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Global Habitat and City Development

2004 Summit Meeting on Asian Habitat

許勝會先生
國際著名建築師、韓國建築師協會創始人

11/18/2004
A New Design Direction for Modern Housing and City Planning
Stephan S. Huh
Thank you for a wonderful introduction.
It is an honor and a pleasure for me to speak to you tonight. I always enjoy talking about
architecture. I especially enjoy tonight’s subject “Housing and Urban Design” which is
the basis of our architectural profession. I still remember my first design assignment for
school 40 years ago. I had to design a house, not my house, my dog’s house.
Before I start my main discussion, I would like to introduce my company; Parker Durrant
International, PDI.
Well, let’s go back to tonight’s main topic. What I would like to discuss with you is “What
are the issues of today’s housing and urban design, and how can we improve them”?
China has been developing at a tremendous pace in recent years, so this topic seems
especially relevant. We could ask them the following questions: “Does the Chinese
government have a vision for the future development of China? “What can they
(Chinese Government) learn from the mistakes made by other countries that have gone
through this jump in development previously? Can they use this information to their
advantage? I am sure they did and will do in the future.
In fact, our company, Parker Durrant International (PDI), always asks these types of
questions whenever we begin working on a new project; whether it is a housing or an
urban design project.
My Personal History
My talk starts with some background on my personal history. I hope this will help you to
better understand me and our discussion topic.
I was born in Korea and survived the terrible Korean War. I witnessed first hand, the
destruction of war; many buildings, houses and entire cities were destroyed and burned
down. I also witnessed the reconstruction of buildings and cities from the war torn ashes
after the war had ended. At that point Korea’s focus was not on beautiful or monumental
architecture but how quickly and inexpensively could they rebuild. I know that some
people felt bad that the country had missed a great opportunity to rebuild better cities
and better buildings that would embrace the modern demands in a post-war era. But I
think that they did the best that they could in that time of great demand with limited
resources.
I started my architectural education ten years after the war in 1964. This was a time
when Korea was still struggling with its poverty issues, definitely not a time to build great
architecture. President Park Jung Hee, a strong leader who at that time gave us all
hope, convinced all Koreans that “we can do it” and “we can be as rich as many other
countries in the world”. My fellow students and I were very optimistic about our future
with the thought that “someday Korea will need our design talent and we should be
ready for that day”.
I decided to go to America in 1965 but I had to serve for three years in the Korean
Military service in order to receive a permit to leave the country from the Korean
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Government. After completing my military service and my bachelor’s degree, I worked
for the Korean Government, Ministry of Education for three years as an assistant to the
project architect. We were working on a major educational improvement project funded
by the World Bank. The World Bank wanted us to work with American architects, which
gave me a great opportunity to learn American architectural styles and to build life-long
friendships.
Today, I see many foreign architects and engineers are working with Chinese architects
and engineers in China. I believe that this kind of joint teamwork will help the Chinese
architectural professionals a great deal. In the long run, China will benefit from this as
was the case for Korea. Of course, the western architects and engineers will benefit
from this also.
In 1971, I started my master’s degree education at the University of Minnesota. My first
design professor at the U of M was the world famous architect Leonard S. Parker, FAIA,
who taught me and brought me to his office to work. I began working as a drafting
technician but I was quickly promoted to a partner in 1980 and became the CEO of his
company in 1997.
While I was studying, working and practicing architecture in the United States, Korea
went through many changes in their city and housing development. Their post-war
“quick and cheap” construction era had ended and they began a new era of remodeling
and redevelopment. Inexpensive low-rise housing in Seoul and other major cities was
replaced with new high-rise housing and mixed-use buildings. As a result, the standard
of living improved substantially although I’m not sure if they had a strong policy on
sustainable design or not, I hope that they did not miss another opportunity for better
design.
I believe China is now in the same redevelopment era. I would like to ask the Chinese
government some questions, “Do you have policies to create cities based on human
centered and sustainable design”? This era of redevelopment would be a wonderful and
rare opportunity to make the city a better place to live and at the same time you could
reduce noise/air pollution, fuel/energy consumption as well as water consumption.
Well, enough about my personal history, let’s get back to this evening’s topic: “Housing
and Urban Design”. I would like to discuss urban design before housing; not because
the Chinese read backwards but because of our company’s design philosophy. “If we
want to design a house, it should reflect the neighborhood and the neighborhood should
reflect the city; always enhancing and reinforcing the whole”.
