Barry Wilson is Vice President of the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design. His practice, Barry Wilson Project Initiatives, have been tackling urbanisation issues in Hong Kong and China for over 20 years. www.initiativ es.com.hk
我上一次造访吉隆坡还是2003年。在那之后的15年间，世界发生了翻天覆地的变化，这座城市也是如此，以至于我回到此地时几乎认不出来了。为了弄清楚发生了什么，我拜访了当地知名的企业家， Arch Collection Sdn Bhd1 的首席执行官兼创始人李运旗（Andrew Lee）。他对这座城市的热爱一直以来都是（推动这座城市）文化复兴的核心力量。2012年，李运旗建立了吉隆坡城市馆2，这座展馆如同一座桥梁，向游客展示着吉隆坡的过去、现在和未来。值得一提的是，我们见面的“展馆”坐落在一座拥有120年历史的建筑中，该建筑位于吉隆坡文化遗产飞地的战略中心位置——独立广场（Dataran Merdeka）。它最初是“政府印刷办公室”，现在由吉隆坡遗产保护委员会负责管理保护。此地有很多源自城市建立之初的建筑物、建筑结构和图案，是文化遗产探访之旅的必经之地。
Kuala Lumpur City Gallery
1972年，伊丽莎白女王首次访问吉隆坡，那个时期的事李运旗记忆犹新： “我们住在唐人街附近的公寓里，那时我父亲是一家大酒店的厨师，我们经常步行外出，整个社区被阴影和树木覆盖，绿意盎然。这也是一个邻里关系亲密的社区。如今大多数树木都已不复存在，城市里出现了很多条宽阔道路使得步行外出非常不便。逛街这件事变得愈发困难，因为失去了绿荫，整座城市都“热浪滚滚”。但他也指出，这样的情况正在改变。地铁、轻轨和单轨项目的完工，鼓励了更多的人重新选择步行。 “树木和主要建筑物的行人通道不断增加，有遮盖的人行道和带空调的天桥数量也在增长。”
李运旗建议在下一步的改进中有必要增加更多的人行道照明设置及步行设施。他告诉我，他的家人在这座城市里都以步行的方式出行，但是我对这里的气候依然比较担忧。这里气候炎热，雨水不断，是否真的适合步行呢？ 他向我解释道，吉隆坡人喜欢在晚上外出。凉风习习的夜晚非常适合夜间活动。他告诉我，来自郊区的人们也喜欢在夜晚开车到市中心享受夜生活，例如在唐人街散步。谈话很自然地引向了我最喜欢的话题，随后我们谈论了城市的汽车问题。我们怎样才能克服拥有汽车的愿望呢? “首先，良好的公共交通系统是必不可少的。目前政府正在增加地铁线路，使城市更适合步行。其次，我们可以通过增加停车费用和减少停车可能性来限制停车。在城市之外人们需要私家车，但可通过换乘市内公共交通工具的方式来解决通勤问题。”
Pudu old district needs careful urban renewal, not redevelopment.
KL's iconic Petronas Towers
Developers incorporating existing large trees in the new projects
Covered, air-conditioned, vibrant walking connections
BACK TO THE FUTURE—BARRY INTERVIEWS ANDREW LEE
It was way back in 2003 that I last visited Kuala Lumpur. In the 15 years since, the world has changed remarkably, and so has the city, being barely recognisable to me upon my return. To get a grasp of what’s been happening I met up with well-known local entrepreneur, Andrew Lee, CEO & founder of Arch Collection Sdn Bhd whose passion for his city has been at the heart of a heritage renaissance. In 2012, Andrew established the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, the essential starting point in providing tourists with information about the past, present and future of KL. Importantly the ‘Gallery’, where we meet, is based in the 120-year-old building that originally functioned as the “Government Printing Office” and is strategically located right at the centre of Kuala Lumpur’s heritage enclave - Dataran Merdeka (Merdeka Square). Protected under the Conservation & Heritage Protection Board, the area is the must-visit heritage destination, comprising many buildings, structures and icons originating from the establishment of the city.
