The Malaysian capital is taking cues from other cities and using the talents of local artists to brighten and beautify its urban streetscapes.
Kuala Lumpur is embarking on a phased project to bring a range of colourful murals to some of its dingiest streets and alleys in a bid to make parts of the city more appealing.
If you’ve been to Concubine KL in the recently upgraded area near Pasar Seni and Jalan Petaling, you’re already aware of the transformative power of art and colour. Now, a broader initiative is in place to bring these splashes of visual excitement to a number of back alleys and streets throughout the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
KL’s mayor, Mahadi Che Ngah, recently announced that, owing largely to the success of pilot projects, such as the transformation of the previously dark and dingy lanes around Changkat Bukit Bintang in March 2018, DBKL (KL City Hall) would be expanding the upgrading project to other areas, too.
Mahadi explained that in addition to the lanes and alleys in the Bukit Bintang area, the street art project would also be carried out at Lorong Sultan and Lorong Petaling, both of which are near Pasar Karat and Petaling Street (Chinatown). The idea is driven primary by aesthetics, but the result will be a more vibrant cityscape.
“Pasar Karat is normally frequented by antique lovers, while Petaling Street is a famous place among tourists, and is also a ‘trademark’ of Kuala Lumpur,” Mahadi said. “However, many people are afraid to use the lanes, regarding them as unsafe. So, this project will give a new image, to make the lanes cleaner, safer and more cheerful.”
Motifs of the City’s Heritage
Mahadi further explained that for Lorong Sultan, the proposed mural would feature the history of the area, with ‘rustic’ signage installed to explain. He stressed that the infrastructure, including the area’s drainage system, would also be upgraded. “It will also involve recolouring of the pavement and putting up additional street lights,” he added.
The mural at Lorong Petaling, Mahadi stated, is expected to be highly Instagrammable — think of Penang’s street art and how popular it is in visitors’ social media — featuring colour-splashed paintings of nature to enliven the area.
Mahadi explained the rationale as ultimately being driven by economics: “This will help to boost the economic sector, especially businesses in the area,” he said, “with visitors going there not only to shop, but also for various other leisure activities, such as photography.”
It is thought that initiatives such as these, intended to beautify and add vibrancy to certain areas, can increase the rental value of adjacent shoplots by up to 40%. This in turn drives additional business and creates employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.
A Colourful Evolution
Mahadi noted that the initiative to upgrade these two streets would be a continuation of the project at Yap Ah Loy, Lorong Bandar 11 and Lorong Bandar 13, which will ultimately be connected via a pedestrian walkway.
He explained that the street art featured at the various lanes will each have a different concept and identity, primarily informed by the background and history of the specific area, as well as based on input and suggestions by the local community.
In referencing the pilot project in the Bukit Bintang vicinity, Mahadi noted that six back and side streets had been transformed and brightened up with artwork. The affected lanes include Jalan Changkat Bukit Bintang, Jalan Berangan, Jalan Rembia, Jalan Tengkat Tong Shin, and Jalan Changkat Bukit Bintang.
Meanwhile, Mahadi, said two additional projects which include the creation of a small garden at the intersection of Jalan Rembia and a local food festival at Jalan Rembia and Jalan Alor, already well-known for plenty of street food fare, are still in the planning stage.
“These projects will be implemented because of the significant impact it will have on the local community,” Mahadi explained, “[and] to make them love the place and create a sense of belonging. It will encourage them to take care of the place. From just being inside buildings, they now feel good and comfortable going out to do activities outdoor, meet, and communicate with others.”
The Kuala Lumpur street art initiative has been inspired by successful programs in other cities, notably Melbourne, Australia, which has leveraged the creativity and talent of its local artists to transform its streets into famed tourist attractions.
We’re big fans of keeping it local and supporting the many talented artists in Malaysia’s creative scene, so this initiative by DBKL is to be applauded, and we hope that the efforts will be appreciated and sustained over the years!
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