Penang Multi-Cultural Performance Community

Turbulent Expressions

Sean A. Gallagher

This project will use the site and given requirements of a current competition for the city of Penang in Malaysia. The competition calls for reinventing a large open site on the edge of the city center with high density building of both housing and mixed use, a new traffic plan linking to the existing context and a proposed highway interchange, sites for new public facilities as well as open green space. It is a site with ample opportunity for topographic manipulations, programmatic interpretation and infrastructural interventions, in other words: ideally suited to speculative investigations.

As the notion of a Master Plan itself is one of creating formal 'guidelines' for further elaboration or interpretation by other architects, the work of the semester will involve the creation of parameters or 'rules' related to the 'three dimensional' tectonic strategies at every stage. - Lise Anne Couture


"We may ask...how communities or governments decide which elements of tradition or the past are to be transmitted into the future...because for many, the past provides materials for the construction of modern identities..." Dr. Mahathir (Malaysia's Prime Minister)

Penang has a rich history of conflicting public performance rituals between the various ethnic societies. Public space rights have been a constant dilemma for the local British and municipal courts. Dozens of city wide riots have been the result of laws which attempted to outlaw performances (often large parades) of cultural or religious beliefs on the streets and in the few public spaces within George Town's context. It is this pride and passion for displaying ethnic individuality that has developed Penang into one of the richest small scale theatrical communities in the world. Tourists are drawn to this city for the plethora of evening dining shows and performances offered by most of the community's local establishments. It is through the encouragement of this passion for ethnic individuality and public display that the new Penang should harness the advantages of a plural society and build its identity.

The premise of this new development will be the promotion of multi-cultural public expression in all its forms and processes. The program will be heavily weighted towards interior and exterior performing art facilities with multi-purpose event spaces juxtaposed to well defined urban street channels. In concert with this performance context will also be an Eastern Asian Trade and Cultural Interpretive Center to afford the local community and tourist an opportunity to learn of Penang's performance heritage and past events that define its current state. The goal of the new development will be to provide the necessary space for the local community to continue its traditional practices without interfering with other vital commercial activities, while encouraging the development of local performing arts to a quality and scale which may draw international acclaim and tourism.


The abstract mechanisms used to generate tectonic strategies for this project will be similar in conceptual nature to that of Penang's social context.

Penang: {conceptual definition}

A composite composition of vague totality with identifiable behaviors which finds order in dissipative forces while being fertile grounds for various mutations.

_composite composition
_vague totality
_identifiable behaviors
_dissipative forces
_fertile grounds

Open system hot springs consist of a constant positive pressure producing a composite of run-off ecosystems within a constant flow flux that distributes calcium concentrations in turbulent patterns. They support a stunning diversity of thermo-fluidic microorganism, many of which rely on geochemical sources of energy. Their various forms, structure patterns, and hue intensities are controlled by a changing communities of microbes, fungi, and petrified organisms within a flow of thermodynamic mineral water. Compositions can be interpreted through an analysis of hue variation revealing community structures of living fungi, calcium patterning of petrified organisms which unfold evolutionary transitions, and thermodynamic calculations which quantify the energy supply of microbe reactions.

The open system within the context that seemed most appropriate to study in relationship to the development's premise were the seasonal cycles and components of the local festivals. Each festival was organized by its procession's origin and conclusion with an analysis of its potential travel path past the site. After which path intensities were determined from the amount of volume and overlap between the corresponding festival direction.

Similar to the speculative investigation, an observation of community location, type, and intensity was performed to establish the wakes' field of influence. Then an analysis of the wake superimpositions was necessary to understand areas of positive pressure; which in return, transforms the directional flow into a series of jets.

The next step was to cut into the surface field analysis diagram and attempt to interpret the interactions within its volumes. Along the bi-sectional cuts one can measure the wake's field of influence and intensity limitations. The red lines depict the wake's range of influence; one line at the point where it first interacts with that section cut, and a second line where it has almost completely dissipated. The maximum intensity at each of these two points can also be measured and is represented by the length of the red lines. The closer to the center of the wake, the greater its intensity. Each wake, in an isolated condition, dissipates uniformly as it moves away from its origin. The orange lines depict a wakes uniform dissipation, estimating the wake's potential maximum and minimum intensity increments along the section cut. However, due to the fact that wakes are interacting with one another they rarely reach the maximum or minimum intensity value.

In order to map the actual limitations along the section, one must negotiate between the superimposed wakes. The uniform grey area within the orange lines is the resultant turbulent flow volume. The turbulent surface diagram is then overlaid with the bi-sectional diagram to map locations of increased density, which is depicted by darker hues of grey. Above is the bi-sectional diagram of a potential turbulent structure along the datum cut. To describe the whole abstract field condition of the site would require cutting a rhythmic sequence of bi-sectional diagrams in both axis directions. At this stage of the process, it became important to start analyzing the bi-sectional diagram for possible interpretations for constructing and/or guiding urban fabric conditions.

After filtering both the surface and bisectional flow flux and turbulent distribution superimposition through a program analysis, virtual modeling techniques were used to rhythmically construct and question spatial derivatives of the re-appropriated abstract mechanism. Negotiations between intersecting bi-sectional datum provided opportunities for the program to become the primary force in carving spatial areas while the reciprocal was true for complimentary bi-sectional guidelines.

The public landscape and reservoir network was carved out of the mapped turbulent flow contained between the two primary jets where differential intensities of opposing wakes creates various local vortices (communities) that fluctuate irregularly. In the core of the turbulent flow, the small-scale structures generated through the turbulent cascade became mixed with structures that develop near the viscous walls. These structures are the derivative of semi-insulated enclosures that are more complicated than those found in free jet or wake locations.

The vehicular circulation network was carved out of the behaviors of channeling and bifurcation from the mapped free jet and wake systems. These were areas of longitudinal pressure gradients and took place at the parameters for which the solution neared linear organization with zero mass flow. It is established that, as a result of the bifurcation, two asymmetrical solutions with oppositely directed pressure gradients are simultaneously generated. Interpreting this phenomenon provided opportunity to distinguish districts for the programmed elements.

The private and re-mediated landscapes were areas of less turbulence within the mapped superimposed system where displaced particles of the turbulent flow created permanent structures which become residual memory of its potential intensity and form. These areas absorbed the resultant manifestations of the turbulent flow as positive massing.

It is important to remember that the turbulent structures are the physical massing within negative space resulting from the positive and dissipative forces of the turbulent flow. Their gestures and forms could be considered as the biproduct/mold of the activities taken place within the exterior spatial networks. The turbulent structures serve as the interior walls an exterior public derive.