clock 21-02-2017
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Designing the Public Realm Forum Kicks Off Kuala Lumpur Research Programme

The Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) in collaboration with AECOM, a fully integrated global infrastructure firm, recently held a public forum in Kuala Lumpur as an integral part of a three-year programme to encourage a more holistic approach to the rapid urbanisation of three South East Asian cities - Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Manila.

The forum brought together over a hundred key influencers from across Kuala Lumpur and leading international practitioners, ranging from architects, city planners, government agencies, leading GSD faculty members and the construction industry. Together, they discussed the planning and design alternatives that will be required to breathe new life into one of Kuala Lumpur's most well-known historic districts.

"The rapid pace of development in Malaysia provides unique challenges and opportunities for architects, urban planners and designers" said Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

"With support from AECOM, Harvard University Graduate School of Design students and faculty members will explore what the city can do to take a holistic approach that optimises access and usage of public spaces and critical transit infrastructure. The studio acts as a catalyst that brings new energy through the collaboration between international urban designers, architects and planners.”

The GSD's programme in Kuala Lumpur, made possible through AECOM's sponsorship and support, will enable students to visit a number of city locations and connect with local stakeholders. The cohort will create designs for a specific location with a view to unlocking real projects that will enhance the urban fabric of the city.

"We're delighted to be able to facilitate the visit of a talented group of international students from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design for their Kuala Lumpur Studio" said Sean Chiao, AECOM Asia Pacific President, who graduated from Harvard with a Master of Architecture in Urban Design.

"AECOM is committed to making the world a better place, and it is through the blending of ideas, cultures and disciplines at these studios that we intend to make a positive and lasting impact on Kuala Lumpur.”

At the forum, the GSD students heard from key local voices about some of the challenges and issues they are facing. This year's study will result in a number of ideas to enhance Kuala Lumpur's Golden Triangle, with the intent of improving liveability and economic activity in the area. The final output will be collated and published, providing a valuable key resource for local and international architects, designers and urban planners interested in the city's future development.

In his opening address at the forum held at the Westin Hotel, Sean Chiao reflected on the impact of urbanisation on liveability, "Rapid urbanisation is changing the landscape of this city. As the urban core of Kuala Lumpur continues to grow, commercial activity is also becoming more and more spread out, creating urban sprawl and segregating public spaces, bringing new population pressures.

In order to ensure sustainable economic, environmental and social development in Kuala Lumpur, while at the same time preserving the city's unique cultural identity, there is now a need for alternative planning and design solutions that can accommodate densification, encourage diverse programme use and provide a more connected urban environment.”

AECOM is already working to support and promote Malaysia's development through infrastructure projects like the River of Life initiative, which brought the community to the river by transforming the city's waterfront into a vibrant area with high economic and commercial value.

The project took an integrated approach that included master planning, landscape architecture and construction supervision to help realise the project and reinvigorate this historic part of the city to enhance the quality of life for the residents of Kuala Lumpur.

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