Make Yourself At Home: Can architecture enable a sense of home in Kuala Lumpur’s public housing?
Public housing in Kuala Lumpur was introduced by the government as a means of replacing informal settlements and providing housing for the lower income. Government subsidies often cover some of the costs of public housing to help keep it affordable and at the lower end of house prices. To help meet the low cost agenda, public house designs are often kept to a minimal standard in Malaysia, removing low income Malay dwellers from their ideal image of home. In the long run, signs of neglect in the public houses are reflected in the lack of care and maintenance from dwellers, vandalism and more. This thesis proposes that good, homely architectural design practices suited to the dweller can help encourage emotional ties between dwellers (low income families) and the dwelling (public houses). Its aim is to investigate potential architectural design approaches to tackle such problems in future Kuala Lumpur public houses. This raises the question of which homely architectural design strategies might be best utilised in the Kuala Lumpur public housing environment. The thesis begins by exploring the meaning of home in relation to both dwellers and dwelling before then identifying ‘homely’ architectural design practices suited to the Malay community. In the context of public houses, this research investigation identifies privacy, environmental comfort, security and safety as homely aspects that are most often lacking in public housing design, contributing to a less homely environment. To enhance the homely attributes of public houses, the thesis proposes ways to restore homely qualities of spaces in the public house, drawing from these three aspects in order to arrive at design opportunities best suited to the lifestyle of its dwellers.