What KL needs from an architectural point of view.
Kuala Lumpur, or simply known as KL is the capital of Malaysia and is one of the strongest Asian cities in world economy. I have been living in the city (in its suburb to be exact) for the past 21 years. Seeing tall buildings filling the sky and trapped in traffic congestion have been part of my daily life. That’s very typical for urban living in a concrete jungle. KL, despite being a small city with less than 2 million population, has been a very wonderful city for having multi-racial people, variety of delicious foods, spectacular tourist attractions, plenty of amazing shopping malls, etc.
(Image source: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8544/8652292448_27ea88c695_c.jpg)
(Image source: http://farm9.static.flickr.com/8088/8574317528_c9a5518797.jpg)
From architectural point of view, KL is no doubt breathtaking mostly from its iconic 452 metres tall Petronas Twin Towers that had been standing proud as the world’s tallest twin buildings since 1997. Together with 421 metres tall KL Tower (a telecommunication tower) and other surrounding cluster of buildings particularly in the city center region, the city forms a beautiful and picturesque skyline. Do you know that KL has been featured in top 20 in all websites which rate world’s best skylines individually. Its best performance stands at 8th placing from DiSerio skyline ranking, and attains 18th in latest Emporis skyline ranking. I have to agree that KL does have quite an impressive skyline, and I love to see the city from on top of a hill or even simply from a road flyover.
Well, the city is still not perfect and needs a lot of improvement on its built environment. Let me narrow it down on what the city requires from architectural perspective. First of all, it needs a beautiful and lively waterfront or parks. Major cities around the world ‘shine’ because they are situated by a river or sea. Look at Hong Kong, New York, Singapore, Shanghai, Chicago, etc. The presence of water actually helps to enhance visual of a city. What KL needs now is to clean the existing Gombak and Klang rivers (image below) that run through the city, and then turned its surrounding into lively waterfront complete with proper facilities, cool lighting or even visual projections, and infrastructures. Many street events can then be organized there. It may become a tourist spot as well as a place of relaxation for the locals too. Currently, the river is muddy and conditions surrounding it looks bad and vandalized. A potential put to a waste.
Secondly, the city needs more efficient public transportation system. I’m happy over the recent completion of many modern-looking glass and steel pedestrian bridges (some air-conditioned) particularly in Bukit Bintang area, but that is just a start to much more needed for the city. All the existing LRT (light rail transit) stations (image below) that are over decades old should get a makeover. Currently, all the stations look like a perfect place for crime rather than a comfortable and contemporary spot for train passengers to hang around. I’m looking forward to the completion of all MRT-related works. Right now, I’m so disgusted by the excessive inconvenience from its construction to the city. I had been to Paris and I am stunned that even the bus stop over there had a striking design. I don’t understand why we couldn’t have that here in KL. It would be cool. But I guess if you have a glass and steel bus stop here, its parts would be broken or stolen the next day. Malaysians’ attitude and moral should improve too.
Thirdly, the city needs not only more buildings, but also more beautifully-designed buildings. Quantity of buildings is the sign of how well a city is growing. But that is not enough to make the city much trendier or cooler. It’s the quality that matters, and hence, architecture do plays important role here. Do you wish to enter a plain square-shaped building finished only with white paint or a building that comes with interesting layout, poetic space, eye-catchy finishing, and appealing facade or elevations? KL needs more awesome-looking buildings like Telekom Tower, Starhill Gallery, Sasana Kijang Bank Negara building (image below), The Troika Towers, etc. I’m glad that many foreign international architects start to get involved into design projects in KL recently. Now, I suggest the city to build more strikingly-designed public spaces and grade-A offices with green building accreditation. ‘Environmental-friendly’ is now a hot issue in building design nowadays and KL should be aware of that.
Last but not least, Kuala Lumpur needs architectural conservation and preservation effort. Every cities in the world start from a small area, and then it grows to what it is now. That is the historical essence to a particular city that needs to be maintained. Historical art-deco buildings (image below) or landmarks and traditional Chinese shophouses found in the city should not be only thought of getting them demolished to make way for future development. There are still plenty of empty land in the city. These old structures can actually be transformed to put to good use or to suit to the present modern living while maintaining its historical edge. For example, a Chinese shophouse can be turned into a stylish cafe. Creative ideas are needed. I don’t really oppose to the proposal of building a new country’s tallest building, but its location in the middle of important heritage zone is so wrong. That’s the case for the Warisan Merdeka Tower, now under planning stage.
(Image source: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/170/389562749_611d216305.jpg)
Feel free to provide your thought of what does KL requires, looking from its current situation for the city to become one of the world most liveable cities in the world.