
1

Department of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, 40450 Shah Alam, Selangor, MALAYSIA

Abstract
The ritual art of offerings as part of religious procession has been inherent in many traditional cultures since time immemorial. This form of ceremony is apparently still practiced in contemporary times and one of the places that are heavily laden with this form of offerings to the Gods is on the paradise island of Bali, Indonesia. Their livelihood is ingrained with this ritual from the day of their birth until the day of their cremation. Since this ritual is part of the culture, which in turn shaped the built environment, therefore, it becomes the primary concern of this paper to explore their significant attributes so that it can be used to generate alternative solutions in modeling sustainable and livable communities for the future. The site for the proposed urban design intervention exercise will be on an empty land of more than 400 acres to be developed in supporting a community of 20,000 people on the island of Serangan, supposedly to be the miniature of Bali and the home to the second holiest temple that is the Pura Sakenan. The island is connected to the island of Bali by a bridge that caters for the regular religious processions to the temple. These theoretical exercises are generated from the urban design studio of the architectural program at the Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia and will culminate in design guidelines and proposals that assimilate the ritual art of offerings that is endemic and responsive to the context of the place. The paper will present four models of the proposed new urban structure on the island of Serangan, Bali portraying variation of approaches based on their initial research and analysis of the context. The intention of the project is to expose students to spatial planning and design issues, with special emphasis on social and cultural phenomena in producing alternative models relevant to contemporary and future urban forms. Since Bali is experiencing dramatic cultural, economic and social change via global market driven economies have transformed the traditionally strong communities to

accommodate new typologies of urban form. By zeroing into the components of place making as complete entities in themselves, students would be able to appreciate the hidden dimensions of the city. What is introduced in our urban design studio is a way of thinking, a way of approaching problems by identifying them rather than inventing them. Only then does one look for specific data that are needed in order to solve the problems. Also important is the logic of the argument, how the various sections of the study work together and are linked to the main problem. Each intervention proposals will be discussed individually, deliberating each design intention to achieve the prescribed goals from the research findings to reflect aspects of sustainability. The urban design process of the research laboratory is based on a synoptic method so as rational strategies or synectic approaches could be realized and transformed into a reflexive program for the urban intervention. As this research and design project makes use of a multiple sources of evidence, a mixed-methodology model is adopted. It is a combination of historical-interpretative strategy as well as qualitative and quantitative strategies. Hopefully, this design research exercise can validate the possibilities of projecting a new typology of urban form that is derived from the source of traditional norms i.e., from the ritual art of offerings. Keywords: culture; tradition; reflexive; hybridization; responsive; sustainable; typologies; morphology; urban form

1

Introduction

Despite the current brouhaha over problems of carbon emission, carbon footprints, etc, the issue of sustainability is not just limited to matters of earth, water, air and the environment. This paper asserts that the core component in ensuring sustainability of any field is the people. Integral to this is their day to day attitudes that also for the culture of the society. Hence, the cultural habits vis the cultural longevity will also impact the sustenance of the lived environment. However, influx of foreign contents is always a challenge to any traditional society. As Soeters (2005:69) laments, “If we look at history, we could say that the norm was for the poor man to help himself by forming his own dwelling, his village and his town, all the while praying to the gods, with an appropriate humility, that what he made would please them as well as himself. But then, in the early twentieth century, architects took upon themselves not the role of people trying to make their own place in the best way they could, but of being gods themselves. Whereas the gods of the past had sanctioned the creations of men, these new gods determined that nothing was properly ordered and set out rearranging it all for the better. By means of the tabula rasa, a completely new order could be created”. Bali is not untouched by this phenomenon of startingfrom-a-clean-slate approach to development. It is experiencing dramatic cultural, economic and social change via global market driven economies that have transformed the traditionally strong communities to accommodating new typologies of urban form. Made Wijaya, a permanent resident of Bali disapproves of the new breed of housing schemes which are devastating the island not unlike the tsunami of 2004, branding them as Bali’s New Asian Zen McVillas for their identical architecture. “What concerns me most about Bali at the moment―……[is] the genuine threat of real-estate brokers smothering the land with ugly villas” (Wijaya:2008, 2007, 2006). Despite the influx, an important aspect of the Balinese culture remains intact. This paper looks at the ritual art of offering practiced among the Balinese as a form of cultural sustainability that moulds and gives life to their built environment. Since this ritual is part of the culture, which in turn shaped the built environment, therefore, it becomes the primary concern of this paper to explore its significant attributes. This can be used to generate alternative solutions in modeling sustainable and livable communities for the future.

