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Architects call for council to protect heritage sites

Posted on October 2, 2010, Saturday

KOTA KINABALU: Persatuan Akitek Malaysia (PAM), Sabah Branch has urged the state government to set up a state Cultural Heritage Council to ensure heritage sites that have been identified or gazetted in Sabah, including the Atkinson Clock Tower and Padang Merdeka here, are treasured and protected.

The association said the setting up of such a Council is stipulated under the Cultural Heritage (Conservation) Enactment 1997.

PAM Sabah is also strongly opposed to the construction of a proposed multi-storey commercial building on a site sandwiched between the 105-old Atkinson Clock Tower and Padang Merdeka.

The association said it was astonishing that for an important development such as this, none of the Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) have been consulted thus far.

“We strongly feel that all these heritage sites should be treasured and protected not only for ourselves but also for future generations to cherish,” it said yesterday.

According to the association, a lot of people had overlooked the fact that the proposed development is also located next to  another heritage site in KK City – the Padang Merdeka.

“PAM Sabah Chapter welcomes investors taking interests to invest and develop Kota Kinabalu and other parts of Sabah.  However, we also have to note that developments should be sensitive to the environment, and the design should be in context with and respect the immediate surroundings.”

It said the Atkinson Clock Tower had served as an important reference point for the growth and development of Kota Kinabalu city and the then Jesselton town.

The site is unique as it is situated on Signal Hill overlooking the South China Sea.  Over the years since its construction, it had witnessed the growth of a civilisation – the transformation of Kota Kinabalu from a fishing village to city.

The proposed commercial development is situated right at the gateway leading to the Istana and Signal Hill and sandwiched between two important heritage sites – the Atkinson Clock Tower and our one and only Padang (Merdeka) where  Sabah’s independence was declared on  Sept 16 1963 and also where our present Prime Minister who had recently, for the first time in the history of Malaysia, signed a declaration officially recognising September 16 as Malaysia Day.

In view of  that, PAM Sabah Chapter said that it strongly felt that appropriate planning and design guidelines to areas adjacent to these two sensitive and important heritage sites  be adopted.

It is important that history and heritage should be respected.

Besides the Atkinson Clock Tower, the existing mature vegetations such as the ficus trees should be preserved.

The association reckoned that appropriate developments include turning the area into a nature park stretching the green spine (nature trail) from the Signal Hill Bird Sanctuary, through to Tanjung Lipat, Kota Kinabalu Community Centre,  Australia Place, Atkinson Clock Tower and  the Padang Merdeka.

It added that any physical structure should be low rise, low density and public related in harmony with the Atkinson Clock Tower and Padang Merdeka.

This is to ensure a coherent and integrated development instead of breaking these two important heritage sites into two isolated pockets of  leftover spaces.

We really appreciate that the government had taken the initiative to identify and gazette some of the important sites, buildings, and structures within the state capital since the implementation of the Cultural Heritage (Conservation) Enactment 1997, it said.

“However, PAM Sabah Chapter feels that more work needed to be done to identify and gazette other notable sites, buildings, and structures not just within the state capital but also in other parts of Sabah.

“Having gazetted these important sites, buildings, and structures, it is important to make sure that they are properly maintained and protected and with proper guidelines set in terms of development, adjacent to these sites,” PAM, Sabah suggested.

On its call for the establishment of a state Cultural Heritage Council, the association felt that NGOs, such as PAM Sabah Chapter whose members are trained in the field of the built environment, should be appointed in the above Council and be represented in other state planning committees.

“PAM Sabah Chapter is of the view that for important developments such as this, the public should be consulted as all these sites are Sabahans’ heritage,” it added.

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