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Interacting with Buildings

rofessor Bryan Lawson, dean of the Faculty of Architectural Studies at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, views human interaction as an important feature in designing a building or a city. The renowned architect, also a trained psychologist, paints an exciting picture for INNOVATION's Tan Lay Leng of how he envisages the future built environment.

With Singapore's densely packed high-rise city-centre buildings wanting in character and feature, is it true that it cannot easily be differentiated from many other cities throughout the world?

Professor Bryan Lawson begs to differ, particularly with regard to those buildings fitted to the climate and the culture in this part of the world. Their uniqueness so intrigues him that he has accepted a position as a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore so he can study them more closely.

Justification for many of the world's big cities is no longer self-evident, Lawson observes. For instance, Sheffield, England, used to be an industrial town that made steel because of its proximity to iron mines, coal and water power. Now, as a post-industrial city, the need for its existence seems questionable.

Singapore, as a young nation, does not face such a dilemma. Thanks to its lack of a legacy infrastructure, the nation can embark on a project to build a new downtown within the city limits in a short time. The project has the advantage of being created literally from scratch on pristine reclaimed land, without the constraints of integrating the new into an already existing grey city.

Lawson notes that the conventional city comprises buildings sitting on parcels of land divided by streets - an old-fashioned idea still extant in the world's major cities. Traffic volume here must be limited by means of such measures as restricting the entry of vehicles into certain zones and within certain hours. The Lion City's downtown project represents an interesting experiment that will serve as a laboratory for the world's academic built-environment community. In this respect, the nation could well stand in the forefront of city building with no pre-existing restrictions.

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