asian streetscape #1

Everywhere you look about the streets of Asian cities, above your head or down at your feet, you find a wealth of fascinating little landscapes and compositions in miniature. There is always so much detail to delight and pleasure the eye and everything is at a very human scale. The way buildings weather under hot tropical sun and monsoon rain produces rich textures of decay - a delicious patina of age. Look at the lovely weathered surfaces, graciously bleached colours and flaking whitewash of the upper storey of the above shophouse built in 1913, photographed in Kota Bahru, North East Malaysia. Shophouses are common all throughout South East Asia. Here, Mohamed Yusoff's family live upstairs while father and sons conduct business below during the day. Staying open that little bit longer to earn that one extra dollar is no big effort with such a convenient arrangement.
A detail of this building?

Blinds feature prominently in the architecture of tropical countries. Chinese lettering abounds on the pillars of shophouses.

I found this gorgeous traditional Chinese broom leaning against the front pillar of a shop in the heart of bustling Kuala Lumpur. A composition of sympathetic colours which looks contrived, but it wasn't.

Typical of the style, pillars like those above support the second storey of these kinds of buildings providing a covered walkway beneath. It has never been clear to me whether these sheltered footpaths are public or private space for the lives of the building's inhabitants spill out onto the footpaths.

It is fascinating how the mundane everyday objects of another culture look so exotic when referenced against one's own.
 
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© david.atkinson@rmit.edu.au
created 7 december 1998