Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya

Negotiating Urban Space in Malaysia

by Ross King

349 pp., 63 illustrations
Available from NIAS Press in Europe

Paperback - 2009, Available
ISBN 978 87 7694 046 1, £19.99

Arguably Southeast Asia’s most spectacular city, Kuala Lumpur - widely known as KL - has just celebrated 50 years as the national capital of Malaysia. But KL now has a very different twin in Putrajaya, the country’s new administrative capital. Where KL is a diverse, cosmopolitan, multi-racial metropolis, Putrajaya fulfils an elitist vision of a Malay-Muslim utopia.

KL’s multi-cultural richness is reflected in the brilliance and diversity of its architecture and urban spaces; Putrajaya, by contrast, is an architectural homage to an imagined Middle East. The ’purity’ of Putrajaya throws the cosmopolitan diversity of Kuala Lumpur into sharp relief, and the tension between the two places reflects the rifts that run through Malaysian society.

In this copiously illustrated book, Ross King considers what form of metropolis the Kuala Lumpur-Putrajaya region might foreshadow, arguing that signs of this future city are to be sought in the collision points between the utopian dreams of imagined futures and the reality of purposely forgotten pasts.

Ross King is a Professorial Fellow in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning (and formerly its Professor and Dean) at the University of Melbourne. Educated as an architect and urban planner, he was also a graduate student under Louis Kahn at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also sat at the feet of such modernist luminaries as Le Corbusier, Lewis Mumford, and Arnold Toynbee. He has practiced as an architect, planner and policy analyst, taught at the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne, and researched (among other things) the complexities of urban housing markets, the cultural contexts and economic effects of urban and landscape design, and theories of design. He is also the author of Emancipating Space: Geography, Architecture and Urban Design (New York: Guilford, 1996).

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