Thu, Sep 02, 2010
New Straits Times
A metropolis with best of all worlds

KUALA LUMPUR - THE traditional fear of brain drain may or may not have evaporated.

In the meantime, the nation has a new game plan of being a focal point for global citizens and possible migrants instead.

Minister in charge of the Economic Planning Unit Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said the attraction was to live in great cities.

"This is what Greater Kuala Lumpur would be, a city that will be in the radar of migrants from other countries."

Strategically, the 10-year-plan - beginning next year - is to lodge Greater KL, meaning the city plus nine municipalities, in the list of 20 top metropolises.

It is partly designed to entice talents straddling the world.

Making the increasingly discerning locals happier with the overall wellbeing and excitement brings other tangible benefits - it will appeal to global citizens.

A theme in Greater KL is green sprawls, covering one-fifth of the total area, which is four times the size of Singapore.

It would be great, said Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) president Boon Che Wee, to build up the accessibility and linkage of the existing parks in Greater KL as the journey outside KL "was often memorable".

Overall details are not out as yet.

Attention will pretty soon shift to the issue of how does Greater KL plan to acquire a soul, a product differentiation, in the list of leading cities.

Officials and the private sector have been sharing some of the ideas; like linking one park to another in an attempt to cease treating landscape and buildings as isolated designs.

A glass-wall building is a definite "no no" as it would trap a high amount of heat given the country's sunny weather.

For the same reason, architect Mohd Kamaludin Adam is lobbying for Greater KL to replicate the character of pre-colonial shophouses in new buildings to promote the sidewalk culture.

City Hall Urban Design and Building Department director Rohaizan Ahmad said Greater KL should aim to be the best contemporary tropical design city in the world, citing the Petronas Twin Towers and Menara Maxis in Jalan Ampang as standout examples.

Offhand, Greater KL would feature a 50km stretch of seafront, from Kapar to the Gold Coast in Sepang.

Durian orchards and waterfalls of Hulu Langat, the Batu Dam in Selayang, and streams would be a selling point, as would designer outlets and top hotels in the city.

As Boon sees it, the best city design should be created with the people in mind.

"People are the resources and the software who drive the cities."

It is widely accepted that creative professionals, including managers and entrepreneurs, are critical persons driving the development of some of the most vibrant cities in the world.

Boon is impressed with Australia's newest initiative -- to get the local school of architecture and visiting architects involved in the design of the city to get a global outlook.

"Such engagement with architects and the design and creative industry, including international visitors, is very rare in our city planning."

Kamaludin, on his part, has a fondness for the Masjid Negara, which he billed as one of the best local designs for Greater KL due to its modern dynamic style.

Building designs should also be responsive to the surroundings with lots of shade and openness to secure better ventilation.

"A good management on harvesting rainwater and solar energy also needs to be addressed for the new green architecture movement in Malaysia."

Rohaizan suggested that all 10 local authorities under Greater KL discuss unique features to be promoted.

"We need to plan for spaces between buildings, street boulevards and connectivity."

Add a civic dimension to the city by providing linkages to pedestrian and urban parks for weekend retreats, said Kamaludin.

Kamaludin, who won a merit from PAM in 2006 for his creation of "Puri Ibu", a house built for his mother, felt that Kampung Baru should retain its character as it would be a unique feature of "urban village" in the city.

If Kampung Baru needed to be redeveloped, the traditional Malay ambience has to be portrayed with nature and greenery for the continuity of the Malay cultural heritage.

A major emphasis in the Greater KL thinking will be public transport. Already some four million passengers commute on public transport in Greater KL. RapidKL buses alone serve 165 routes in six key areas of Greater KL, covering 980 residential areas. RapidKL's bus fleet should rise to 2,000 in two years time, from 800 presently, offering better frequencies.

With punctuality in mind, some 80 bus stations and hubs are to be fitted with display units that show expected arrival times.

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