2

Ritual Art of Offering

The ritual art of offerings as part of religious procession has been inherent in many traditional cultures since time immemorial. This form of ceremony is still practiced in contemporary times and one of the places that are heavily laden with this form of offerings to the Gods is the paradise island of Bali, Indonesia. The people’s livelihood is ingrained with this ritual from the day of their birth until the day of their cremation. An important aspect to observe in this culture is that every object has a life. This object’s life is a necessity for it to address and interact with the gods in accordance with the object’s unique purpose. For the

Balinese, reality and existence veils the play of embodied and disembodied entities (sekala-niskala) that could be generative and/or degenerative and are complementary to rather than opposing each other (state of rhwa bhineda). Creation then is no ‘better’ than degeneration. Rather than conquering or overcoming degeneration, the Balinese choose an appropriate balance of the forces instead. It is their quest in life to restore or maintain balance. Being able to do so means achieving the ultimate goal of moksa or spiritual liberation (Samadhi:2004). The means to achieving this balance is through the ritual of offering to the invisible forces, viewed as gods, demons and ancestors. These forces are treated as honoured guests and daily presentation of offerings called banten are made to express gratitude to the benevolent ones and to placate the mischievous ones from disturbing the harmony of life. The banten comes in every imaginable shape, colour and substance. Those for daily presentation are kept simple whilst those for specific rituals become more elaborate and specially produced. The simpler offering usually takes the form of small palm leaf trays containing flowers and betel called canang. These are offered to the resident gods in every household before the family sit down for their meals. These offerings bear salutation to higher spiritual beings, and thus necessarily have to be attractive. Every offering then has a deep symbolic significance in addition to its decorative function. The production of these offerings is inevitably regarded as a traditional art form that constitutes the cultural sustainability of the Balinese people. This is augmented by the transitory nature of the offerings. Typically created using perishable and organic materials, the offering may not be re-used once presented to the higher beings. Similar ones therefore have to be produced again and again each day. These become the many tasks of the Balinese women and within a household the activities become a cooperation of several women generations. This way, skills and knowledge are handed down and culture constantly revived. Furthermore the number and variety of offerings required for any ritual could be astounding. There are literally hundreds of different kinds. The names, forms, sizes and ingredients differ greatly. There is also considerable variation from region to region, and even from village to village. The basic form of most offerings remains constant nonetheless. Rice, fruits, cookies, meat and vegetables are arranged on a palm leaf base and crowned with a palm leaf decoration, called a sampian, which serves also as a container for flowers and betel nut. These offerings take place in various hierarchical rituals, from the household level, to the communal level and to the temple festival level. Besides the major communal offerings associated with a particular ritual, each family brings its own large and colorful offering to a temple festival. The procession of women of a neighborhood carrying these offerings to a temple makes for a spectacular sight as each offering, containing a remarkable construction of brightly-colored cookies, could measure several meters from top to bottom. These ritualistic processions then become an integral part of the street life as the people walk from their house compounds to the temple grounds and so give vitality to the urban setting. Furthermore, each occasion does not only involve a

selected group of the people but participated by the whole neighborhood. The elements used in the ritual, from the varieties of offering to the selection of costumes being worn constitute an interactive art that enliven the public realm. Enriching all this is the fact that the rituals are not only bound within the household compound or the temple ground. Offerings are also made at every business premise be they on specialized altars or even directly on the pavement in front of each shop. Montgomery (1998) listed twelve physical conditions for making a city. These are summarized in Table 1.0 below. From this list, the Balinese practice of processional ritual of offering would have significant interconnection with almost all of those conditions, particularly number 2 to 12. Table: 1 Physical Conditions for Making a City [Montgomery:1998]

No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Condition Development Intensity Mixed Use Fine Grain Adaptability Human Scale City Blocks and Permeability Streets: Contact, Visibility and Horizontal Grain Public Realm Movement Green Space and Water Space Landmarks, Visual Stimulation and Attention to Detail Architectural Style as Image

In seeing the significant contribution of the local community in building this specific character of Bali, one must see urban forms as an ongoing process that will evolve through participation of the community itself. Urbanity is contextual, both spatially and temporally, and is always in the making. Options in place making are not ready made, but are always morphing. Choices are not between what is already there, but are about anticipating, adapting, and combining what the current and future keeps on offering.

