A city is not limitless and sometimes moving out parts, rather than keeping expanding the current city is a short-cut to sustainability. Capitals moved during history, so that could count for Kuala Lumpur as well.
Malaysia’s Vision 2020 culminates in the project of Putrajaya, which is supposed to become the administrative capital of the country. Various ministries, such as the one of Finance, already have been moved out of Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya. However often blamed to be a failed project and a ghost town, the city waits until people make the same move as the instutions.
Putrajaya makes part of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), and is the first smart city of Malaysia. Moreover, it is an excellent example of modern city planning. The city is constructed to relief the chaos of Kuala Lumpur and move some critical tasks – and hence population – out of the fast growing capital. Most interesting, the city is constructed as such that it does not only targets economic goals, but as well social and ecologic ones. The city must become a smart and liveable city, balancing the interests of people, planet and economics (profit).
Vision or Illusion
Many people say Putrajaya and Cyberjaya (see next post) have missed their goals, that they are failed projects, failed cities, in accordance to the failed nation states as we often talk about nowadays.
However, I do not see it that way. Rather than considering both as ghost towns, echoes of the past, they might actually be a vision of the future. The streets and sidewalks are empty, and so are the parks and squares. However, I can imagine how one day they will be crowded. I can see how the city is already made, the infrastructure is built, but it waits for its citizens to come. Similar to the first days and months of a new construction site, finished and brand-new, ready to be inhabited, but waiting for its first inhabitants to come.
Both cities might head that way, or they could remain a shade of what they could have been, like Brasilia in Brazil.
Walk in the Park
Join me on this walk to get an idea what I’m talking about.
Putrajaya can be reached by the genius public transport system out of Kuala Lumpur. A 20 minutes train out of Kuala Lumpur Sentral station, which is reachable by various kinds of public transport out of every corner of Kuala Lumpur, is all it takes to arrive in the financial and administrative capital of the country.
The parks are spotless maintained, no plastic or other waste. The river and lake look peaceful, the shade of the buildings as only interrupters. Besides the silence and wind, the park is completely empty; it would be possible to hear my footsteps echoing in the emptiness.
The same applies for many streets, squares and parks in the other parts of the city, except for the more residential zones. The serenity feels tremendous in addition to the enormous government buildings. A wide spread business district, with some remarkable indicators to sustainable city development, such as the long cycling lanes, the wide pedestrian zones and the ban on polistrein cups on the bus stops. The latter attracts more attention than anything else: the trash as a little monster, the villain that has to be banned out of our lives.
Envisioning the Future
Considering the growth of the country and of the capital Kuala Lumpur, which is forecasted to triple by 2050, I can imagine how people will start moving to a better place to live. That will be the day where the parks of Putrajaya will be filled with kids, the squares with wandering and coffee drinking adults, and the streets with commuting cars. In case of the latter I hope it will be zero emission transport, as the electric bus I take to Cyberjaya. Jump on, let’s have a look at Putrajaya’s smart twin in the next post.