Kuala Lumpur on a bus-A A +A
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
THREE hours after touching down at Singapore’s Changi Airport a few minutes past midnight, we had to rush back to the airport to catch our flight to Kuala Lumpur. The ETD was around 7 a.m. and our return flight to Singapore was scheduled at past 9 p.m. That means we had the whole day to explore (and learn about) Malaysia’s capital city.
The 45-minute airplane ride and the one-hour bus ride from its chaotic Low Lost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) Airport to Kuala Lumpur Central District already took up some of the minutes of our visit. But the air-conditioned bus ride was comfortable and afforded us a view of the calmer, countryside ambience of the country. For an architect, the first observation I made was that there were a lot of housing developments in these areas, especially as we were approaching the central district.
Upon arrival at the city’s central train station, the group had a quick lunch and then booked a hop-on hop-off tour of the city. This was actually the most effective way to make most of the few hours remaining of our stay in this bustling city. We were lucky to have a double-deck bus which had an open deck on the top. This made it easier to take photos of the scenes around us as we passed by them.
The tour had 23 stops, which consisted of visits to the city’s notable buildings, monuments, districts and parks. Kuala Lumpur is a progressive city indeed with wide roads and expressways, beautiful open and green spaces and yes, good-looking architecture. Yes, their tall buildings are reflective of contemporary design, but the one thing that amazes me about them is that its architects seem to make it a point to inject local culture and history into them. Their heritage buildings and districts are also well-integrated into the modern urban landscape. One would see majestic mosques and government buildings standing harmoniously with tall, glass-faced skyscrapers.
Of course, a sojourn to Malaysia’s capital city won’t be complete without a visit to its most important and distinguishable architectural landmark, the Petronas Twin Towers. Standing at 452 meters, the 88-storey structures took away the title of “tallest building in the world” from the Sears Tower in the United States in 1998.
Designed by Argentine-American architect Cesar Pelli, it was featured in the movie “Entrapment” which starred Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
True to the seemingly dominating motif of modern buildings in the city, Pelli designed this building as answer to the developer’s call to express the culture and heritage of Malaysia, according to the website skyscraper.org. Islamic architecture, through arabesque designs and geometric forms, wraps the building in a contemporary manner.
The plan itself is based on an eight-pointed star formed by intersecting squares. The towers, clad in curtain glass walls and stainless steel and connected by a bridge at the 41st floor, look like lustrous minarets of a mosque.
Petronas successfully acknowledged the country’s history as well as its visions for the future. This also proves how architecture, like the Sydney Opera House in Australia and the Taj Mahal in India, can carve out a solid image of a city or a country.
Looking at the map, Kuala Lumpur is nearer to the equator than Cebu, thus, the place is expected to get more brunt from the sun’s heat. But surprisingly, it was not that hot when our group was touring around. Okay, it was kind of cloudy that day, but what probably also did the trick (in minimizing urban heat) was the presence of big parks and areas covered with lots of trees. That is probably another lesson in urban planning for our local cities here.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 29, 2013.