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Kampung Pictures Daily Seeking a match for KKB's heart
Seeking a match for KKB's heart PDF Print E-mail
Written by straits-mongrel   
Friday, 16 April 2010 03:30

kkb1You've probably heard it more than once, felt it yourself even - there's something quite pleasant about Kuala Kubu Baru. It's palpable, something you perceive as you stroll along the streets of the old commercial quarter. Something about the texture of the buildings, unpretentious, trustworthy, common. Something about how the roads gently wind around the hills rather than rudely cut through it. Here, the raintrees are long-limbed and lush. They shelter.

It's graceful here.



Kuala Kubu Baru is the legacy of Charles Compton Reade, Government Town Planner of the Federated Malay States (FMS) from 1921-29. He was transfered here after a successful stint in South Australia, a man with an intense personality who desired to improve the living conditions in the FMS territories. Didn't matter if they were British subjects or pendatangs or natives.


Reade, who was born in New Zealand, started off as a journalist, a career which exposed him to the slums and working environments of a cold, industrialising world. Dismayed by those experiences, he took to town-planning. And as with many others who live with fire in their bellies, Reade stood by the principles he believed in.


He had a hard time here. His years in the FMS were marked with resistance from power-brokers both within and outside of government.


Reade wasn't into expediency. Fast gets no soul, you might paraphrase. He writes in a report:

“Any expectation that the complete realisation of General Town Plans, or individual Schemes, in the Federated Malay States will occur within the next few years is almost certainly doomed to disappointment. General Town Plans (with complementary details in scheme form) are not things for to-day; neither can they be carried out next week.

"Their primary object, in all modern countries, is to lay down and anticipate on paper present and future requirements extending over a period of 20 to 25 years."


We see the fruits of that labour today. It is in this light that one should view Kuala Kubu Baru, the first planned city in the country (not Petaling Jaya [1954], as many commonly assume). Here time and the seasons are recorded, not masked. KKB's design was based on the Garden City movement of Ebenezer Howard, which had gained popularity at the turn of the 20th century. It was a concept which emphasised balanced zoning of residential, industrial/commerce and agriculture stitched together with green belts.


Another classic example of Reade's fine work in town-planning is the Sungai Buloh Leprosarium, designed in 1924-25 and completed in 1930 after Reade left for North Rhodesia.


A visitor who's been to these two places will surely sense the intelligence and heart of the designer. Works like these and subsequent government-quarter compounds such as Kampung Attap in KL provide a solid reference for the global community on how Garden Cities were articulated in the tropics (these are really rare entities). Indeed, for us here who are often accosted with overpriced and ugly developments, it is a reminder of how good neighborhoods ought to be designed in the first place - with a heart.


Again, these didn't come easy for Reade. It required the steely resolve of a man who insisted on delivering something good - not something cheapened and full of sham - even in the face of opposition. It required a man to walk his talk.


When Saturday morning comes and Kuala Kubu Baru wakes up to a boisterous Nomination Day for the Hulu Selangor By-election, it is only justified that we measure the character of the candidates with that of the man who shaped this gentle, wonderful little town. That character - who matches the resolve? who dares to stand and deliver because it's the right thing to do? - is possibly the best guide to voting in the Rakyat's representative for P94.


May the best person win.


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Last Updated on Friday, 16 April 2010 06:42

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