The Old Traditional and New Kuala Lumpur

Gurstein (1984) states that Malaysia has not had a long history of urban settlements, being a predominantly rural and village (kampong)-based society. The large urban settlements such as Kuala Lumpur were established as a ‘traditional city’ and a centre of tin-mining activity. Morphological studies on the growth of the town centres in Malaysia indicated that the early component of Kuala Lumpur includes the old shop houses, market, and places of worship with walkable streets. The shop house was a mixed-use vertical arrangement having a working space on the ground floor and the living spaces on the upper floors. The typical two-storey shop house, with the ground floor for trading and the first floor for residential use is still a standard feature in the centres of Malaysian towns and cities (Yeang 1992; Ismail and Shamsuddin 2005). These buildings’ typology is important as they are the oldest extant urban dwellings in the country (Ismail and Shamsuddin 2005).

With the advent of globalisation and spread of the international style, Kuala Lumpur lost its essence of a traditional walking city. Economic growth became the agenda accompanied by the development of large commercial zones in the inner city. The increasing property price in Kuala Lumpur led city dwellers to search for affordable accommodation outside the city. This brought with it a myriad of issues including: separated land uses (zoning), severe traffic congestion due to the increased dependence on private vehicles and the urban heat island effect. Figure 1.3 below shows the Kuala Lumpur city growth throughout several eras from a small traditional and walkable town to highly congested city due to the urban sprawl to the suburbs (Mastura 2013).

However, over the last 10 years, many established developers in Malaysia have initiated alternative approaches to their development concepts in order to improve the quality of life for clients and their commercial objectives of improved marketability (Alias et al. 2011). In his research interviews with some of the major developers in Malaysia, Hamid (2002) underlined that real estate products are not only just the physical appearances of buildings, but includes a fine grain amalgamation of the environment, adjacent neighbourhoods, infrastructure, and the amenities such as seamless transportation, that make up the total development within the city (Alias et al. 2011). Accessibility is the ease at which amenities can be accessed without the need to travel excessively (Harvey 2000). These are the features emphasised in

The timeline of Kuala Lumpur city development from tin-mining town to metropolitan city (Mastura 2013)

Fig. 1.3 The timeline of Kuala Lumpur city development from tin-mining town to metropolitan city (Mastura 2013)

many urban developments in Malaysia (Alias et al. 2011). Several measures have been formulated to improve the market positioning by the developers during recent years among which include the promotion of environmentally oriented and ecological-friendly development schemes, the provision of parks and recreation space, and support for green movements (Alias et al. 2011). These development schemes are seem to meet customer desires for a green and connected communal living lifestyle. The above mentioned components of the current real estate development in some way has adopted the concept of New Urbanism that has been emerged in the United States in the early 1980s as a reaction to growing urban sprawl (Alias et al. 2011; Fulton 1996). It advocates design-based approaches using traditional urban forms to help mitigate suburban sprawl and inner city decline in rebuilding developments for cities (Bohl 2000; Alias et al. 2011).

In a study by Alias et al. (2011) of the level of awareness of New Urbanism in Malaysia, the respondents from the development companies were not aware or well- informed of ‘New Urbanism’ in the first instance, however, they reckoned that the concept was not alien to the local context. They observed that the idea of emphasising the design concept such as addressing certain aspects of sustainability and ecological issues by providing large reserves of green area, water features, self-sufficient or compact inner-city neighbourhoods with complete facilities and amenities have been very much advertised by the reputable developers in the country, hence, is not a new phenomenon (Alias et al. 2011). Furthermore, this new approach is to mitigate the negative impact from the development during 1980 till 2000 to the urban community in KL as described in Fig. 1.3.

 
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