Participation in the Blog (Semester 2)

3D rendering of a forming puzzle with the word Blog

To be honest, this semester is quite busy and difficult with me to manage time and divide my energy on different subjects of semester 2. However, I still try all my effort to write a quality blog as much as I can do. Of cause, it is not just about writing, the important thing I have achieved from blog is what is shared by my colleague and someone from outside university audience. I have gain a lot of knowledge from what they post on blog that is faster and more easier in receiving than reading dozens of book or journal. In semester 1, we were free to choose the topic so I had a lot of opportunities to approach new knowledge, new projects, new building, new ideas. Differently, in semester 2, we seem to focus on writing some issues around our projects which we have to do in our course. It is really for me to approach and analyse project in different perspectives, understanding clearly about project brief, what I have to do, which better than the feeling awkward in semester 1. We still have Independent Research in next semester, so I expect we can keep sharing and waiting for contribution from blog visitors that can support each other.

Writing blog often is a quite difficult mission with me in this semester. The first reason is the overlapping of topic happen quite regularly; deciding and finding a new angle or topic is quite difficult. Another reason come from academic style and personal thinking need to consider carefully, which we have to combine what we learnt from semester 1 with new knowledge from semester 2. However, the quality of the article partly improved and approach closer to urban design that will be useful for my future.

Finally, there is one thing I feel unsatisfied about blog is we should put more attention another part of blog. Blog is not just about studying, researching and writing; there is a big part for us to share the period of our student life in Newcastle, it is second time with me, especially it is in foreign country with classmates from different countries, different languages, different cultures. After we graduate, we have a little chance to meet again, so blog is the repository of the great moments of time in Newcastle where I have some good friends like Sam and Dodo.

High Density: Is this good?



It is already one year since the day I began research on urban design, there is one thing make me interest is density. In many literature reviews, journals and books, there is a consensus between various experts about mixed use and high density is one of key to create a sustainable city. In fact, many cities are developing or regenerating urban with high density, even very high density in city centre and spread gradually toward alternative areas or some key areas. However, it still has received many contrast opinions, which argue that high density can cause negative influence with the quality of life.


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There is one strong argument about high density is resources saving. It is quite obvious that higher density will increase the number of people per area that mean saving land foundation. Using a centralized energy source such as electricity or in a same block that reduce the cost for supply system (Beatley, 2004). Moreover, function and facilities are focus in smaller scale that lead to more convenient and saving time for the movement as Le Corbusier (1971) show in ‘A contemporary city’ . It is also lead to people save more energy consumption, such as gas or petrol for transportation vehicles. However, Echenique (2010) argued that that high density don’t have strong impact to make travel more sustainable as he shows some examples in his interview.

03_Regional and Community Design_1

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Furthermore, it contributes to create a sustainable community which encouraging social interaction by providing more opportunities for people to meet and gather. A pioneer person for this idea is Jacob (1961), in her book, she described her living area as a ballet street, in which she pointed out that mixed use and high density make city become more lively. In many housing guidelines, they suggest to build projects with high density to increase the social communication between members in community. In fact, there are a lot of issue around living in high density buildings, people have lack of social interaction with inside and outside community, which is described as fly ‘out of city’.


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In conclusion, high density is still a debate, which need to be considered in more aspects. According to Beatley (2004), high density is not mean high rise building and skyscrapers  should be built in every planning of city. Gehl (2010) explains a good city have high density but “the buildings should not too tall, streets not to dark, and without constructing barriers”.




Beatley, T. (2004). The sustainable urban development reader. London: Routledge.

Echenique, M. (2010), Does high density development make travel more sustainable? Available at: [Accessed at 17th May 2015].

Jacobs, J. (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities, New York: Vintage Books.

Gehl, J. (2010) Cities for people, London: Island Express.

Le Corbusier (1971). The city of tomorrow and its planning. London: Architectural Press.




The term of ecological urbanism have been appeared in the late 80s and early 90s of the twentieth century in the developed countries, referring to the quality of the urban environment with very specific criteria in order to improve the conditions and quality of life for inhabitants. Ecological urbanism is a higher step than Landscape Urbanism, which design and manage to make the balance and harmonious between the development of city and the nature (Ruano et al., 1999). In particular, landscape urbanism consider on urban system, urban infrastructure, the interaction between human activities and the landscape (Gray, 2011; Valkenburgh cited in Grajales, n.d). Meanwhile, ecological urbanism is about city-making with the landscape is the key element for nature-making in the city, the goal is to avoid the conflict with the eco system of city and the environment that is a sensible approach to make and remake cities.


