Placemaking And the Public Realm

Project Updates
Placemaking And the Public Realm
January 20, 2021
TRX Public Realm team

TRX Public Realm team

Plan B @ TRX

Plan B @ TRX

TRX, as Malaysia’s upcoming international financial centre, is not only designed to be a conducive place for businesses; it also prioritises nature and public spaces for the community, with its inviting world-class Public Realm.

Carefully designed with people in mind in terms of space, playscape, and landscape, the open public area in TRX will cover a quarter of the district, a welcomed addition of green lungs for the city. From plazas and alleyways, the green spaces interlace shady pedestrian networks and lush gathering oasis with skyscrapers and concrete infrastructure.

At the centre of this is the 10-acre, multi-tiered city park that cascades over a four-storey lifestyle hub, The Exchange TRX -- the district’s social heart that will host a range of F&B and entertainment outlets, alfresco dining and open air cafés. The rooftop park will also feature a grand stage on a podium that can cater to concerts and festivals.

One of the aspects that set TRX’s Public Realm apart is the significant incorporation of greenery and natural elements into its design, balancing active spaces for social activities and quiet enclaves for relaxation.


Powered by Placemaking

To ensure that the Public Realm is abuzz and vibrant even beyond working hours, well-curated placemaking comes into play. Placemaking is the definitive value add that will have a positive ripple effect on the real estate value.

“We need to make sure the Public Realm stitches all the various TRX plots, buildings and entities, present and future, into a seamless whole,” says Mardiana Afran, who leads the TRX Public Realm team.

Mardiana has seen the concept of the TRX Public Realm evolve into a holistic approach to create a destination for visitors and a place to linger for the local work-live-play and the business communities. It is within the Public Realm that 'real life' happens, so constructing the right spaces and structures are essential.

With much of the Public Realm’s “hardware” completed or well underway, Mardiana is turning her expert attention to the "heartware".

“Placemaking will ensure the Public Realm remains vibrant and lively way past office hours, and becomes a lifestyle destination,” says Mardiana, an urban designer for the past 20 years who has led projects across Asia, Middle East, Europe and Australia.

A district-wide arts and culture strategy is currently underway, which would include a programme of activities and the installation of key public art pieces that will power the placemaking drive to transform TRX Public Realm into one of Asia’s best urban parks.

One example of successful placemaking is in TRX’s North West Plaza, the district pedestrian gateway linked to Bukit Bintang. The coming of the popular Plan B brand as an F&B partner has breathed life into the area.

Located in a beautifully-designed transparent glass box, Plan [email protected] attracts a strong lunch crowd and continues to have a steady stream of visitors outside of lunch hour. The structure’s skylights charmingly brighten the restaurant with natural lighting, while its glass walls provide customers with uninterrupted views of the surroundings, including the best vista towards the Exchange 106 tower.

“We managed to save the existing trees in this spot, and constructed the roof shape to accommodate them,” says Mohd Hilmi, who was involved in the construction of the retail kiosk. Hilmi pointed that the plaza’s landscaping is extended by allowing trees to grow through the wood-finished roof of the retail structure, mimicking the organic form of a leaf that seemingly floats above this space.

The retail kiosk is part of the “entrance statement” of TRX, explains the Australia-trained architect.

“It must be bold and grand, and uphold the TRX brand, but it also has to be practical in its function as the primary gateway into a prestige development,” said Hilmi.


Incorporating Biophilic Features

North West Plaza is just one in a series of plazas, pocket parks and walkways throughout TRX that will be resplendent with greenery. TRX will have close to a thousand plants, trees and shrubs, with over 90 percent being native or naturalised to Malaysia.

While the softscapes ensure a distinctive character and maintains an identifiable TRX signature look and feel, the main aim is to harmonise the needs of people and nature, and create an ecological corridor for pedestrians and wildlife in the city.

Next to Plan B, the Merdeka tree stands within the TRX Gallery, with the structure built around it. The raintree, estimated to be over 60-years old and holds tremendous heritage value, will be preserved even after the TRX Gallery comes down later this year.

Landscape architect and project manager Nazri Mat Salleh, who has been involved with the development of the TRX Public Realm since 2015, manages the design and implementation of public spaces, which includes creating green hotspots to encourage the biodiversity of urban flora and fauna.

By design, TRX’s green infrastructure integrates spaces with everyday requirements; it applies natural cooling methods and softscapes to create an urban oasis for the wellbeing of visitors.

“The biggest challenge is to smoothly manage the design and implementation in coordination with all the other TRX components, like the various buildings and supporting infrastructure,” says Nazri, who previously played a key role in bringing Putrajaya’s Core Island to life.

For instance, pockets of green in the district, including the City Park are designed to be close enough to accommodate the flying spans of urban birds, butterflies and bees. The landscaping also considers the rhythms of the tropical day, so that shady trees and water features can maximise natural cooling methods for the comfort of users and visitors.

The close attention given in fostering these biophilic features is one of the reasons that the ambitious TRX Public Realm Master Plan has been recognised with a Malaysian Landscape Architecture Award.


Creating a Public Realm with the Community

Master Plans are good in theory, but engagement with local communities is the key ingredient in building a dynamic Public Realm that is relevant, inclusive and well-utilised. It is critical for TRX to be very much of its neighbourhood, and not stand apart like a citadel. To understand the needs of the surrounding community, a community engagement programme was rolled out.

As a result, the team improved the pedestrian and vehicular experience through enhancing walkways, beautifying back lanes, landscaping plazas, camouflaging utilities works in public areas, and facilitating better traffic flow.

“We learned what was required to ensure that the surrounding community will be able to enjoy the upside of this development. After our engagement, we created more parking spaces along the back lanes in consideration of loading/unloading activities, we created more pedestrian crossings along Jalan Barat and Jalan Utara to allow for even greater permeability into TRX, and we also provided a customised mobile kiosk to a permanent fruit hawker,” details Nur Amalina, one of the youngest members in the team who is responsible for the streetscape.

The streetscape improvements have helped increase footfall to businesses in surrounding areas, enhancing the value of neighbouring real estate. As the streetscape work nears completion, the whole area will benefit from further enhanced connectivity.

The pedestrian path, which has been partially upgraded into wide, clean granite pathways, will now extend from the TRX MRT station to cut through the district via a network of paths, plazas and walkways, linking it to the Bukit Bintang shopping belt and extending it all the way to the KLCC’s tourist mecca, all in its push to elevate Kuala Lumpur to a world-class metropolis.