Urban Residency: Meet our Mentors

Two days left for you to send in your application for Urban Residency!

Since April, our team at #BetterCities has seeked consultation from different experts and institutions to get a better understanding of George Town. We have also selected mentors with a level expertise and empathy towards community-centered approaches to urban design and planning. Throughout the duration of Urban Residency, selected participants will be working with our mentors to propose, design and produce a project that will improve a selected site in George Town, Penang.

Curious who the mentors you will be working with if you are selected for our pilot programme? Meet our Urban Residency mentors.

Mentor #1: Lia Tostes, Urbanist/Architect

Lia is an architect and urbanist from Brasilia, Brazil, who has just finished her Masters at the University of Tokyo, Japan. She currently lives in Kuala Lumpur and is a collaborator of #BetterCities. In August 2012, her project MyOwnOsaka was selected, with the prize of MYR15,000, to be part of the Osaka Canvas 2012, an important Japanese public art festival. MyOwnOsaka was an outcome of her research on grassroots urban interventions.

For her thesis, Lia profiled 75 case studies, in which city dwellers, seeking to tackle urban issues, undertake projects in urban spaces. The movement named Mend-Yourself-Urbanism (codenamed M.Y.URBANISM) was recently presented at Urban Popcultures Conference in Prague.

Mentor #2: Hui Ping, Architect/Lecturer

Trained as an architect, Hui Ping received her Bachelor degree locally from University of Malaya and a Master degree from Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.

Currently, she is residing in PetalingJaya and operates under her newly set-up design office, Rekacipta HUiS. She also lectures part time at the Design Studios of Department of Architecture, University Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Apart from being passionate about designing and teaching, she is also attracted to issues pertaining to her immediate physical environment – in short the City. Recently, she won first prize in a national open idea competition for her community project entitled The Back Lane Project. Through this and perhaps more of such initiatives, she hopes to see more and more Malaysians claiming and occupying the public space.


Download the application form here.

For more information or media inquiries, please contact us at hello@betterciti.es.

Urban Residency is a #BetterCities’ pilot project in George Town, Penang,
supported by the Embassy of Finland, Malaysia and in partnership with George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI) and George Town Festival. The project will take place during George Town Festival 2013 between 10 – 16 June 2013. 

#BetterCities Talk Series #1: Highlights

The first talk series from #BetterCities of the year, “The Role of Architecture in Place-Making”, was held on 20 April 2013, at Galeri Petronas, Suria KLCC. Co-organized with Galeri Petronas and Foster + Partners, the talk was held in conjunction with the Art of Architecture exhibition (March 6 – May 12 2013).

The lecture hall at Galeri Petronas was packed with over 70 participants that day. Moderated by Sze Ying Goh, our #BetterCities lead, the four speaker from architecture and art backgrounds gave a very engaging and interesting presentations.

Our first speaker was Karsten Volmer, partner at Foster + Partners. Based in London with offices worldwide, Foster + Partners is one of the pioneers in sustainable approaches to architecture through a strikingly wide range of work from urban masterplans to public infrastructure, workplaces to private houses and product design.


“There is a deep seated human desire and need to have a link with the past.”
– Karsten Vollmer, Foster + Partners


Karsten emphasized how the work at Foster + Partners tries to create links to history and the past context of the building site. For example, when the Roman remains of a girl were found at the site of the Swiss Re building in London, Foster + Partners erected a plaque in honour of the girl. “There is a deep seated human desire and need to have a link with the past”, said Karsten.

Our second speaker, Marco Kusumawijaya, founder and director of RUJAK Centre for Urban Studies (RCUS) is someone that likes everything about the city. He is a practitioner, activist and thinker in the fields of architecture, environment, arts, cultural heritage, urban planning and development with more than 20 years of intensive experiences.

“A space becomes a place only when there are people using and taking care of it”, emphasised Marco while sharing his view on public versus common spaces. He shared images of the Malaysian Spring initiated by landscape architect Ng Seksan as an example of how a public space had been transformed by citizens adopting it and beautifying it with a political message.

Next, we heard from Lia Tostes, a #BetterCities mentor of Urban Residency, an urban action workshop held in conjunction with Georgetown Festival this coming June. Lia is an architect and urbanist from Brasilia, Brazil. In her presentation, she shared some interesting examples of participatory urbanism known as ‘M.Y.Urbanism’. The ‘M.Y.’ stands for ‘mend yourself’ and is a term for grassroots urban interventions carried out by citizens without the help of corporations or government bodies.


“A space becomes a place only when there are people using and taking care of it.”
Marco Kusumawijaya, Founder of RUJAK


Last but not least, the presentations were rounded off by Sau Bin Yap, an artist and lecturer at Multimedia University (MMU). Saubin spoke about bringing art to KTM trains and schools by sharing Let Arts Move You (LAMU) and Contemporary Art In School (CAIS ) art projects. With the KTM project, he talked about how something undesirable – like a train delay – could actually facilitate a diversion in artwork.

