The Urban Design Dilemma in Malaysia's Planning Policies
Following the discussion in the public hearing for the Draft Kuala Lumpur Structure Plan 2040 on the 25th June 2020, PEREKABANDAR was very receptive to the vision of the KLSP2040 which is a 'City for All'. The vision was considered as an improvement from the previous structure plan which is 'Kuala Lumpur Global City'. It's a good start for a more inclusive and equitable city with all things considered. However, the concern was the lack of statements on the policy direction with regards to the identity and image targeted for the city which may lead to an uncoordinated development as far as the city's design is concerned.
Sense of Place
Dr. Shuhana Shamsuddin, a retired professor of urban design and PEREKABANDAR's president suggested that the lack of focus on the sense of unity in the city's physical appearances would result in the loss of the city's soul and its sense of place. Of the six goals formulated, the production of Urban Design guidelines was only mentioned in the policy of effective Green Governance under "Goal 3: Healthy and Vibrant". However, most of the proposals under this goal are related to the urban landscape and beautification program, which is only a small component of urban design and in fact at the lowest level of Urban Design intervention. A city for all should take into consideration the cultural value of the city and highlight the necessary elements of the city's identity.
Most of the important aspects of urban design such as elements of townscape, urban form, skylines, setting, profile, urban structure, grain and texture, city's views and vista, etc were not discussed. These are all vital components of the city and can affect the image and identity which should have been discussed more thoroughly. The proposals in the other goals also have implications on the identity of the city, however, no common direction of the nature of the "identity" that was given to guide future physical development under the other five goals. This may inevitably lead to uncoordinated design, lacking in a sense of unity and identity for Kuala Lumpur.
Urban Design Guidelines
In the KLSP2040, there are 19 actions that discuss the physical components and construction of the city directly. The concern presented was that the preparation of the Urban Design Guidelines (Action SV4.3) was placed under the SV4 Strategic Direction: Effective Green Governance in Goal 3: Kuala Lumpur Healthy City and Vibrant.
This gives the connotation that the Urban Design Guidelines to be developed will be directly related to the goal of making the city healthy and vibrant only. However, in order to achieve sense of unity and establishing a city identity, all types of development must be based on the same image and identity and can be linked to all the strategic directions of the city planning for a city.
This can be seen in the previous strategic directions such as, SV2: Exciting and Creative Urban Environment, and SV3: Green Network and Urban Heritage which also directly touched on aspects that shaped the city image. Areas such as the use of urban space (Action SV2.2), relocating the strategic area of Kuala Lumpur (Action SV2.3), linking the city's main activity center (Action SV3.2), as well as the implementation of heritage trails in the city center (Action SV3 .3), can directly affect the image formation of the city.
Therefore, the preparation of the Urban Design Guidelines should be given more holistic emphasis. After looking at the above aspects, the preparation of these guidelines should not be taken solely as an action within a specific strategic direction. If the preparation of the Urban Design Guidelines is given priority, then aspects of design such as the use of urban space and the implementation of the heritage footprint in the city center will become more comprehensive and thus create a clearer image of Kuala Lumpur. The preparation of separate and ad-hoc Urban Design Guidelines will create a vibrant urban environment without a clear image.
The Malaysian Urban Design Association has submitted official comments and hopes that their concerns will be considered in order to improve the draft KLSP2040 and that KL can develop rapidly into the future without losing its soul and identity. Though the concept was attempting to build a City for All, it would be highly preferable for Kuala Lumpur to strive to become a "Malaysian" City for All rather than ending up being quotidian or as urban designers call it, a "nowhere and everywhere" city.