Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Landscape architect returns for symposium

Wednesday June 23, 2010

By JADE CHAN
jade@thestar.com.my


FUMIAKI TAKANO believes that a landscape architect is one who has an artist’s eye, a scientist’s brain, and a poet’s heart.
The principal of Takano Landscaping Planning was one of the keynote speakers at the Shah Alam Lake Garden Symposium, an event held in conjunction with the lake’s 25th anniversary.
"The key to a successful practice is a flexible scope of a landscape architects’ professional field" FUMIAKI TAKANO
The three-day symposium, themed Lake Garden - Our Precious Green Heritage, was organised by the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA).
Twelve papers were presented at the symposium, including those by two other keynote speakers Prof Galen Cranz from the University of California @ Berkeley (Defining the Sustainable Park) and Institute of Landscape Architects Malaysia honorary life president/ former Town Planning director Datuk (Dr) Mohamed Ishak Mohamed Ariff (Shah Alam Lake Garden - Its Idea, Vision and Tree Selection).
Fumiaki was the landscape architect for the Shah Alam Lake Garden and shared what it was like to plan the concept and design of the park some 30 years ago.
The 66-year-old recalled that it all started with one phone call while he was watching TV.
“A guide named Matsumoto was bringing a group of Malaysians around and asked if I could show them some Japanese gardens,” said Fumiaki.
“That later led to me being interviewed to work on the master plan for the Shah Alam Lake Garden.
“I wasn’t sure I would get the project as I had just started my small firm.”
Ishak said: “The then Sultan of Selangor was keen on having good facilities for his subjects, one of which was a safe, clean and beautiful park.
“The Sultan, who had just returned from a trip to Japan and was particularly impressed with Hakone Lake, suggested that we get some ideas from that country, which led to our trip.”
Tranquil spot: A file picture of the Shah Alam Lake Garden.
Ishak, who is credited as one of the “masterminds” behind the Shah Alam Lake Garden, said what gave Fumiaki the edge was that he was the only one out of the five shortlisted candidates who could speak English without a translator, that he had done some work in Singapore, Europe and Baghdad, and best understood the Malaysian climate.
“The key to a successful practice is a flexible scope of a landscape architect’s professional field and a design process expression of the local identity,” said Fumiaki.
“The former included a relocation of the planned commercial facilities like a hotel and bowling centre away from the park area, while the latter incorporated the placement of typical local landscape images in the designing principle.”
To get an idea of the local landscape, Takano travelled around the Malaysian countryside and tried to recreate those scenes at the lake by incorporating traditional architecture and introducing indigenous tree and plant species.
“We formed a seed-hunting team to look for plants that would have strong Malaysian identities, planted seeds in a nursery and did test-planting to work on different combinations of plants and soil,” he said.
He added that former Penang Botanic Gardens director and horticulture specialist Cheang Kok Choy greatly helped in advising the team.
“The three lakes at the Shah Alam Lake Garden were given their own characters.
“The Eastern Lake was more a tranquil ornament as it was closest to the museum and Blue Mosque; the Central Lake a lively tropical life venue because of the restaurants, shops and proximity to commercial centres; the Western Lake a fun community place with its family-oriented facilities,” he explained.
Fumiaki credited the Shah Alam Lake Garden project as a platform for him to later work on numerous landscaping design projects in his Japanese homeland and a few overseas.
On the next step for the lake, Fumiaki said improvements could be done on the parking space, park centre activities, drainage and maintenance.
“As a symbol of the state’s new capital then, the lake was an urban structure that had to have a strong dignity to its design.
“As it moves into being a symbol of a sustainable city, it has to be ecologically rich and sustainable.
“This can be done through partnerships and cooperation of the government, residents, institutions of higher learning and corporations,” he said.
Selangor welfare, women’s affairs, science, technology and innovation committee chairman Rodziah Ismail said the symposium was timely in view of the global economic gloom to “refresh” the people on why parks are needed, as well as their impact and values to the community.
“As resources are often limited, the challenge now is to develop sustainable strategies to get funding to maintain parks.
“Having a group like Friends of Shah Alam Lake Garden would be a vital tool in fostering stewardship and reducing vandalism by getting the people to be actively involved in caring for the park,” said Rodziah, who opened the event on behalf of Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.
“The symposium is a platform for us to gain and identify feedback and ideas to find better ways for us to preserve our green heritage, like the lake,” said Shah Alam mayor Datuk Mazalan Md Noor.
“I hope it will bring new insight about sustaining urban parks as green assets and heritage that should be continuously preserved from one generation to another.” TS

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