#BetterCities Talk Series #1: Highlights

14 May 2013

The first talk series from #BetterCities of the year, “The Role of Architecture in Place-Making”, was held on 20 April 2013, at Galeri Petronas, Suria KLCC. Co-organized with Galeri Petronas and Foster + Partners, the talk was held in conjunction with the Art of Architecture exhibition (March 6 – May 12 2013).

The lecture hall at Galeri Petronas was packed with over 70 participants that day. Moderated by Sze Ying Goh, our #BetterCities lead, the four speaker from architecture and art backgrounds gave a very engaging and interesting presentations.

Our first speaker was Karsten Volmer, partner at Foster + Partners. Based in London with offices worldwide, Foster + Partners is one of the pioneers in sustainable approaches to architecture through a strikingly wide range of work from urban masterplans to public infrastructure, workplaces to private houses and product design.

“There is a deep seated human desire and need to have a link with the past.”
– Karsten Vollmer, Foster + Partners

Karsten emphasized how the work at Foster + Partners tries to create links to history and the past context of the building site. For example, when the Roman remains of a girl were found at the site of the Swiss Re building in London, Foster + Partners erected a plaque in honour of the girl. “There is a deep seated human desire and need to have a link with the past”, said Karsten.

Our second speaker, Marco Kusumawijaya, founder and director of RUJAK Centre for Urban Studies (RCUS) is someone that likes everything about the city. He is a practitioner, activist and thinker in the fields of architecture, environment, arts, cultural heritage, urban planning and development with more than 20 years of intensive experiences.

“A space becomes a place only when there are people using and taking care of it”, emphasised Marco while sharing his view on public versus common spaces. He shared images of the Malaysian Spring initiated by landscape architect Ng Seksan as an example of how a public space had been transformed by citizens adopting it and beautifying it with a political message.

Next, we heard from Lia Tostes, a #BetterCities mentor of Urban Residency, an urban action workshop held in conjunction with Georgetown Festival this coming June. Lia is an architect and urbanist from Brasilia, Brazil. In her presentation, she shared some interesting examples of participatory urbanism known as ‘M.Y.Urbanism’. The ‘M.Y.’ stands for ‘mend yourself’ and is a term for grassroots urban interventions carried out by citizens without the help of corporations or government bodies.

“A space becomes a place only when there are people using and taking care of it.”
Marco Kusumawijaya, Founder of RUJAK

Last but not least, the presentations were rounded off by Sau Bin Yap, an artist and lecturer at Multimedia University (MMU). Saubin spoke about bringing art to KTM trains and schools by sharing Let Arts Move You (LAMU) and Contemporary Art In School (CAIS ) art projects. With the KTM project, he talked about how something undesirable – like a train delay – could actually facilitate a diversion in artwork.

The talk ended with a Q&A section with the audience followed by refreshments provided by the gallery. #BetterCities wold like to thank all the speakers and partners: Foster + Partners, Galeri Petronas,  British Council Malaysia and everyone who make their present at the talk that day.

You may listen to the Q&A section of the talk here:

#BetterCities Talk Series #1: Q&A session

For more information on our speakers:
Karsten Volmer, Partner at Foster + Partners

Marco Kusumawijaya, Founder/Director RUJAK Centre for Urban Studies

Lia Campelo Lima Tostes, Urbanist/Architect

Yap Sau Bin, Artist/Specialist Staff at MMU

Article and photos by Okui Lala. Additional reporting by Ling Low. For more information on #BetterCities’ Talk Series: https://www.betterciti.es/talks