Urban Design
Our cities are constantly changing due to changes in their needs at any given point in
history. Cities change as a result of political changes, defense method changes, and
more recently, changes in transportation. At the same time, people are constantly
building new cities; recent examples are: Shanghai- Pudong Area, Korea – Kangnam
Area and Kazakhstan’s new capital city Astana. We normally judge the success of a
new city on their automobile traffic system. How wide and how many lanes are their
streets? How fast can I get from one destination to another? How about Beijing? How
many ring roads do they have? We are definitely living in an era ruled by the
automobile. Even an old city such as Tokyo is adding more and more roads into the city;
some of them are 3-story, elevated roads with exchange systems. The question is, how
many additional lanes will be enough to eliminate traffic congestion? The wider roads
we build the more vehicles they can accommodate which contributes to an increase in
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noise and air pollution and congestion as wells as the separation of neighborhoods and
communities. Then what is the solution? Before we nail down an answer to this
problem, let’s think about the basics of city planning.
City planning begins with a land use plan and a traffic system plan which will
establish the size and location of schools, churches, public park systems, residential
blocks, commerce/business blocks, industrial/manufacturing blocks and public building
blocks as well as connecting streets and plazas. Based on these plans, more detailed
block plans and building designs will begin. So you can see the importance of these
plans. The shape of the land and its natural amenities such as rivers, mountains,
oceans play a large role in the city planning and in the uniqueness of the city’s design.
Some examples are: Honolulu - an ocean city, San Francisco - an ocean and hill city,
Beijing - a flat city with ring roads and Minneapolis - a flat city with ten thousand lakes.
The examples are endless. Cities that have more beautiful public parks, playing fields,
pedestrian walkways, museums, libraries, restaurants and shops are generally
considered more successful.
Today I want to focus our discussion on automobile vs. our cities. The automobile has
been one of the greatest inventions of modern times; its contribution to mankind is
tremendous. But too many of them can cause problems such as pollution, traffic
congestion, urban sprawl, and community separation as we discussed earlier. Can
we live without the automobile? Maybe we can, but it would be a major inconvenience
for many people. The solution is not to eliminate the automobile but to increase public
transportation and decrease personal automobile use. Currently, buses and taxis are
the most frequently used form of public transportation in many cities because of its cost.
Someday we may see a fuel change in buses, taxis and automobiles from fossil fuel
powered to electrically powered, which will reduce air pollution but all of the other
problems we have discussed will remain. Even though Beijing has only two subway
lines, New York, Seoul and Tokyo’s solution to public transportation is the subway. It is
very expensive and can sometimes be depressing for the riders but it is superior to gas
powered public buses and is considered the best solution for the major cities.
What about a Rapid Transit System (monorail type system) which would run above the
existing roads and run over magnet and personalized system? I first studied this system
30 years ago at the U of M. I know that the technology is there, but as far as I know, no
city has adopted this system yet (Beijing has a similar elevated light rail system and
Chicago has a very old elevated train system). The Rapid Transit System may be very
expensive and if not properly designed can be visually unattractive but it will solve many
of the problems we are facing today. What I like most is that using this system would
allow us to take back the ground level and give the 2nd floor of our city buildings as a
transportation transit point. Minnesota is famous for its skyway system which connects
city buildings at the 2nd floor providing a warm place to travel in the winter and a cool
place in the summer. As a result consumer businesses are more successful on the 2nd
floor than on the ground floor.
I would like to share a success story about Jeremy Harris, Mayor of Honolulu. Mayor
Harris wanted to initiate a human centered, sustainable city in Honolulu. Hawaii has
been suffering economically for the past twelve years due to a drop off in tourists from
Japan. His goal was to attract more tourists from all over the world not just from Japan.
What he (and Hawaii) has, is God’s gift of perfect weather, clean air, beautiful beaches,
healthy food and a wonderful environment. They have the best of everything! Yet, he
observed that many parts of his city were derelict, ignored and abandoned and he
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wanted to fix this. He established a task force, whose function was to plan, design and
implement his sustainable city idea. With the help of his task force of architects,
planners and engineers he established a new land use plan, created more public
parks and added more public transportation while discouraging the use of private
vehicles. He vacated a portion of the streets for pedestrian use only.
He increased parking fees substantially and limited new developments of urban sprawl
in order to increase the effectiveness of public transportation.