GREEN OR GROWTH
I’m curious about the changes I have witnessed in the city, which Andrew suggests have really accelerated in the last 5 years. He recalls that many of his friends that have been away during this time, also find the city completely different when returning. In 1950, the population of Kuala Lumpur was 261,528. Today it is approximately 1.4 million, but the core has not actually grown nearly as fast as predicted under various strategic plans of the last century. With an aging population and growth rates continually declining since a high in the 1980’s, significant outward migration from the ‘City’ has been a clear trend. It has not resulted from any lack of employment opportunities, rather being primarily due to a chronic shortage of affordable housing at the centre. A strong movement towards young people moving to small, outlying towns became keenly prevalent, who nonetheless, commute daily back into the City to work. Thus, a metropolitan area of ‘Greater KL’ (Klang Valley) has been born and developed rapidly in the last 15 years, generating a booming suburban population that today means Greater KL boasts a city of over 7.5 million people, combined with an urban agglomeration policy intended to further spur the country's economic growth to reach almost 10 million by 20303.
The Government Printing Office Kuala Lumpur in 1909
Andrew describes to me how the newly developed suburbs are high density, affordable, connected by metro lines, and within 45 minutes to an hour commuting time. But he also notes a new trend of young professionals coming back to live in the city centre. He himself was born in KL, just a stone’s throw from the area still known as Chinatown. He takes real pride in his city, recalling being always interested in observing the architecture of buildings in the area from the time he was small. “I collected stamps, coins, books, postcards and old photographs of Kuala Lumpur. I enjoyed looking at the old buildings there and often roamed around asking lots of questions about the history of buildings and the background.” Initially working for a model-making company after he had quit his school programme in Architecture, he then started his own business in architectural scale models in 1989, making samples of art pieces of heritage buildings and iconic landmarks that has today morphed into a huge, global, export business creating unique, veneer-based gifts, souvenirs and collectibles. His concept of ‘One City, One Heritage’develops art pieces and designs that celebrate the unique and distinctive quality of any world city.
In 1972 Queen Elizabeth visited KL for the first time and Andrew remembers the period well. “We lived in flats nearby Chinatown, my father was a chef at a big hotel and in those days we walked everywhere; it was very green, shaded and tree covered and we had a close knit community. Nowadays most of the trees have been lost and there are too many large roads to make walking convenient. It’s difficult to move around the streets and the city feels ‘hot’.” But he notes that changes are afoot. The completion of the Metro, LRT and Monorail projects are encouraging more people to walk again. “The city has been adding both trees and a network of pedestrian connections to major buildings. There are covered walkways and airconditioned skybridges.” Andrew relates how city trees were frequently removed for development until about 10 years ago, when there was more of a realisation of the importance of trees in the city, particularly from developers. Many of the large trees were planted during the 1950’s, using adaptable species from the British colonies in India and South America. These huge trees are impressive, but are not easy to maintain and the roots are disruptive. Today’s plantings are local, native species, better adapted to both the environment and ecology. Andrew enthuses that “There are now requirements for green coverage in development, something like 30%, so the malls are connected with parks and have green roofs, like the new KL106 building. The greenery is making the malls more attractive to visit. There are also now 11 parks within the city”
Anticipating further improvements coming, Andrew suggests more footpath lighting and walking surface provision is necessary. Now his family all walk the city he tells me, but I am concerned about the climate. It’s really hot, it’s raining a lot, surely not good for walking? He assures me that KL people like to walk in the evenings. The climate is perfect for night time activity, when there is a cool breeze. He notes how people from the suburbs will drive into the centre to enjoy the evenings and walk around places like Chinatown. That leads us to my favourite subject and we talk about the problems of cars in the city. How can we get over the desirability of car ownership? “Firstly, you must have good public transport in place. The government is adding metro lines and making the city more walkable. Then you need to restrict parking, both through increased parking cost and reducing availability. Outside the city people need cars, but park and ride options using public transport can be used to address this for commuting.”
ONE CITY ONE HERITAGE
To me, one of the most apparent aspects of all the recent development has been the loss of local character in the building style and the development of bland, reflective-glass office blocks in generic ‘international’ style proliferates. I wonder if Andrew thinks the city is losing its unique character? “It’s a problem,” he feels. “Fast-track development has led to standardised processes and cheaper construction methods.” He feels that the Petronas (twin) Towers, the iconic landmarks of both KL and even Malaysia itself, have that key quality of relating to the local culture and generating a strong identity. The design was inspired by characteristics of Islamic architecture such as repetitive geometries and arabesques, with the simple geometric plan of two interlocking squares that create an 8-pointed star and represent the Islamic principles of ‘unity within unity, harmony, stability and rationality’. By contrast, much of the current crop of high-rise building, both recently and soon to be completed, really could be built to look the same anywhere in the world. It’s a problem globally, cities are becoming identical.
I had walked around an inner-city area called Pudu, an old and most charming, low-rise district somewhat in decay, full of shophouses, eateries and local character including Kuala Lumpur's oldest bus station (Pudu Sentral) and one of the largest wet markets in Kuala Lumpur. The district looks perfect for those “young professionals” Andrew mentioned, returning to the city looking for cheaper but authentic lifestyles, and it does appear ripe for urban regeneration. Indeed, the old Pudu Jail site is currently being wholly redeveloped with a mixed development including a retail mall, entertainment hub, offices, hotel and serviced apartments. But you guessed it; the intended new buildings are all in that bland, international, ‘anyplace’, glass tower style5. The Jail was built by the British in stages between 1891 and 1895 but demolished without perhaps studying its historic value to society as part of the nation’s history and identifying the value of preservation for coming generations. Redevelopment could have been implemented through adaptive reuse, where the structure could have been maintained and only its function changed whilst additional floor space could have been provided through additional building. A great example is the recently restored and developed Hong Kong Victoria Prison, stunningly restored and augmented with premium quality modern architectural additions in reopening as ‘The Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts.’ The economic potential that could be realised through heritage appreciation and tourism cannot be understated. I worry that positive ‘regeneration’ in Pudu may end up being complete ‘redevelopment’ and that the special character and unique heritage of this old district will be quickly lost in the grab for cheap land. Andrew explains that some of the lower quality buildings in the area have been identified for redevelopment, up to 7 or 8 stories, but with very low plot ratios for development and that no parking can be incorporated into new development as this would generate increased traffic flows.
Urban Park at Petronas Towers
None of the old areas of Kuala Lumpur have been gazetted or declared a heritage zone despite their colourful pasts, but several buildings have been gazetted as “heritage building” and “national heritage” by the National Heritage Department under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia6. City Gallery is one such building, but committing to utilise historic buildings is no simple matter. They need large inputs of capital to maintain their condition as well as to adapt them to modern day building and safety codes. Maintaining and adapting older buildings maintains an important cultural link with the past however, they are living history, often utilising materials and craftsmanship that can no longer be found in modern day. The preservation of historic buildings is a one-way street. There is no chance to renovate or to save a historic site once it’s gone, and we can never be certain what will be valued in the future. This reality brings to light the importance of locating and saving buildings of historic significance, because once a piece of history is destroyed, it is lost forever.
Andrew appreciates that both tourists and long-standing residents are able to appreciate the aesthetic and cultural history of a building or area. City Gallery is a clear declaration of his love for the city fabric he was born into and yet also represents his joy at being able to inform others about both the past, present and future. He wants the tourist to be inspired and have a greater appreciation and awareness of the country’s heritage issues, both architectural and cultural. The building remains owned by City Hall, however under the lease conditions, responsibility for the upkeep falls to Andrew. A burden not to be taken lightly, this public / private partnership model is however helping to breathe new life to old heritage, and acting as a catalyst for greater change in bringing vitality back to urban centres.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
As always, I want to understand where change is taking us. Andrew’s vision of tomorrow’s KL is one containing far fewer private vehicles, where public transport is enhanced and everyone takes the train and walks as normal part of life. “The streets are wide, deeply shaded with trees, full of greenery and seamlessly connected to the spaces and buildings around them. His future consists of a more simple, quality, healthy existence, where people understand and appreciate diversity in culture and can all go back to their roots”. The past is the future indeed.