Identity of place : a case study of Kuantan town centre, Malaysia
This research examines the concept of identity of place using the town centre of Kuantan, Malaysia as a case study. Identity in this research is defined as the qualities of a place that are recognised or recalled as being distinct from other places by the people. The aim is to investigate the elements and qualities associated with the identity of the town centre as perceived by its residents. The objectives of the research is to identify the elements associated with identity of the town centre as perceived by the residents. Secondly is to establish the qualities that are associated with identity of the town centre. The third objective is to examine the variation in residents' perception of elements and the qualities associated with identity according to their socio-cultural background. Finally, is to examine the variation in residents' perception of elements and qualities associated with identity between different parts of the town centre. The research adopted a mixed methodology using both the quantitative and qualitative method in data collection and analysis. The quantitative approach adopted a survey using a questionnaire on a sample of the town centre's residents. A total of 330 residents from the residential areas located within the town centre boundaries were involved in the sample survey. The data collected by the survey are the resident's perception of the town centre's environment and the profile of its residents. The survey data was processed using the SPSS Pc+ and analysed using descriptive statistics, namely frequencies and percentages. A cross-tabulation table was also used to identify the elements perceived by the different ethnic groups, gender and age groups that make up the composition of the respondents. The qualitative approach adopted four techniques that is focused interview, sketch map task, photo recognition interview and visual survey (field observations and recording). A total of thirty residents were involved in the interview. The data collected from this second phase was analysed qualitatively. The focused interview and photo recognition interview were taped recorded and transcribed. Analysis of the interview were based on the recurrent themes and categories that appeared in the transcripts. The findings of the research is a culmination of the cross analysis between the two different approaches. There are four main findings of the research. Firstly, there are three types of physical elements that are distinctive to the residents, that is physical structures (namely buildings, urban spaces (such as streets) and landscape features. Secondly, the characteristics of distinctive physical elements are influenced by the physical appearance, activities and the meanings and associations attached to the elements. The third finding is that there is no significant variation between the socio cultural groups in terms of elements perceived to be distinctive and that the slight variation is on the level of details observed. Of the three socio cultural factors observed, it is found that age group have more variation in perception of distinctive elements than the other two factors, especially between the youngest and the oldest group of residents. Finally, there is some variation in residents' perception of identity between different parts of the town centre. The variation observed is that residents perceived the older town centre as having a stronger identity than the newer town centre. From the research findings, several urban design and planning implications were suggested that influenced the distinctiveness of the town centre. The implications are with regards to decisions on the enhancement of path networks, development of landmarks, enhancement of nodes and entrances and conservation of the old town centre. Suggestions for further research and the implications for existing theories were also discussed. It is implied from this research that such guidelines would increased the distinctiveness of elements and places in the town centre. This consequently enhances the identity of the town centre to its residents.