Figure 1: City-making






Figure 2 : Garden City

The first concept of eco urban or eco city has been developed from the late of 19th century with the idea of Garden city. It is a urban planning solution to solve urban environment problems which are the result of urbanization and industrialization. The process of urbanization and industrialization have destroyed the natural environment, have strong negative impact to the balance of ecosystem and the biodiversity. Therefore, ecological urbanism is the inevitable next stages of the process of urban modernization to create a sustainable urban. That point out that ecological urbanism is an link in the evolutionary chain of the urban, which mean it needs a long term plan to make the significant impact with the environment of urban. Nature is not like buildings, they need time to grow, to spread, to regenerate and to have huge influent. Moreover, as mentioned before, the natural environment of city need to be linked with natural ecological system that the ecological urbanism should be considered in wider scale of city. As one of my colleague mentioned about the Nantes project, the development of city and landscape urbanism take time to full development, landscape system can have different function and impact in each scenario.

According to Hagan (2015), the concept of ecological urbanism open new direction, ‘unlimited possibilities for invention and ambition in design’. The architects, urban designers and urban planners now are focusing more on optimizing the advantage of natural landscape such as  woodland, waterfront; regenerating the abandoned area rather than expanding the boundary of city to create a healthy, sustainability, lively, natural friendly environment. Now, we can see the gradual shifting of urban around the world in ecology way with many eco projects such as Cheonggyecheon stream or Lyon river.


Figure 3 : Cheongyecheon Stream



Grajales, K.T. (n.d). Interview with Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA [online], Available at: [Accessed 16 May 2015].

Gray, C. (2011) Landscape Urbanism and Trajectory [online], Available at: [Accessed 16 May 2015].

Ruano, M., Sáenz de Valicourt, C. and Ruano, M. (1999). Eco urbanismo, entornos humanos sostenibles. Barcelona: G. Gili.


Cohousing : Care Village



Cohousing is an intentional neighbourhood, in which, design and all of work are run by their residents. Each household live in their own dwelling but share community facilities, in particular, common house is a meeting point where they do activities and eat together. More important, cohousing community promote social interaction and promise a good living environment. As many previous posts from my colleagues, cohousing focus and are interested mainly by elder people. The idea to build cohousing as ‘care village’ by Brenton (2013) has been addressed  to support senior cohousing.


Figure 1: Healthy environment need to be care seriously in cohousing design.

Similar with any type of housing, cohousing consider physical care issue, which it needs to meet any demand of housing standard, criteria of quality of life. A healthy and sustainability environment is very important with cohousing, especially with elder people. Greenery, pollution reduction, fresh air, waste treatment are always address on any housing projects, cohousing as well. In addition, cohousing often consider green energy, sustainable energy to keep a clean environment, also reduce the energy fee.


Figure 2: Teaching people to take care themselves.

Furthermore, cohousing can provide a health care service, which it is more convenient for them rather than to move out to find health service, sometimes it will be too late. However it will be costly, so it can work in small scale, which can help and teach people some abilities to take care themselves. As Brenton (2010)  said ‘Small services providing practical help and emotional support to older people can significantly affect their health and wellbeing’.


Figure 3: Social care

As mention before about the concept of cohousing, social care is the key of ‘care village’. First of all, community building is the aim of cohousing, strengthening community by providing opportunities for any member come to join community activities, to meet, to communicate and to understand each other. It gathers people, avoid making people feel loneliness or isolated, especially with elder people and who are new comer.  The relationship between member in community will lead to they will concern, beware and take care someone when they get sick or help when they get problem.

According to some reports, journals  and case studies in Dutch and Danish (Brendon, 2013), it shows that cohousing have reduced the pressure of health services and social care demand. Cohousing is a good solution for elder people who like to live in a mutual care community rather than living  in a nursing home.



Brendon, M. (2013) Senior cohousing communities – an alternative approach for the UK?, [online], Available at:

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Urban living room



Nowadays, social communication is gradual happen through remote communication devices such as telephone or computer, the raise of physical social interaction and community building are more considered, even in the field of urban design. Creating public spaces is the solution to solve the social problem, however, which public space  have the positive impact with social issue is still studying. In this blog, i would like to talk about the idea of Urban living room, which in my perspective, it is a good idea for social issue.