He renovated and refinished most of the abandoned historical buildings and reshaped
and rebuilt the Waikiki beach walkways adding benches, water fountains and grassy
areas in order to make it more pedestrian friendly. He built many new parks and existing
parks were reshaped and redressed. Public benches were provided, trees were planted,
bus shelters were built along the streets; the fa.ades of the city buildings were reshaped
and repainted. He made the city beautiful while at the same time reduced the city’s
energy consumption by 15%. As a result of this hard work, tourism has increased and
more people are enjoying their vacation in Honolulu.
How about China? Can China surpass Honolulu and become a leader in creating
human centered and sustainable cities? I believe that China is in a prime position to
accomplish this. China is developing at a tremendous rate, has the worlds largest
population and the Chinese have lived for thousands of years in harmony with nature.
Isn’t feng shui an example of that? In addition, the Chinese government owns the land
and has the power to make this happen. Imagine, if China were to create such a model
city, it would attract thousands of people from all over the world to see, learn and to live
in this unique and ideal city. What an opportunity!
In fact, I studied for two years at the University of Minnesota on the subject of an
Experimental City with a rapid transit system; population of 250,000 people, selfsupported,
totally sustainable, fully automated and totally controlled environment city.
MIT dreamed about this city and believed in it enough to provide a grant to the U of M in
order to study it. Imagine! Fifty years later. China will make this dream a reality, what a
story it will be!
International Modern Housing
Now, let’s discuss modern international housing design. People lived for a long time in
shelters that were not very different from animals. After the industrial revolution in the
19th century, people began to move into cities forcing many people to live together on
very limited land. The housing style changed from single-detached housing to multistory
buildings. The people had to sacrifice their natural, environmentally friendly
lifestyle. Since the industrial revolution the pace of housing style changes has been
tremendously fast.
Generally housing styles change because of the following five major influences:
1. Cultural/Social changes – New lifestyles demand new housing styles.
2. Economic Changes – More affluent and educated people want more unique
housing to express their identity.
3. Construction Material – New construction materials and better skills and
technology allow us to design and build bigger, better and more unique housing.
4. Technology changes – New technology demands modifications to our housing
styles, especially digital technology.
5. New Trends – More singles, more seniors and new home offices demand more
flexible housing styles, barrier free housing, home medical care and more unique
housing styles.
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Let’s discuss in detail starting with technology.
The automobile has made a large impact on housing design criteria as well as the
location of housing complexes. Today most Americans cannot separate the house and
the car, they go hand in hand. This may be true soon for the Chinese also. Our
dependence on the automobile is so enormous that we cannot eliminate them; we must
find a solution to control them. For example, in Korea, most new housing developments
in major cities provide underground parking which frees up the ground level for parks
and playgrounds.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) is another great modern technology
that keeps us comfortable under any weather condition. We are now very dependent on
this technology and would be hard pressed to survive without this technology under
severe natural weather conditions such as Alaska and Arizona. This HVAC technology
has made it also possible to create high-rise housing towers. At the same time, this
technology has contributed to housing designs that look similar throughout the world,
losing the rich culture, stylistic creativity and unique environmental design solutions
developed by architects throughout the ages. Unfortunately, because of this technology
many developers today are constructing houses based on price not necessarily based
on the possibilities of natural ventilation and energy efficiency.
In the mid-1970’s following an energy crisis, a new word was created, “sick building
syndrome”. This syndrome was created by plugging up air leaks in the building and
reducing the air exchange rate which made the air quality plummet, causing headaches
and other maladies. This taught us the importance of “green” architecture and
sustainable architecture.
Let’s talk about our energy consumption. We are relying on technology more and
more everyday in our lives. This means we need more and more energy. The energy
we are consuming today is not a “clean” energy. This energy is created by coal and oil
which creates CO2, which in turn thins the ozone layer and causes an increase in the
earth’s temperature. We Minnesotans (or people in Siberia?) love that because we live
in the coldest city in the world! But seriously, we need to focus on reducing our energy
consumption until we develop the technology to produce “clean” energy. Although this
will not give us the “green light” to waste energy, energy conservation should always be
a top priority regardless of what new technology might offer. If we do not cut energy
consumption, we will end up in a long term energy crisis, as well as a human disaster.
Digital Technology is another great modern invention. We can now turn our lights
on/off remotely, cook remotely; control our house temperature remotely (saving energy),
open the doors/windows/blinds remotely and control our security system from anywhere
in the house, car or even at the office. We watch, communicate and check on our
children at home while we are working at the office. This just goes on, and on and the
possibilities are endless. The question is how much and how many devices do we really
need? Does the system control you, or do you control the system? What if the system
breaks down? Are you prepared for that, or are you too dependent on the technology
and don’t know what to do without it?
