KUALA Lumpur may rejuvenate old areas by repurposing them into uban villages to raise the quality of life in the city, with a model of this concept put on display in Medan Pasar for the 9th World Urban Forum (WUF9).
A pair of basic micro-housing units with a couple of garden swings, wooden benches, manmade ponds with plants and enhanced with miniature fountains, exuded a feeling of tranquillity. The whole set-up is the centre of attraction currently in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Some of the motorists passing through the busy Jalan Lebuh Pasar Besar even slowed down to take a look at the new addition to the Medan Pasar area, which seemed to have been built overnight.
People who were working in the vicinity paused their daily routines to take a closer look at the scene coming to life before them, and before long the benches and swings were occupied by the visitors!
An elderly man found an empty wooden bench to seek respite and started reading the newspapers he was holding, oblivious to the goings-on around him.
More people started milling about the area and the place soon transformed into a hive of activity, with people touching the plants, playing with water and chattering happily.
“This is incredibly refreshing,” said Jane March, an American tourist who was among the crowd intrigued by the unusual sight.
“I like the sound of water, it is very soothing,” said T. Thevan.
“It is nice to have a place right in the heart of downtown where we can relax,” the bank employee added.
Friends, Sharifah Ahmad and Siti Zubaidah could not help but try out the swings.
“It reminds me of my kampung in Kuala Selangor,” said Zubaidah.
“It is so rare to find swings like this in the heart of Kuala Lumpur,” Sharifah chipped in.
Welcome to a prototype of communal living of the future.
The two micro-houses on display, built on a space of two parking bays, are equipped with kitchen and toilets to reflect a future urban village.
This model communal living is the collaborative effort of Urbanice Malaysia, Think City and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL).
It is part of the programme in conjunction with WUF9 that is happening in Kuala Lumpur from Feb 7 to 13. Urbanice Malaysia is the organiser for the WUF9.
Dubbed the World Urban Forum Village, the idea behind the concept is the possibility of rejuvenating old areas in the city to look like this one as a potential spot brimming with life.
Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Mohd Amin Nordin Abd Aziz, who launched the WUF9 Village, said WUF9 village was a good example of how old areas in the city could be regenerated and made vibrant.
He said re-purposing older commercial buildings for temporary residential use and the introduction of communal living was the way of the future.
“In Kuala Lumpur there are so many areas which have become dilapidated and turned into a slum. But as shown with this experiment model here, we can rejuvenate such areas to make them vibrant again by adding plants, water features and even sculptures,” he pointed out.
“There are many potential areas in this city that can be upgraded and become tourist hubs with a little bit of work.”
The mayor said that for a city where land scarcity was a big issue, old buildings and redundant spaces could be remodeled to be functional and made useful again.
“We are one of the urbanised countries in South-East Asia, with 75.37% of the total population living in urban areas and cities.
“Combining this with the fact that Malaysia’s population will hit 45.5 million in 2040, the challenges of urbanisation and the strain on city resources are important factors in how we plan for the future now,” he said.
Amin Nordin noted that Medan Pasar itself had undergone tremendous change, highlighting that most recently, one could see the beginnings of a wider regeneration effort from the River of Life, The Blue Pond and Masjid Jamek.
“I believe we are headed in the right direction. Once we build this momentum, we hope to see the historic core transformed into a cultural district, celebrating our heritage and history but making relevant for citizens today,” he added.
The urban village incorporates several events that run concurrently including the experiment in communal living to be presented as an installation.
Other activities will take place at 2 Hang Kasturi, a heritage building nearby.
Visitors will also be able to take in the other regeneration projects taking shape in the vicinity including parklets (a garden with benches to sit on), kerblets (utilising old furniture for seating purposes) and a mural-painting activity.
Meanwhile members of the public are encouraged to visit the WUF9 village and share your opinions on the communal living prototypes as well as participate in the activities taking place there.
The event ends tomorrow. For details, go to www.wuf9.org