My Orange Streetscape

30 November 2017

This was staged by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
A city is made up of thousands of privately owned land parcels. The bits, that separate or join them are the public realm and largely come under the purview of the local authority.

Local authorities are adept at controlling the use and develop- ment of everyone else's privately owned land. There are copious planning rules and building codes imposed on us all. However, when it comes to the public realm, local authorities are largely left to their own devices. I do not think any local authority has ever decided to impose a set of rules upon itself.

Hardly surprising then, if we were to see the patch of green visible from the Datuk Bandar's office window landscaped in 20 different styles in so many years, while oth- er parts of the city still resemble old Delhi.
If we are not ever going to get any local authority to declare a self-imposed building code for the public realm, I would happily settle for a mission statement.

My suggested first sentence would be, “We promise not to distribute bright orange garbage bins”. The message here is that councillors are sensitive to the earthy greens and browns of this beautiful country and are not colour blind.

Secondly, I would like to see an affirmation that trimming trees does not necessitate cutting them down to the stump. This may involve some training on the part of our "tree surgeons", who seem to imagine themselves as part of some SWAT team.

A good way to finish would be an undertaking that any yellow studded pedestrian strips, set into the pavement for the visually impaired, will not lead directly into lamp posts, drains and trees.

If further discussion was possible beyond the mission statement, it would be nice to have a frank debate about the money spent on flyovers but not spent on pedestrian and cycle underpasses.

The list could go on of course, but I want to touch upon gated-and-guarded communities.

It seems that endless security precautions are acceptable for new
developments. But when a small community wants to close or monitor its public roads for the same purpose, things get a bit touchy. I have even know some local authority planners who describe this as elitism. More guidelines would be useful but they should promote this type of self-help.

When my community decided to close off some access roads and
guard the remaining access, it brought an amazing sense of relief followed by hearty camaraderie among us all. You could take an evening stroll without looking over your shoulder, and property
values are rising.

Amazingly, we are now being asked to keep the barrier open for certain times of the day.

I understand that we have erred by closing off some public roads,
which should theoretically have been kept open for the benefit of anybody from Argentina to Zambia. Unfortunately, most of the visitors from Argentina and other parts have seen our open roads as an open invitation to march into my house and help themselves to my camera gear.

I have just returned from Barcelona feeling a bit imbued with their spirit of localism. Surely my road belongs just a little bit more to me than it does to Pablo from the Pampas?

So here's the deal, councilors: Spend an hour each evening clearing my neighbourhood of illegal ads on every lamp post and tree. Keep fit and meet the residents. Meet the burglary victims. Then we can talk.

By Christopher Boyd


Key Contacts

Amy Wong Siew Fong

Amy Wong Siew Fong

Research & Consultancy

Savills Kuala Lumpur

+603 2092 5955