Unchecked development, demolishing old buildings can alter city’s identity, forum told

The Research for Social Advancement, Relevant Facts, Sparkling Analysis (Refsa) centre holding a forum on ‘Pudu: Urban Identity and Symbolism’. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
The Research for Social Advancement, Relevant Facts, Sparkling Analysis (Refsa) centre holding a forum on ‘Pudu: Urban Identity and Symbolism’. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 — Reckless demolition of historical buildings come at a cost as unchecked development will drastically alter the capital city’s identity, analysts told a forum on urban identity today.

While tearing down older buildings is necessary in the name of development, proper research must be undertaken before deciding to do so, they added.

Citing the demolishment of the Pudu Jail as an example, two analysts from the Penang Institute said tearing down the 115 year-old building to build a shopping centre was not the “smartest move”.

“The former KL Mayor had said that the Pudu Jail needed to be demolished to ease traffic congestion but it actually makes no difference or perhaps would make the traffic situation a little worse with the building of Bukit Bintang City Centre there,” political and social analyst Ooi Kok Hin said.

“Maybe, they (the government) demolish a building because they don’t want to be reminded of that place in the future but a proper study must be undertaken to lay the pros and cons before tearing down an old place,” he added.

Ooi and his fellow analyst Evelyn Teh were speaking on a topic entitled “Pudu: Urban Identity and Symbolism” at the Research for Social Advancement (Refsa) centre.

Elaborating further, Ooi said the Pudu Jail could have instead been turned into a tourist attraction spot like the Alcatraz- a prison in the US which currently serves as a recreational area after receiving recognition by the National Historic Landmark.

Because of the lack of support from the local community, Teh said historical areas, especially buildings, were easily demolished here.

“We can protest but what we need is for civic groups and lobbyists to support an effort.

“For instance, if tomorrow the local council decides to close down the Pudu wet market, it can and traders will not have much say without these groups,” she said.

Apart from the Pudu Jail, The Puncak Purnama (Lunar Peaks) sculpture on Jalan Sultan Sulaiman was also torn down recently after it was labeled an “eyesore” by Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.

Earlier, Refsa in a bid to introduce it’s new library, sent out about 10 people to the ground to visit areas around Pudu to study issues the people were facing.

Among the issues raised by the group later, were the lack of pedestrian crossings, improper solid waste management system and unhygienic conduct at the wet market.

In terms of preserving historical buildings and areas, tuition teacher Pepper Lim, 48, urged the city council to view the move by the Malacca government in maintaining old buildings.

“In Malacca, the government improves the condition of old buildings and by that I mean the entire building, and not just its entrance.

“When you walk in these buildings, you get that nostalgic feel and this is something DBKL should look at,” he said.

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