3

Comparative Design Attributes and Method

From this principle of contextualism and cultural sustainability, students of the urban design research laboratory were encouraged to see the urban design process based on a synoptic method. This way, rational strategies or synectic approaches could be realized and transformed into a reflexive program for the urban intervention. This research and design project makes use of a multiple sources of evidence and so a mixed-methodology is adopted. It combines historical-interpretative strategy as well as qualitative and quantitative strategies. The intention of the project is to expose students to spatial planning and design issues, with special emphasis on social and cultural phenomena in producing alternative models relevant to contemporary and future urban forms. By zeroing into the components of place making as complete entities in themselves, the hidden dimensions of Bali could be appreciated. What is introduced in the research laboratory is a way of thinking, a way of approaching problems by identifying them rather than inventing them. Only then does one look for specific data that are needed in order to solve the problems. Also important is the logic of the argument - how the various sections of the study work together and are linked to the main problem. In this process of identifying problems and solutions, students were guided to categorizing and analyzing typology characters of existing built forms. This is with the aim of giving birth to fresh ideas which will have a strong characteristic in its design approach - a type of specific architecture and urban form with strong cultural elements which may not be able to be represented elsewhere. This principle of using typology studies as an analytical moment of architecture is suggested by Aldo Rossi in his book Architecture of the City. It becomes a guiding tool for students to understand local culture and context in the production of their individual design proposal. The heritage of traditional Balinese architecture is a mixture of old and new features, that is long associated with its local community’s lifestyle and religious belief. This mixture is a product of the migration of Hindu and Buddhist community from East Java to Bali Island. Their existence in the island soon dominated the political and cultural scenario of the island, resulting in changes to the older traditional architectural features of the existing community, which mostly exist along the lower areas of deltas surrounding the island. Traditional Balinese housing types can be generally classified into two; (1) cluster houses of the Bali community, and (2) traditional Bali Aga houses. These two types of houses are usually a group of small buildings, arranged according to their functions in clusters (kuren), enclosed within four walls, similar to the types of houses that can be found in Java. Seven basic separated elements made up the housing cluster; (1) entrance gate, (2) living/sleeping area, which usually is made up of open verandah, (3) storage area for harvested rice, (4) kitchen area, (5) toilets, (6) working space, and (7) area for religious procession and rituals. These elements are arranged in such a way as to respect the most sacred area, such as the area for religious activity and private areas being located at the most upper end of the cluster, towards the mountain-view. Other areas, which are least spiritual or considered ‘dirty’ are located at the lower end, directed towards the

