During my visit to KL last summer, my aunt asked me if I would like to join her and her dogs on a trip to Desa Park City. It is just outside the central area. It has its own community park. Amenities and schools (even its own hospital!) are all within walking and cycling distances. It is clean. It has its own (privately-employed) security guards i.e. it is safe. Most importantly, it is peaceful and slow-paced and therapeutic. Her descriptions made the place sound like a textbook model of Planning Done Right 101.
More than material, less than loaded
Desa Park City is one of the firsts of many master-planned, gated communities that have sprung up around the outskirts of KL. Away from the seductive tranquility and aesthetics of the place, it is now easier for me to see how such gated residences are essentially a manifestation of complementing local and global cultural discourses.
In the extracted advertisement material we note an appeal to nostalgia for the ‘age-old ideals’ of community spirit and the ‘tranquil […] atmosphere’ of rural neighbourhoods. This exploits the stereotypical characterisation of urban environments being heartless and unfriendly, and offers urbanites in KL an opportunity to experience ‘days of yore’ in a modern space devoid of the less tasteful and clean aspects of rural life.
What struck me as unusual was the positive connotation surrounding the word ‘gated’. In the academic literature on urban environments in the Western world, ‘gated’ as a term is used to flag out negative phenomena of exclusion and inequality. Not that this is not the case in KL (more in the this post), but I suspect KL residents embrace and aspire towards living in ‘gated’ areas, associating it with positive notions of security and community. One evidence of this lies in the objective of this academic study (Tan, 2011) on neighbourhood preferences, which also highlighted how positive perceptions surrounding gated designs have increased residential property prices by 18.1%.
By constructing these utopia-esque environments, local and international real estate developers demonstrated a keen awareness of local living aspirations and global planning imaginaries centred around the environment, and their adeptness at targeting consumers by exploiting such discourses (Quastel, 2009).
Read more from my sources:
- Quastel, N. (2009) ‘Political ecologies of Gentrification’, Urban Geography, 30, 7, 694 – 725.
- Tan, T. H. (2008) ‘Neighbourhood preferences of house buyers: The case of Klang Valley, Malaysia’, International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis, 4, 1, 58 – 69.
- The Sun Daily (2013) ‘Suburban Appeal’. Retrieved 8th November 2017 from http://www.thesundaily.my/news/774997.