Taman Tun Dr Ismail makes the news often, but how much of its history do you know?
Looking at Taman Tun Dr Ismail now, if you don’t know your Klang Valley history, you won’t be able to guess what it previously was – a rubber plantation. Bukit Kiara, where TTDI is now located, used to be privately-owned by Semantan Estate before being acquired by the government with the intention of developing the National Botanical Gardens there. However, that plan fell through, with portions of the land being sold to developers over time.
Development plans for the 286-hectare land on the western fringe of Kuala Lumpur took off in 1973, when two experienced industry players teamed up to form UDA-Seapark Sdn Bhd, a joint venture company between the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and Sea Housing Corp. Sdn. Bhd. Although the area was considered rural and too far away from the city centre, the developers saw the potential in building up the area as a blend of residential, commercial, cultural, institutional and entertainment designations.
According to sociologist Johan Fischer, the residential areas of TTDI were aimed to be a social statement of modern Malaysia, a distinct suburban design which reflected the ‘national Malaysian family’. This was evident in the TTDI Residents’ Association former website, which said: “If Malaysians of various races are brought together in pleasant communities, with plenty of opportunities for neighbourly interaction, they will come to be more aware of the things they have in common and less conscious of the aspects in which they differ. If their children grow up together, and mix freely in schools and on the playing fields, they will think of themselves and of each other as Malaysians rather than Malays, Chinese or Indians.” Unfortunately, this page has since been removed.
Fast-forward to more than 40 years later, the residents are still as united as they were envisioned to be. They may be facing many hurdles at the moment, but their united front proves to be their main defence. It’s not hard to see how that sense of unity has been inculcated within the residents.
The neighbourhood is named after popular statesman Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, who was the country’s second deputy prime minister in 1970. Unfortunately, he passed away three years later due to heart attack while still in office. Not limited to just the name of the taman, the streets of the neighbours are also named after other inspiring leaders, such as Aminuddin Baki, Datuk Sulaiman, Zaaba, Athinahapan, Leong Yew Koh and Tun Fuad Stephens, who have marked great achievements in various fields, including language, education and politics.
Although regarded as an affluent neighbourhood, TTDI has now turned into a go-to spot for outsiders looking for authentic experiences. Recent years has witnessed the cropping up of trendy restaurants and other hang-out spots, attracting a younger crowd who like to be seen frequenting the area, although they don’t actually live there. High-rises have also begun showing up in the area, one of the latest being Menara Ken TTDI, by Ken Holdings Bhd.
The emergence of TTDI as a hotpot is further highlighted by the construction of the TTDI MRT Station, linking commuters from all around Klang Valley to the neighbourhood, much to the chagrin of the residents. Even though the gentrification of TTDI allows for business to boom in the area, it also causes traffic jam and regrettably the disappearance of the residents’ favourite kopitiam or convenience store. Future development projects also threaten TTDI’s Taman Lembah Kiara, which is home to various flora and fauna, including two different species of hornbills.
Nevertheless, TTDI continues to be the vanguard of old and new, with historical buildings such as the Pasar Besar Taman Tun Dr Ismail still serving patrons many years down the road while pisang goreng street vendors co-exist with luxurious fine-dining establishments.
*Featured image by UPPRE.