sea. This arrangement is applied the other way around for houses in Northern Bali as the main mountain (Mount Agung) forms the central range of the island. This idea of balance is central to Balinese philosophy and way of life. Nature and Man complement each other in an order of hymn of beauty addressed to the God of Supreme (Sang Hyang Widdhi). This philosophy is translated clearly in the form of physical planning and landscapes of their living environment. The traditional villages (desa) are an ordering space. The basic Balinese territorial unit is the desa, which co-exists with its surrounding, usually covering both the wetland of the rice fields and the dry land of the housing compounds, which connects to gardens, temples and small roads. The Balinese desa is also usually host to a set of three village temples (the Kahyangan Tiga), each not only functioning as spaces for religious activities, but also as important nodes of the village symbolic life and of other community based activities. The territory itself has the village temple (pura desa), situated in the center of the village, where meetings and other ritual activities take place. Other temples that also mark the existence of a territory include the temple of the dead (pura dalem), temples for each group of families (pura banjar) and various temples of the local sub-clans (pura panti). All temples of the Kahyangan Tiga are of significant importance in the local rituals. Thus their existence cannot be denied in any development of livable space and urban planning, be it traditional or new. The most important, though, is arguably the pura desa, as evidenced by the honor shown to its God, who is usually given the most prominent position during any procession of Gods activities. Much of these procession and ritual works at the community level is shared among various families, clans and villages. Sharing facilities and taking turns to organize any ritual activities is common, and community participation can be seen, thus making these temples as strong symbols and places to encourage good social networks and harmonious lifestyle. Collective works such as security duties, cleaning and organizing an event could be seen anywhere in the villages of Bali. Within this physical construct of community living lays the framework of the new urban design intervention, which hopefully will provide new inventive models that would make the experience of the built environment more pleasurable. The varied characters of the elements to be included in each proposal are desired and will provide the best context for living, even in a modern but contextually responsive environment. Sustainability also plays an important role in determining the holistic component of a village or town planning. The vast agricultural landscape is no less important in the structure of a traditional Balinese village. The almost ubiquitous narrow grassy dikes seem to spread out like an endless carpet. These glistening rice fields not only sustain the economic cycle of a village, but also create added value for hotels and resorts to attract guests. In each field, small shrines stand as a symbol of protection and prosperity for the harvesting season. These traditional and sacred elements made up the unique composition for habitable, commercial or touristy areas in Bali, and are adopted in the designing process of this urban design studio.

To avoid romanticism dialectic, naïve interpretation of traditional forms and compositions, as well as getting lost in translation, a reflexive approach was taken in the process of analyzing these unique typologies and designing each individual proposal. ‘Wish images’, as being described by Walter Benjamin, in producing forms of the new means of production based on a process of intermixing the new and old, were translated into analytical diagrams. These diagrams were guidelines of ideas, approaches and inventions desired, brought into workable design solutions by proposing a morphological system that allows variation within the bound of strong Balinese planning and lifestyle practices. The process of diagramming also guides students to further embrace and expand their initial thoughts by having a hybridization of various approaches, thus developing a pragmatic way of design process, rather than radically alter the landscape of the island from an ‘uncontrolled’ design attitude. Four design proposals were selected based on their diverse and varied approaches in designing the new urban structure for Serangan Island. These proposals are to be discussed below individually. Each intervention proposals will be discussed individually, deliberating each design intention to achieve the prescribed goals from the research findings to reflect aspects of sustainability.

4

Proposed Intervention

The site for the proposed urban design intervention exercise is an empty land of more than 400 acres to be developed in supporting a community of 20,000 people on the Island of Serangan. This island is supposedly the miniature of Bali and the home to the second holiest temple in the land that is the Pura Sakenan. The island is connected to the island of Bali by a bridge that caters for the regular religious processions to the temple. These theoretical exercises are generated from the urban design studio of the architectural program at the Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia and will culminate in design guidelines and proposals that assimilate the ritual art of offerings that is endemic and responsive to the context of the place. The paper will presents four models of the proposed new urban structure on the island of Serangan, Bali portraying variation of approaches based on their initial research and analysis of the context. 4.1 Reflecting Contemporary Ideas and Design – Mohd Zainuddin Md Noor It can be said that almost all cities throughout the world are faced with a multitude of problems, ranging from urban disorder and violence, pollution and congestion, lack of open spaces and public amenities, to over population and so forth. In simpler terms, this in fact, represents the fallacy of progress brought about by the universal spirit of modern development, which is an integral component of Westernization. Few would be willing to admit that the problems facing us today come not from the so-called "under-development" but from "over-development". Some have equated the terms "city" and "problem" to be

synonymous while others, to some extent, have identified urban problems incorrectly, and as such the real problem is a global one stressing the fact that it has resulted from social injustice. To counter this imbalance from the recent development the scheme incorporates contemporary design ideas in reinforcing identity by reinventing the reflexive qualities of the Balinese cultural landscape. This is achieved by translating the traditional Balinese planning by assigning designated spatial attributes in creating a matrix that is simultaneously hierarchical in the cosmological as well as in the physical sense to achieve spatial balance. In the design process, the Tri Hita Kirana concept is essentially intended to establish harmonious relationship between human beings and God, human beings and the environment, and human beings among themselves. This concept is applied clearly in the creation of the housing typologies for Serangan Island in the form of spatial zoning and elements classification. This classification essentially signifies the three elements of Tri Hita Kirana, that is the spirit (atma), the energy (prana) and the body (sarira), which can be found in all kinds of entities in this universe. The generated urban design concept for Serangan Island, which is conducive in the regeneration of cultural identities resulted from the synergy between the traditional Balinese planning systems and the principles of place-making. This synergy yields a set of hybrid urban design principles which theoretically will be able to assist the planning and designing a unique township that reflects a coherent Balinese cultural values, and at the same time accomplish all principles of good urban design practice.

