Sunday, October 10, 2010

Letter from Fiorn Lee

Dear Sabah Heritage,

Here are my thoughts, ideas and suggestions for the Atkinson tower issue. Thank you for your time. You efforts are very much appreciated. Hope the decision goes favourably. Perhaps petition for the developers to reconsider the design of their project. My notes below elaborates on it a bit more. It was also a response to some of the other comments that the other facebook viewers were making which i thought needed some re-orientation. Thanks again.

I agree with the fact that we should understand why we believe that the current proposal of a 16 storey shopping mall/hotel should not be approved of. We should evaluate both sides of this in the context of the historical development of Kota Kinabalu from the time when it was first established. Disregard the fact that whether the slip selling of Sabah to West Malaysia was a foolish mistake or rather a clever one. All history is part of the history of Kota Kinabalu. It is what shapes this place. All history, negative, positive, tragic, glorious- should be identified with as the aspect of place making generated from history.

From this, I believe that the most important factor to address and respond to in this proposed development is: whether the integrity and character of the Atkinson Clock Tower has been protected & maintained , and considered for in the proposal? I do agree that we may have been thinking about the yes or no, the extremities of both of it. But how about to find a balance? To maintain its value as a heritage site, a heritage precinct- rather than a heritage structure or tower. We should treat the area as heritage. Thus, from treating the surrounding area as heritage, any proposed developments eliminating around it must take into major & prioritized consideration that it must work with that heritage site's character, compliment it gracefully- not shun it without any respect or consideration for its earlier settling structures. Art feeds on art. Anticipated developments must feed from its predecessors.From this, it belongs to its place.

We need also question the proposal for an additional shopping MALL. Should it be a shopping MALL? Or rather, should it be a precinct? With an intentions for mixed-used, open-concept, incorporation into the natural & urban landscape. One that has perhaps commercial activity (to generate the economy as desired by most developers), accommodation, tourism (lookouts, public spaces), heritage sites, outdoor leisure, parks, greenery,performances, arts, galleries, eateries, some offices, mini museums etc. The word "shopping mall" creates an image of a building enclosed, not open to the city streets, internally orientated, a place to capture you within it so to disorientate you till you lose track of the sense of time from turning around in circles buying consumer goods that you don't really need or just the latter-window shopping. Is this what we really need in our city? Another shopping mall? Is there even enough demand to support the supply of that many stores and consumer goods?

If this development has to go forward (and it may just do), it can be done differently. It can be done properly. It can be done gracefully. It can be done with care for the heritage of our place.The aspect of heritage & landscape of that site should not be the afterthought of the designers of that proposed development. It should be the first foremost driving factor of the design.Be really inspired by history, don't just use it as a tag line to market an exhaustively reused building template for TYPICAL shopping malls.

Hope it helps. Let me know.

Fiorn Lee

1 comment:

  1. I concur. We do not need to erase what is old or in the past or destroy what is existing to allow space for future developments. I think its sad that authorities see development & conservation as a zero-sum situation. Views as such came from the 70s and should stay in the 70s.

    While the maintenance of heritage is the main point put forward, we should not forget the longer term issue of sustainable development as a more important aspect. It is not a question of whether or not we are "turning into KL". We need to start thinking about development that is ecologically friendly and not just focused on material economic growth.

    It appears to me that quite a lot of people get excited over the building of new infrastructure, buildings, cement, concrete, glass, sky-scrapers & such. The depiction of development or "pembangunan" in KK now seems to be measured in this sense. I don't see why we need to follow in the steps of developed nations (or larger developing ones such as China) & focus so much on construction development. For one, we are not in need yet for unnecessary infrastructure such as shopping malls. Most of them end up empty & wasted anyway & we're left with a structure of broken construction, not quite aesthetically pleasant.

    I've always believed that development and conservation can go hand in hand, as clearly elaborated in the letter. A win-win situation. A sustainable development plan is imminent and crucial. Why wait, when we can make a proactive difference from the start, instead of applying retrospective conservation plans when we face "real" threats?