Putrajaya (the administrative capital of Malaysia) is a strange and fascinating place indeed. History is littered with examples of grand capital planning, and this one is right in a line with many of them. Putrajaya is a new city (begun in 1995), and it is extremely impressive to see how much has been built in so short a time. The city also has a surreal quality about it, owing to its scale, planning, architecture and location.
Putrajaya begs all kinds of questions, such as:
– Was there really a need to build this place away from the (business and cultural) capital of KL?
– Who owned this land prior and were they friends or associates with the powers that be? Who were given the building contracts and how?
– How do they expect this place to be successful with such poor public transport? Perhaps this will improve over time.
– What does this place say about the poor of Malaysia (and their access to government institutions), who would be very out of place here and have a hell of a time getting here (see above, transport)?
– As (I am) someone coming from a land where religion and state are separate entities (at least in theory), what is Putrajaya saying about multiculturalism in Malaysia when one of its centerpieces is a huge mosque? Are other religions or belief systems represented somewhere? Are they meant to be ignored?
– What is the identity that Malaysia wants to form and project to the outside world? The architecture is a hodgepodge of many styles. But interestingly a lot of it uses Middle Eastern and Arabic details for inspiration.
– As the city is still far from complete, how are businesses that are located there faring? Do they have the traffic necessary to sustain them? What incentives (tax or otherwise) are granted to people that build (offices, housing, shopping, etc)?
– What are the costs of maintaining the grand public spaces and how will they deal with the ravages of time? Although barely a decade old, much of the public parks and other spaces don’t seem to be aging that well, with cracks and decay evident in places.