Figure 1: Typology studies on urban patterns and built forms.

Figure 2: Proposed layout.

4.2 Walkscapes – Hafiz Amirrol Even though Serangan Island is home to the second holiest temple in Bali, the place can be considered neglected from mainstream development since the days of Suharto’s “New Order” regime. This has resulted in poverty with high illiteracy rate, inadequate habitable spaces, and abandoned tourism projects on the island. Their livelihood dependence on fishing further deteriorated due to excessive environmental pollution, which has affected the marine ecosystem. In order for this island to survive from the onslaught of the free market economy, the development content of the island needs to readdress the sensitive issues not only relating to the typical approaches that are evidenced on Bali itself but also to be more reflexive incorporating their cultural roots and landscape. By exploiting the almost daily ritual of walking in religious procession practiced by the people of Serangan and Bali, which in turn shaped the built environment, this project tries to explore their significant attributes in generating alternative design solutions in modeling a livable and sustainable urban environment for the future. The daily ritual of walking in religious procession is translated through assembling and sorting of fragmented urban spaces as layers of abstracted elements. The proposed scheme therefore is an assemblage of fractured parts of the traditional walking city comprising districts of modernist reform projecting capitalist-consumerist ‘experiences’. Simultaneity, fragmentation, and ephemerally characterize this postmodern condition with intertwined pedestrianized paths and networks that create places, which enhance aesthetics and social awareness. It is hoped that the permeable streetscapes will expose the myriads of the ordinary people and challenge the opportunities for intentionally entering, maneuvering and exploring the spatial and physical repertoire of the proposal. This scheme tries to exploit the natural landscape formations of the island. The advantages of doing so offer an original urban fabric and identifiable panorama from outside and on the island itself. The rich diversity of built form; squares, streets, alleys and landmarks culminate in a unique sense of place within the various localities. By gently regulating with varied height restrictions of the urban form gives a sense of spatial coherence that create the qualities of urban ‘space of flows’ which then become the most identifying character of this township. The whole phenomenon suggests a state of fluidity, at the same time offering a huge variety of built volumes - tall, low, wide, narrow, big, and small - is brought together in a unifying force.

Figure 3: Initial studies and speculative diagramming.

Figure 4: Formation of proposed scheme.

Figure 5: Figure ground and detail proposed layout.

4.3 Faiz Ismail This scheme evolved from the central idea that urban form is a by-product of the collective consciousness of society that seek to sub late and transfigure the incompleteness and the inadequacies in the social system as manifested in contemporary urban reality. By morphologically confronting this issue, the generated images are translated into workable design solutions that allow variations within the boundaries of traditional Balinese planning regulations. This accommodates flexibility of working with natural geometry rather than with strict platonic form. Free and malleable forms are achievable, while a traditional platonic gestalten that is commonly practiced is too exacting and therefore vulnerable to corruption and degradation of the urban fabric by later interventions. The primary aim of this scheme is to establish the continuity of traditional culture in the development of contemporary urban form. Even within the context of globalization, the surface of urban life in Bali is still embedded in indigenous meanings. If we want to reconstruct or reconnect the historical rupture of local cultural tradition created by westernization, it is necessary for us to understand the cultural forces that have established design principles behind the creation of their indigenous built form, which then can be translated in the modern context. The aim is not to replicate but to transform and assimilate what have been done in the past into something compatible with the values and aspiration we hold today. By understanding the process that has contributed in molding indigenous cultural artifacts is not to deny present day realities, but to re-establish a continuity of traditionalism within the context of modernity. By doing a morphological analysis of the existing models would enable us to neutralize the past and free from being conditioned by specific historical models and concentrate instead on the inventive transformation of new models or variants which respond to new and particular demands of the existing contingencies. The designer who does not understand the building’s typology will make the mistake of imitating the superficial aspects of specific historical models leading to the inappropriate pastiche. If the designer denies typology, he is at the same time cannot respond properly to the functional demands of the building and cannot create a body of culturally meaningful urbanism. Although the physical and spatial organization of traditional urban form have been gradually changed through the introduction of alien urban types and strict land allotment, the concept of the centre still remain embedded in the spatial organization. The proposed scheme delineates an agenda for a critical urban design idea that reflect contemporary and identifiable urban form, one which is compatible with modern needs and at the same time vernacular in character.

