Some time in May 2009, overlooking the sparse city of Putrajaya from the Shangri-La Hotel perched on top of a hill, a respected former top Malaysian diplomat rhetorically asked me, “is it not a great view”?
I somehow had the courage to respond, “I am unimpressed by it”.
In truth, as a person with amateurish interest in architecture, I am impressed by the buildings. It is the concept of Putrajaya that I find as unappealing.
The worst of all bads is the fact that the establishment of Putrajaya as a federal administrative center of Malaysia creates a distance between the federal government and the center of the country that is Kuala Lumpur. It is true that not all and in fact a majority of Malaysians do not live in Kuala Lumpur but with a population of approximately 1.6 million, it is by far the largest and the most influential city in the country. That number does not include satellite cities such as Petaling Jaya.
Compared to the relative emptiness of Putrajaya and its surrounding, there is a cultural and even political disconnect between the center of Malaysia and Putrajaya. Given weak democratic culture that exists in Malaysia, that does not help.
A more concrete factor that makes me dislike the city is the way it is designed. It is so vast that it is clear that motor vehicles are essential to it. Putrajaya may try to mimic Washington D.C. but that city on the Potomac is friendly to pedestrians. I have been there and I enjoy walking there.
The heat makes it all the more unappealing. Apart from dealing with the government, there is really no reason to be there. Another city that falls in the same class as Putrajaya is Canberra here in Australia. Judging from conversation with friends here, Canberra is as unexciting as Putrajaya.
It is, as if, Putrajaya was planned for giants with everything placed so far apart. And that is the ironic thing because despite being a planned city unlike Kuala Lumpur with its spaghetti-like streets, parking is a real issue in Putrajaya.
There are parking spaces but those spaces are located so unstrategically that many simply park by the roadside closest to the building of interest. The best example is probably around where the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Youth and Sports are. It was a disaster over there the last time I visited the horrible place six or seven months ago. It was as bad as the situation at KL Sentral. KL Sentral has legitimate excuse to supply: it is still under development. The same cannot be said about Putrajaya.
I could imagine how loudly civil servants and visitors will grumble when they read this:
PUTRAJAYA, Nov 30 (Bernama) — Putrajaya Corporation (PJC) will impose parking charges at the Precinct 1 government complexes and the Diplomatic Precinct’s car parks from Tuesday.
The areas have the capacity of 386 parking bays at the Perdana Putra Complex, Laman Perdana, B Complex and C Complex at Precinct 1, and 559 bays at the Diplomatic Precinct, it said in a statement.
PJC said this would enable adequate parking bays for the public and avoid traffic congestion. [Putrajaya Parking Charges Start from Tuesday. Bernama. November 30 2009]
Do not get me wrong. I support charging fee to solve parking problem but the city is badly designed, even when it was designed with motor vehicles in mind. In fact, somebody must have forgotten that he or she or they designed the city with motor vehicles in mind.
The vehicles have to be parked somewhere. It is as if all those parking spaces are placed as an afterthought. This problem should not have arisen in the first place, if the city pride itself as a planned city.
But perhaps, it is a matter of implementation. Putrajaya was supposed to have its own spanking intracity rail system. That went kaput during the Asian Financial Crisis. Buses are taking over now but I do not know now efficient they are. I have never tried it.
I do not intend to try it either. I plan to avoid Putrajaya like a plague. It is not in my favorite cities list.