The concept of Urban living room is not new but it is a new term, which just appear in some research. According to Gehl (2015), public space should be consider as living room of the city. Therefore, urban living room is a part of public space that mean it must be used by different group; is place where public life happen; is represented the image of society; a part of community system (Thomas,1991). The term itself shows clearly that Urban living room is implied meeting place, gathering place and communicating place, which take place in outdoor area. However, public space contain various section such as urban feature, public realm system, flow, etc; urban living room is focused on place-making, in which seating and communicating are the key.


Seating with face to face create more chance for social communication.

Where is the attractive seating? First of all, a good place or comfortable place should meet human need including belongingness and love, esteem needs, need for self-actualization, basic needs satisfaction, safety need (Maslow, 1954). Basically, people often sit everywhere they want however, people tend to sit next someone in a typical range, which make them feel safer while guarantee a privacy space Gehl (2010). Therefore, long benches, step or hand railing can make people become closer and create opportunities for communication. However, people can only really communicate with each other when eye-contact is linked. Benches are organized parallel and same orientation like in station, users are not often try to talk with other. In the opposite way, it can be seen that group of people seem to choose a place which they can sit as a circle, face to face. Therefore, urban features which are placed in the right way, can generate chances for social interaction.


Open-air living room in street.

Urban living room is not required a large space like a square or a park. It can be created in a small scale, a setback space from buildings, a extent part of street, even a transport stop. The setting don’t need to be complicated, it just a few chairs, bench and table in comfort environment. Benches or chairs should be set in the outward way that will send an inviting message to sit down and communicate.

In social aspects, the development of the urbanization process with the massive invasion of the high-rise buildings, skyscrapers;  urban living room creates opportunities for socializing, outdoor activities, gathering and meeting place. In the eyes of the designers of urban planning and architecture, it optimizes the space, transform a dead space into a lively place in any time of the year, turning an non-function space into a attractive destination. In the eyes of investors, it will help them make optimal saving and investment costs, rising land values, increasing the chances of attracting more customers. Therefore, urban living room should be consider more in design of street layout.



Gehl, J. (2010) Cities for people, London: Island Express.

Gehl, J. (2015) Jan Gehl: Architects know very little about people [online],  Available from: [Accessed at  1st  May 2015].

Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper and Row.


My experience of blogging

3D rendering of a forming puzzle with the word Blog

Although blogging is quite popular at the time the information technology development, however, blogging is a totally new thing that I have never done before. Furthermore, the article on my blog must demonstrate critical thinking about issues surrounding urban design.  Therefore, this time is a new challenge I have to face.

The first thing that surprised me is that we have to manually design everything with the blog site, from choosing the background, font type and font size to the categories. Because this blog is the result of a group, we have to participate that lead to many meetings were held to ensure the quality and attractiveness of the blog. We are the designers, manager, maintainer at a same time.

The article is always a difficult contest but bring huge benefits for me. Firstly, I achieved through blogging is confidence in sharing the knowledge what I have. I always expect my posts will be achieved the perfect quality to get the initial impression with the reader. Selection of topics to write, writing style, looking for the source documentation, layouts posts always make me think brainer. Looking at the post from my classmates, their works are extremely simple but it is still extremely useful in transferring the information, I understand that the post do not need to fulfill in order to say what I think.

In the process of searching documents and topics, as well as sharing the data with classmate and joining the class to build the posts for the blog, I gained numerous valuable materials to help me understand more about urban design, as well as related subjects. Through blog, I know more a lot of term such as the concept of urban agriculture as mobile or garden. It likes opening the door to the knowledge treasure of mankind. Moreover, these knowledge are absolutely useful to develop my project and make it more reasonable and justifiable. That develops and strengthen important skills such as critical thinking and critical observing. I hope in the future, I can get more knowledge that can be applied more in practice, to change the urban areas in my country, Viet Nam. But what I learned is not only the knowledge of urban design, through the posts of my classmate, I can understand a part of their culture, style and mindset. That can improve our relationship, to understand each other and feel more friendly when everybody feel free to present themselves.

However, there are still a few things what I  have not done. When I look back at the process  of design project, I realized that I could use the blog as a tool to share the questions, problems and issues appear in the design that I can not solve. If I did it, I will have a chance to get the answer from my classmate or exploiting all aspects of such projects and find faster ways.

I will continue with blog in next semester and further, i hope i can contribute more useful post to make our blog become more interesting and attractive. I also expect more people will know about our blog and start interacting and sharing their knowledge with us.

