Amanda Mo Shuen Yea
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Cartographic Architecture: Specific Interventions that project the Rural Revenge of Ulu Papar in 50 years

Thesis Supervisor: A/P Erik G L’Heureux

Site: Papar River, Sabah, East Malaysia

My Thesis began from a personal question of how and when should Architects act when the site presented hosts predominantly untouched landscapes and lacks Architecture. In a site where the human population is not a majority, should we, as Architects, still approach the site with an analysis that is similar to how we would in an urban or even suburban site?


Focused around the Papar River in Sabah, East Malaysia, my Thesis explores the representations of such a rural site to realize the silent Ecology of what occurs above and underground. It repositions the surrounding topography, buildings, and inhabitants around the Papar river as the main axis.

This is the silent architecture of the Papar river and serves as a lens that allows me to design specific architectural interventions that projects a path in the Ecology of the river that benefits the environment and hence, the indigenous population.


These interventions exist on two intersecting planes - the Aesthetics of representation, and the Architectural product. I look at how representation and aesthetics affect our perception of a site and how it can be disected and redesigned to serve as a lens, guiding how an Architect traverses the Ecology of the site in relation to its themes. On the flipside of the coin, the Architectural product manifests these concepts into realisable construction details, Architecture and programmes. These together act as seeding points and examples for the growth of Ulu Papar for the next 50 years.

The process and product of Mapping allows for newer iterations of the river and helps me relive my site expeditions. The product is a designed relief that highlights certain key points throughout the river and about the river. It also connect the river in plan intstead of its disjointed reality due to how bendy it actually is as well as the mountaineous terrain. Another mapping was done to imagine the Papar dam being built. 

Mapping of the River

When analysing a site, an Architect would usually refer to and overlay existing systems on site that can be analysed and compared together because of some sort of standardization, and usually this is their reference to the human. However, when we are face with sites like the Papar river where there is little man-made systematic Architecture, this restraint seems to erode and less consideration is given to other non-human centric systems.

These systems that are not designed primarily for the human are also quiet and unconscious, rendering them invisible to us at first glance. In my Ecological mappings, I uncover such silent and autonomous systems - the Ecology of the Papar river (defined as the relations between organisms - both human and non-human) and foreground them, forcing myself to consider them more equally. I represented this in the form of this model to show the blurring of boundaries unique to this terrain and rural setting unlike that of a city.

I picked two Kampungs along the Papar River for my architectural interventions based on their economic opportunity and ability to influence the rest of Ulu Papar. Kampung Kigandang and Kampung Tabilong both had road connection to either Papar Town or Kota Kinabalu. I introduced a main road with drainage and irrigation channels under a wasted belt of land that was cleared for the high power tension cable and towers that run across Ulu Papar to Kota Kinabalu. This main road not only interrupts surface runoff and promotes ground water absorption and pollution filtration, but it also serves to complete the tranportation circuit.

The Resort is introduced into Kampung Kigandang as it hosts white water rafting activities, while the Sawmill is introduced into Kampung Tabilong, an influential indigenous village which focuses on plantations and agriculture. These interventions houses specific programmes and systems that embed and capitalze on the unique way of life of the the Indigenous population and thier mindfulness of Ecology. These interventions give them more economic leverage, and act as seeding points for a growth of Ulu Papar that will not render them invisible.


View Zoom Critique here: