POCKETS of areas in Kuala Lumpur have experienced poor business over the years caused by various factors, one of which is ongoing road upgrades and development.
The Loke Yew Roundabout is one of the affected areas.
Although it is one of the busiest roundabouts in the city, businesses in the area are struggling to survive as storefronts are blocked off by slip roads connected to them.
Vehicles zoom past and narrow buffers make it hard for customers to drop by.
The four underpass tunnels at the roundabout are dark, dirty and frequented by drug addicts, thus shunned by pedestrians. As a result, residents living on opposite sides of the roundabout seldom interact.
When this, as well as similar situations in Jalan Pudu and Jalan Pahang were highlighted by StarMetro in April, about 60 second-year architecture students from UCSI University came forward and worked for months to inject new life into the area around the roundabout.
The leader of the group, Lau Kai Xin, 20, said they spent months walking around the area to understand the demography, chatting with the locals and mapping the places.
“There are basically four parcels on each side of the Jalan Loke Yew and Jalan Sungai Besi intersection,” she said.
Parcel One that houses the Fraser Business Park, is teeming with working executives and students while Parcel Two where the former factory of Federal Bakery is located, has many abandoned shops.
Parcel Three is marked by a strong presence of car workshops and a building dating back to 1956, while the final parcel consists of mainly residential units.
Having learnt and understood the make-up of the area, the students put up a wooden art installation in the middle of the roundabout to promote people-interaction. The installation is for the public to sit on, lean against and view the students’ works displayed here.
“The modular structure is a collage showing the different activities going on in the four parcels,” said 21-year-old designer Charline Pang Shi Han.
Her design was chosen from 60 proposals submitted to address issues faced by the community in that locality.
“The structure highlights the fact that the goings-on in these parcels can combine and overlap, and the people can interact closely,” she said. She pointed out that the structure, which would remain at the spot throughout the month, was constructed in just five days, so it could be moved around to serve other communities.
The structure will be moved to the rooftop of Light Craft, one of the businesses here, at the end of the year for a culmination exhibition.
Lau said the effort garnered good response on social media because many Kuala Lumpur folk said the roundabout was “so near yet so far”.
“Many left comments saying that they pass by the roundabout every day but never knew what was underneath.
“We hope this project will prompt the authorities to take heed of the situation here, such as installing lights and clearing the rubbish in the tunnels to enable residents to use the underpasses,” she added.
Architectural design lecturer James Lim said the next and final phase of the project would see the students reviving a 61-year-old building in Parcel Three, which is mainly used by car workshops, offices of taxi companies and as residence for a mix of local and foreign workers.
“The community around the Loke Yew Roundabout is divided because there is a highway cutting across, and the underpass tunnels are underutilised because people have negative impressions of them.
“But we believe we can do something about it,” he said.
The place is also dear to Lim because he grew up in the area. He, too, was warned against using the underpass back then and did not know much about “the other side”.
“We will start by piquing the public’s curiosity with this modular installation.
“We do not know how the community will use the structure, it may be vandalised, but it is part of the experiment,” he said.
The idea, he said, was to encourage everyone to use the space again.
“Many buildings here, like this one built in 1956, hold immense value. It is a shame that they are forgotten and some are even abandoned,” he added.
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