What makes a place great? This question has become more pertinent for our modern world in the last decade.
As people contend with issues surrounding urbanisation, the decline of community, and the evolution of city living, much of the solutions offered have come to revolve around one word, that of “placemaking”.
The modern iteration of the concept first emerged in the 1960s, when writers and sociologists such as Jane Jacobs and William H. Whyte mooted ideas of building a city that catered to people first, with spaces that will foster social life and lively neighbourhoods.
Danish architect Jan Gehl, author of the much-read Cities for People put it this way – “First life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works.”
An activation demo during the World Urban Forum of Think City’s Laneway Programme in rejuvenating several alleyways in downtown Kuala Lumpur. (Photo: Think City)
Daniel Lim, the director of Urban Mechanics, Placemaking Lead at Think City, a Malaysian urban policy adviser, expounds on a similar sentiment.
“What makes a city are its people, because they are the main drivers that keep everything alive and moving. Hence, it is important to realise that in order for cities to work, they need to be liveable, especially with new global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.”
That said, the positive impact of placemaking goes beyond social benefits to very tangible economic growth. Take the High Line in New York, an elevated section of New York Central Railroad’s West Side Line that is a public park.
Now emulated in many other cities, the 2.33-kilometre landmark became an “economic development engine” that spurred tourism, business as well as real estate growth, with economic activity – especially robust in the real estate sector – numbering in the billions.
Spring at the High Line in New York City (Photo: sangaku)
Modern development and placemaking
Placemaking has now spilled over from the public realm to the private, notes Lim, pointing out that most contemporary developments focus on improving quality of life as a key element.
When done well, he adds that placemaking takes common facilities and infrastructure and makes it something more, one that creates more resilient communities and even improves sustainability.
Joanne Kua, the Group CEO of KSK and managing director of KSK Land concurs. “We’ve really taken in this concept and approach of placemaking as a company and real estate developer. If I can simplify what it embodies for us, it means to intentionally shape an environment for better living.”
KSK Land’s maiden development 8 Conlay, a RM5.4 billion gross development value integrated project in the heart of KL’s city center, was designed with the vision to introduce a standard of city living that will set the bar for luxury tier residences in the country.
But more than opulence, Kua emphasises that real luxury lies in good design, and solid, tangible quality. In this case, 8 Conlay has a residence helmed by award-winning designers Steve Leung and Kelly Hoppen for YOO, and a range of hotel-led services provided by European luxury hotel group Kempinski.
Digital placemaking also plays a role, with residents able to access all manner of services and functions necessary for convenience and ease of convenience from a seamless resident mobile app that won a prize at the Malaysian Technology Excellence Awards 2022.
But arguably where placemaking played a most substantial role would be YOO8 Serviced by Kempinski residence’s communal areas, a water lounge on Level 26 and green refuge on Level 44.
Connecting the twin-tower residences, its landscape designer Pok Kobkongsanti of Bangkok-based TROP studio envisioned a place of spaciousness within KL city center itself.
Instead of a merely decorative space, both the sky decks are created for activity within a fully distinctive environment, one that structurally draws people together while visually and emotionally making room for an immersive escape – all in the heart of the city.
8 Conlay in Kuala Lumpur is selling Tower A and Tower B of its branded residences, YOO8 serviced by Kempinski. To get in touch or visit our 8 Conlay Gallery, contact us here.