What about the new trends in our social lives? The traditional large family is moving
towards a nuclear family, single living is increasing and with a higher life expectancy the
number of seniors is increasing. How about the globalization trend? All of these trends
cause housing styles to change. The number of rooms in a house is reducing, but there
is more demand for flexible living spaces. People want to have a room for their home
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theaters, rooms for music and home offices, etc. How about barrier-free housing? It
goes on and on. Then, the question is “Can we meet all of these new design demands”?
The answer is, “Of course, we can.” However, we should not forget that our design
should be human centered for their comfort, safety, happiness and health as well as
sustainable for our future.
Let’s think about International Modern Housing design direction:
1. Environmentally friendly housing: The key concern is how can we live with
nature in a harmonious way? Our man-made structures and landscapes should
enhance and reinforce the natural environment. Sun, wind, water and other
natural resources should be incorporated properly into our design to save
energy, improve health, increase happiness, make us more comfortable and the
quality of our lives. No one would argue that a breeze of natural spring air
coming through the window with the fresh smell of trees and flowers cannot
compare with any air from our air conditioning system. To me, cross ventilation
in the house is an absolute requirement for our health.
Man-made building materials: We are using too many man-made construction
materials in our houses these days some of which can cause “sick house
syndrome”. In the U.S. there are environmental laws that require a one
month baking and flushing out period prior to occupying the building. We
should try to use this practice everywhere and we need to use natural, recyclable
and sustainable materials as much as possible.
2. Proper use of Technology: We have discussed in detail the pros and cons of
technology. We have so many new technologies to deal with; such as
temperature control (HVAC), security, fire protection, audio/visual and
communication technology as well as digital technology. Our effort in the future
should be on how to integrate all of these individual technologies into one
comprehensive, controllable system which will make our life easier.
3. Flexibility: These days, as a new trend, housing style could be considered a
reflection of the owner’s lifestyle and the ultimate form of self expression. Home
owners want to create unique spaces that reflect their personal feelings and
opinions. This means that housing designs need to be flexible to allow many
different options. Flexibility is one of the most important design considerations in
the future. In Japan, some housing developers are creating man-made “sky
land” and let the home owner design and build detached style housing units on
this land. This may be an extreme example of flexibility.
4. Sense of Community – New communication modes such as telephones, cell
phones, T.V. and computers tend to segregate us from our neighbors. In the
past we would exchange information by having face to face conversations in our
town plazas or on our streets. Now days, this type of communication has
drastically reduced. The residents who live in single, detached suburban houses
have a better chance to get to know their neighbor while out maintaining their
house. However, the high-rise residents have very limited contact with their
neighbors unless they actively search out that contact.
I believe that all high-rise apartments should have a “sky garden” on every third
floor with a common open atrium which would connect the housing units
vertically, as well as horizontally. This would help build a sense of neighborhood
and community and in addition, would provide cross ventilation for the housing
units connected to the atrium. However, many improvement ideas like this will
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never be realized unless the government gives a strong incentive to the
developers who are willing to embrace these ideas and make them a reality.
These new ideas for amenities would provide a higher quality of living for the
residents in housing towers and it could be used as a business marketing
strategy for the developer.
Conclusion
We discussed in detail the current issues with urban design and housing development.
Currently, there are many ongoing experiments in the world for better housing
development in terms of energy conservation, better technology usage, and better
construction quality, even how fast we build and so on, and so on!
One example is Inte Green building which was initiated by an English architect named
Nicholas Thompson in 1999. The name comes from the combination of Intelligent +
Green building. This experimental housing received a lot of attention from all over the
world. There is no question that we will improve our housing and city planning but no
single idea or policy will govern forever. At the present time the best known solution
would be “human centered and sustainable design”.
Human centered means we should select and use our ever improving technology
wisely. Think before you leap! Let’s make ourselves the owner of the city and home;
not the technology. Technology should be there only to assist us not lead and dominate
us.
Sustainable means “are we consuming more than we are producing”? If we are, we
have to reduce our consumption for the sake of our future. This is not a choice! Save
energy, save our resources and begin using renewable and recyclable materials
whenever possible.
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    友情鏈結
2004 Asian Habitat Society, All Rights Reserved.