Mobile Garden in term of Urban Agriculture


Urban Agriculture is becoming a sustainable and effective development trend, especially in urban regeneration, building green infrastructure, preventing climate change and food supply. However, it is not easy to start growing a Urban Agriculture system, particularly in high density city where there are a lot of limitation in land resource as well as investment sources. Mobile garden emerges as a feasible solution, which has the ability to meet strict requirements


Some creative design of mobile garden by recycling old stuffs.

A strong characteristics of mobile garden is flexibility, moving versatility instead of permanent plant into the ground. It may save land while it is easy to arrange and to change based on the typical circumstances. Additionally, it is also used as a decoration that improve the lively, air quality and landscape. Mobile garden can reduce a lot ofbudget for the user.

They can start their mobile garden with a shopping cart, a bag, a crate, a mini fridge, retrofitted into a planting and transform into mobile edible garden. It brings many positive benefits in different aspects such as environment, waste treatment and recycling, boosting the creative and growing. For instance,  there are many projects which were conducted by Wayward Plants Company, they invite local community come to work and design the garden with their staff and volunteers. People are free to create some mobile planting as well as the rest of garden with recycle material.


Mobile garden event in Berlin

Mobile garden is the first step to involve resident with Urban Agriculture projects. Because of flexible characteristic, it can be moved around city and presenting on street to promote its benefit with public. People who are not familiar with Urban Agriculture, they will have more opportunities to approach and study about it. That encourage more people interest with urban agriculture and start growing something in their house. For example, in Odd Places, New York, Art Festival which was organized by university students, drew the participation of many people as well as artists. Another distinctive event is there are around 40 planting-shopping carts move on the streets of Berlin for the winter that attract a lot of attention from residents.

In conclusion, mobile garden is a suitable option for people who don’t have enough space but want to have a green space connecting them with nature. In broader scale, mobile garden contributes to the development of urban agriculture as well as green infrastructure of cities.

Walkable city is new urbanism


For a long time, foot is the first and primary movement of people to transit from one place to another,  the development of high-speed vehicles such as sports cars, high-speed train or plane cannot completely replace it. According to Enrique Peñalosa (n.d) “God made us walking animals – pedestrians. As a fish needs to swim, a bird to fly, a deer to run, we need to walk, not in order to survive, but to be happy.” Therefore, designing a suitable, comfortable and attractive environment for pedestrian is prerequisite of urban design. New Urbanism is the urban development trend from 1980s, which promoting the idea of walkable neighbourhood. Nowadays, this trend is expanding around the world, in many cities and towns .

The term ‘walkable city’ appears a lot in regeneration or preservation, in which urban planners and urban designers transform the core of city, which is often the central, along the river or heritage areas into walkable place. These walkable areas are built in some criteria, which was concluded in Richard Smith’s lecture (2014) about Movement Strategy: Connected, Convivial, Conspicuous, Comfortable and Convenient. However, there are a lot of principles as well as issues to justify a walkable place such as walking room, speed of pedestrian or density as Jan Gehl (2010) mentioned in his book ‘Cities for people’.


Walking routes map, blue line is the main route from city centre to quayside.

Newcastle is a good example of walkable city when you examine criteria on main pedestrian route. The main walking areas locate in the intersection point between some main attractions such as universities, civic centre and stadium. Moreover, it is transitional place or start/end point of public transports. Pedestrian can feel free and safe to see a lot of beauty and magnificent shop on the ground floor, while motor vehicles are completely isolated. Furthermore, it is legible to specify the direction, especially the main route from city centre to river area where become a walkable place.


One of 36 old streets in Hanoi, Vietnam.

However, the model of walkable city cannot apply in all cities. One example in my country-Vietnam, there is ’36 streets’ project to change a big area in central of city into walkable place with the main purpose of maintaining heritage houses and streets in there. This area is quite suitable to develop a walkable place with the diversity in lifestyle, architecture and vibrancy streets. However, the main problem is the personal vehicle of residents, which is mostly motorbike. That lead to it is difficult to manage and limit the access as well as using. Moreover, parking for amount of these vehicle is a huge question with local authorities. There were a lot of ideas such as policies to do project but it haven’t solved the problem.

In the future, it is expected there are some solution or some case study can solve existing problem for the concept of walkable city. The beauty of city should be experienced by eye level rather than through the windows of any vehicle.



Gehl, J.(2010) Cities for People, Washington, DC : Island Press.

Community engagement : Benefits and challenges



Nowadays, community engagement show their crucial role in connection between resident and government many sector such as policy, program or service issues. However, community engagement face many difficulties during the entire period of the project.