Figure 6: Analytical studies on typology and networks.

Figure 7: Proposed scheme. 4.4 Zul Azri Abdullah The prevailing architectural polemic in Bali is in a state of ambiguity. Architects with a wide range of approaches towards developing a responsive architecture derived from the local traditions have failed to comprehend the essence and virtues of its intrinsic values. Furthermore, the differences in views and attitudes have made contemporary built form susceptible to the influences of the non-regional images of modern architecture, which have been a threat to the survival and continuity of the local traditional and cultural heritage of Bali. This scenario has proven that the loss of tradition has been attributed to the development of the indefinite human progress through material evolution as envisaged by secularism itself and has resulted in a unilateral and monolithic ideology of modernity. This may be due to the fact that western society itself gave rise to the modern and industrial city, but in Bali, where the conflict of traditionalism and modernity prevails, it is the city that has made and molded the society. The concept of Westernization is not entirely new for it marked the beginning in the development of secular worldviews that have created the problems we face today. It is pertinent to highlight the fact that it was the process of secularization that has established a worldview that places man in control over nature, rather than emphasizing them in harmony with the physical and the natural environment1. This is due partly to the creation of an artificial environment from which nature has been excluded to the greatest extent of its spiritual dimensions and hence to the disappearance of traditional cultures.

To reduce the exacerbating qualities to further degrade the security, tranquility and sanctity of the Island of Serangan, this scheme tries to generate alternative built form that portrays a strong sense of regional identity of the place by considering the following principles derived from the philosophy of Tri Hita Kirana. To create a hierarchy of space syntax reflecting the Sanga Mandala (UtamaMadya-Nista), To induce a balance of activities in land use distribution: Tri Hita Kirana (relationship between man and God, man and man, and man and nature), To balance the needs of urban development within the specific context, To consider space/time equilibrium as an operative mode and a reliable strategy in shaping new realities of urban form that promotes tourism and culture, To consider nature as the principle element and the decisive force in generating urban design solution.

Figure 7: Diagramming exercise in the process of understanding an urban schemata.

5

Discussion and Conclusion

In the years to come, Indonesian cities and townships will face a major overhaul of its condition and surrounding, be it infrastructures, planning systems, built form typologies, extensions and annexations. New ones will be built, and things might not be good as in the 1980s and early 1990s, when things are still ‘fresh’ and not chaotic as what exist now. But urban infrastructures are what Indonesian cities will demand, so these cities will get these new urbanism infrastructures either slowly or quickly, but surely eventually. Population growth, urban migration, economic growth, tourism demand, post disaster reconstruction, and the whole modernization process will demand that. Important decisions are to be made by every layer of society, with a clear conscience that is very important to shape the future urban civilization and lifestyle. These decisions must undergo intensive processes, and the proposals generated and discussed above from the idea of manipulating the ritual art of offerings in Bali may work as catalyst for new sustainable urban intervention. This concept imposes order and demand certain behaviors and discipline. It will also create new types of urban spaces and usage, with different possibilities to relate to existing spaces and socio-cultural context. From the understanding of these

concepts and urban design processes, a research based studio unit is seen as a laboratory to execute research on these new possibilities of urban studies. It is hoped that our effort in this design research exercise can validate the possibilities of projecting a new typology of urban form that is derived from the source of traditional norms i.e., from the ritual art of offerings, thus stimulating the wide myriad of urban design interest in generating interesting urban design schemes.

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