The talk ended with a Q&A section with the audience followed by refreshments provided by the gallery. #BetterCities wold like to thank all the speakers and partners: Foster + Partners, Galeri Petronas,  British Council Malaysia and everyone who make their present at the talk that day.


You may listen to the Q&A section of the talk here:

#BetterCities Talk Series #1: Q&A session


For more information on our speakers:
Karsten Volmer, Partner at Foster + Partners
http://www.fosterandpartners.com/

Marco Kusumawijaya, Founder/Director RUJAK Centre for Urban Studies
http://rujak.org/

Lia Campelo Lima Tostes, Urbanist/Architect
http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/critical-issues/cyber/urban-popcultures/conference-programme-abstracts-and-papers/session-10-revitalizing-and-reimagining-urban-spaces/

Yap Sau Bin, Artist/Specialist Staff at MMU
http://www.artsnetworkasia.org/content/gallery/lamu.html


Article and photos by Okui Lala. Additional reporting by Ling Low. For more information on #BetterCities’ Talk Series: http://betterciti.es/talks

Urban Residency: George Town, Penang Open Call

Are you interested in participatory urbanism? Are you passionate about improving shared public spaces? Do you believe creativity and collaboration can contribute to a better neighbourhood and city?

Wearing the colors of George Town Festival, #BetterCities launches its first project in George Town, Penang: Urban Residency (UrRe). UrRe is a weeklong urban action workshop that will take place between June 10th-16th 2013 in George Town, Penang. Selected participants will design and build projects to transform overlooked public space into a more vibrant, responsive and liveable place.

Team #BetterCities has worked closely with local institutions and groups to devise a relevant design challenge, which will be disclosed on the first day of the workshop.

Selected participants will have room and board covered, a shared work space, as well as a budget for materials (travels to George Town, Penang not included). Participants are expected to get to George Town at their own expenses on June 9th 2013.

#BetterCities invites architects, designers and installation artists to apply. Please send your application form, portfolio and resumé to hello@betterciti.es by May 27th 2013.

Download the application form here.

For more information or media inquiries, please contact us at hello@betterciti.es.

Urban Residency is a #BetterCities’ pilot project in George Town, Penang,
supported by the Embassy of Finland, Malaysia.

On collecting stories and voices.

PostPhone: A Work-in-Progress Report by Okui Lala

Survey, focus groups, interviews will usually be carried out during the design research phase of a project. We either jot down quick notes or make recordings to gather information. But after this, what do we do with these data? The thought of this has inspired us to make use of the resource while turning the whole experience more fun. What if there is this recorder that enables the public to play a more active role, record their thoughts and be able to access it anytime they want?

Intense brainstorming: A phone booth? A house phone in a public space? Will the public pick up the phone? Will our phone face vandalism? Will the phone get stolen? (Photo Credit: Sze Ying Goh)

On Hacking the Phone

After going through several discussions on the functions and purpose of PostPhone, we realized that our objective could be achieved by hacking a voice recorder. What we needed for this “idea” to work is to ensure the following could be done: 1) record, 2) store and 3) playback.

(Photo Credit: Eywn)

Thus, we got ourselves a good recorder, bought some wires, buttons, speaker and amplifier (to enhance the sound recording). But as we dismantled the whole recorder and started to hack it, we realized the circuitry of the recorder is too close to each other and the wiring of it is too fine — we had our first road block: while we were soldering the parts together, the recorder got short-circuited and could not be used.

The Myth behind PostPhone

Photo Credit: Okui Lala

We got some advice from the expert, which is to get a cheaper recorder as the circuitry will be further apart from each other so it would be easier for us to hack. And it worked!

PostPhone @ KakiSENI Festival

“If you were to make a call to yourself in 2020, what would you say?”


“I would said to myself…. that I would be better and happier.”
– Anonymous User 022


Photo Credit: Eywn

Our first stop (also our opportunity to organise a beta test!) for PostPhone was inside Pavilion, a shopping mall at the city centre of Kuala Lumpur. The reception was encouraging due to the happening events at the KakiSENI Festival. A lot of people stopped by the phone and we received various response. Some were slightly confused with the presence of the phone; some attempted to go through the process of reading our phone guidebook and made their recording; many stopped by and listened. We received a lot of responses and positive but critical suggestions. Thanks! We hear you! 🙂



Designed by Okui Lala and Shum E Wyn, produced by Sze Ying Goh, as part of #BetterCities’ While We Wait Project. While We Wait is supported by the Embassy of Finland, Malaysia.

PostPhone was at KakiSENI Festival 2013 from 24th April – 1st May 2013 (Level 6, just beside Al-Amar Restaurant). Soon, PostPhone will be travelling to a bus station. We invite you to record a phone call to the future. We are collecting and sharing your stories with the city.