The initial stage is often faced the most difficult. Collecting comments or to attract the attention of people is always a problem when starting. Normally, only the people who directly relate to the project in terms of economic or livelihood, will be interest meetings with investors or local governments. In addition, the explanation and the way how to transmit information, the expert knowledge to the layman is not easy. This stage requires patience and use many different ways to approach each separate groups to collect all the needed data, to meet most of the needs of residents. For example, the case study Prudhoe Walled Garden Project from lecture of Sally Thomas (2014), the actual number reflects the initial difficulties, only about 35 people participated in the three day event and 60 people completed the questionnaire online , it is small number which compared to the population of Prudhoe. However, this can be seen as a positive sign, the project had interacted with local people to build the basic foundation for the next step, build ideas and preliminary design for project.



Obstacles are still not stop there, during the construction project, the community engagement is essential to consider all aspects arise or better adapted to the project originally started more and more people are interested. This is very useful for designers to be able to consult with the appropriate choice, recognize projects under multiple angles and aspects, which only the locals know or pay attention. Sometimes, the project has to delayed due to a standstill in the face resolved the conflict as well as decide the best option for project. However, when most of things reach agreement between stakeholders, the project will run fast and easy to achieve near ideal for both stakeholders.

When the project is completed, maintaining the interaction with the community is essential to continue to modify and complete the project. In the Walled Garden Project Prudhoe, there are so many conflicting opinions in each categories. Specifically, there are 27% who oppose housing community run and 56% who oppose the construction of children’s nursery (Prudhoe Community Partnership, n.d)

In conclusion, the stakeholder get a huge benefits. People are taking most of the stages of the project that they can raise awareness, to observe and evaluate the whole project in order to meet most of their needs. For the authorities and investment community interaction represents transparency, publicity, legitimacy, credibility in the community and help to better understand the complex issues of the community. (Queensland Government, 2011). However, to achieve the desired results and connect stakeholders requires a long process and patience with specific target groups in the community.


Prudhoe Community Partnership (n.d) A New Future of Prudhoe Walled Garden [online], Available from: [Accessed 5th January 2015].

Queensland Government (2011) Benefits and challenges for Government [online], Available from: [Accessed 5th January 2015].

Culture-led, arts-led regeneration



The process of urban regeneration are common features in every cities around the world: changing the industrial city into a large center, conversing industrial land and brownfield to another function or the mixture area, improving facilities, etc. That in order to improve the quality of life of urban residents and adapt to changes in many aspects of the world.

Through lectures by Stuart Cameron of regeneration in which it has raised a question about the power of culture and the arts can do to change the image of the municipality and it can orient the reconstruction.


Newcastle, the city where I am studying, is a good example of culture-led arts-led regeneration. The city had fallen into economic crisis and high unemployment in 70s when the industry of shipbuilding and mining were bankrupted and closed on a large scale. It was undergone dramatically change with buildings which are the consequence of the collaboration between art and architecture.


The Sage Gateshead is outstanding in cluster along Tyne river with the highest position in the area, modern materials and shapes as the waves overlooking the river. The Sage Gateshead is designed based on the participation by architect, acoustician, local authorities and local communities with the aim is creating a new place for wide range of music performances. Nowadays, The Sage became a place where music performances by local and international artists, a place to train professional and amateur artists at a same time.  According to some reports and studies demonstrate the building have significant impact on economic, education as well as culture. It is also one of the symbols of England to the world according to Gateshead Council (2006) : “The spotlight has never been more sharply focused on North East England. The cultural regeneration that is transforming our entire region is making the world more aware of our successes, our ambitions and our vibrancy.”


Photo: Wilka Hudson

The Millenium Bridge is another symbol of Newcastle, which imply as a giant eye when viewed from above. Shape is simple with two curves, which we can see in everywhere, even right in Tyne river. However, the background and the scene which are shaped by bridge, are impressive and artistic.Together with The Sage, it has attracted millions of tourists at home and abroad to visit.


Facing strong variations due to the arts and culture bring, buildings as The Baltic – a flour mill – have become a meeting place between contemporary art and culture. The regeneration have operated gradually in both sides of river : The shipyards, factories, warehouses converted into hotels, restaurants, apartments, bars, gallery that led to make Quayside becomes more lively and magnificent. Moreover, contemporary art sculptures or statues appear more in streets toward to the centre. Culture and art are parallel changing the identity of Newcastle.

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