Nur Rasyiqah Abu Hassan

Thesis title: Contribution of Heritage on City’s Liveability: In The Case of Kuala Lumpur

Start year: 2023

Supervisor(s): Mr Karl Kropf, Dr Alan Reeve

Research topic

Liveability has become an important concept because all the cities in the world are currently facing an urbanization crisis and pressure to provide best living condition to its people. But does heritage make a city liveable? Although the concept of liveability is complex and conveys various meanings, UNESCO asserts that a liveable environment is more likely to be present if there is a strong connection between communities and heritage. In this sense, heritage areas can positively influence the liveability of places. However, there has been limited research into the relationship between heritage conservation and the liveability of urban environments. This lack of a clear evidence base in relation to how heritage is treated as part of liveability in both development and conservation policy, has resulted in challenges in both formulating and implementing appropriate policies generally. 

In this research, most of the Kuala Lumpur built heritage is in strategically prime locations, where there is a significant risk of redevelopment and destruction of important heritage assets.  

The concept of liveability in Malaysia has been alluded to and articulated in several key policies relating to heritage conservation over the last few years. The trend of including heritage as an aspect of the government’s aspirations for liveability has been increasing by utilizing abandoned and underused  buildings of heritage value. Policy and other development instruments, such as conservation programmes, can be a catalyst for establishing sustainable communities in heritage areas, reinstating their original purpose as living neighbourhoods. In this context, the thesis aims to investigate the relationship between heritage value and liveability, and how this has come to be reflected in policy making and implementation strategies in the future, specifically in the Malaysian context. This research will also review the current heritage policy framework, and its contribution to the liveability of Kuala Lumpur city. 

The importance of heritage has been recognised for several decades, and was first explicitly mentioned in the Malaysia Plan 1986, specifically in relation to its potential for strengthening tourism activities. Subsequently, there is evidence of a growing social awareness of heritage in Malaysia, with the introduction of the National heritage Act 2005. As applied in practice, however, the legislation has not prevented the demolition of buildings of significant heritage value and have not protected areas with heritage significance very effectively. The demolitions and lack of effectiveness also suggests a broader, if implicit, agenda in which built heritage has been given less value than new development. The effectiveness of conservation practice is questionable, although Kuala Lumpur is guided by its own heritage policy. Many researchers stated that this situation is mainly caused by a conflict in attitudes and different perceptions among stakeholders of heritage value. In essence, this research has the potential to critically assess current policies, and identify what policy modifications and implementation strategies might be necessary to better align Kuala Lumpur's aspirations to be a more liveable city, with the potential for a wider range of its heritage to be retained as a key contributor to such liveability.

Academic school / department

Oxford Brookes Business School

How did you hear about Oxford Brookes University? Did you attend a Postgraduate Fair? If so, what were your first impressions?

Oxford Brookes is a well-known institution and listed among the top 10 best architecture schools, especially in Urban Design therefore it requires no introduction at all. Plus, I have known a few people graduating from Brookes in Architecture and Urban Design including some of my former lecturers. I never attended the postgraduate fairs so I can’t comment much about it.  

What attracted you to Oxford Brookes University to conduct your research? For example, was it the Research Group, a particular Researcher, funding, because you had studied here before or other reasons?

I have been searching for the opportunity to undertake a PhD programme since 2015 with the right supervisor to guide me, and I come to read about Dr Alan Reeve research works/papers which have caught my attention. His expertise in urban design together with the university's credibility and excellent facilities provided has become the main reason why I choose OBU. 

What were you doing before?

Previously, I worked as a tutor (Studio Demonstrator and an Urban Design lecturer) for undergraduate students of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Malaya while still pursuing my master's (M.Arch) at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Shortly after graduated, I begun working as a transport planner and it was my first ever professional job.   Within 6 years of work, I was involved in a few notable public transport development projects in Malaysia such as the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) 3 Extension, MRT3 Circle Line, & High-Speed Rail Network (Just to name a few)  focussing on my expertise in station design and feasibility study. It was a great experience working professionally however, it’s about time to pursue my dream and do the PhD.

How easy did you find it to settle into the research environment? What do you think about the support and resources available to research students?

Honestly, it is not awkward to switch directions from professional industry to academia as I have little experience in research during my master's where which I was a research assistant at that same time. I never regret leaving my comfort zone of fixed-paid salary and come back to be a student and pursue my dream. I was actually quite surprised that Brookes provides support, facilities and resources for PhD students more than I expected. I have an excellent supervisory team, which is Dr Alan Reeve (As director of studies) and Dr Karl Kropf (second supervisor) to help me build my confidence, lending their expertise and guidance on how to do research. In addition, meeting and getting to know other PhD students here have helped me a lot to adjust myself to this new environment and culture so I am excited from the very beginning of my studies.  

What do you enjoy about being a research student? Can you tell us about any challenges you face and strategies you use to overcome these?

What I love about being a researcher is a never-ending curiosity and constant questions playing out in my mind about everything that happened in my surrounding. I believe it freshens my mind and controls my thoughts as I need to be aware and sensitive about every aspect of life. The ultimate challenge I have experienced so far is to manage research studies and social life at the same time. Coming from Asian background and culture, we never get used to compliments or taking a break when we needed it the most and it can be very difficult to manage. I have pledged to work hard then play harder and make this PhD journey fun, enjoyable and not as lonely as people claimed it to be. Treating myself with an ice cream date sometime makes a huge difference as well.

What do you think about the research training offered at Oxford Brookes? How do you feel this has prepared you?

I was thankful that Brookes provide adequate training, especially in software training as it is a crucial part of my PhD.  All the training provided by both Faculty, Graduate College, Library and many more are super useful however, I do wish they could provide one-to-one basic training for software and special continuous methodology class.  

What are your future plans?

Besides continuing and advocating its importance either via academic or research works,  I just hope I would be able to do it as well by finishing my book (doodle mostly) entitle: “My Heritage, is Your Heritage” and hopefully it gives some positive impact to everyone perhaps that one day, peoples perspective on heritage and together protecting them as long as they could