The Intelligent Garden City of Putrajaya

Putrajaya was designed to consolidate the government ministries in one location to attain greater efficiency for a growing government. The decision to move out of Kuala Lumpur was taken in order to relieve traffic congestion and to allow the government to convert all government properties into commercial developments.

As the new capital, Putrajaya was designed to be the nation’s pride, an ‘intelligent garden city’ that is well-planned, aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly, and with many green, open areas and to nurture a sense of Malaysian and Islamic heritage and identity.

Putrajaya is connected to Kuala Lumpur and other parts of the country by highway, (ERL) rail and the international airport, located just south of the city. Thirty-seven percent of Putrajaya is dedicated to park and open spaces and there are 200 hectares of man-made wetland and a 400 hectare man-made lake, allowing for the creation of 38 kilometers of waterfront.

We are trying to introduce some game changers to increase the vibrancy of certain parts of Putrajaya. So what can we do? One of the key strategies is to embark on seed developments such as universities that will inject youth into the population. – Datuk Azlan Bin Abdul Karim, CEO, Putrajaya Holdings

Putrajaya, Malaysia © Data source: www.cityquest.net/participating-cities Map by Malcolm Araos – McGill University, 2014

Key Facts

Date started: 1995

Current population:  90,000  

Intended population: 350,000 (with 500,000 commuters)

Size of city: 50 square kilometers

Estimated cost: USD $9 billion

Financing strategies: Putrajaya Holdings is a private company created by the government in order to develop the city more quickly. While the main shareholder is Petronas, the Malaysian national oil company, there are also concession holders, land owners and a master developer for Putrajaya. The company had to pick up the bulk of the costs and the government share was restricted to USD $1 billion of selected infrastructure. In exchange, the government gives Putrajaya Holdings land for commercial development. The government signs an agreement to pay Putrajaya rent for 25 years for the construction of all government buildings. Being backed by their 25-year lease with the government has enabled the company to secure bonds with a triple – A rating. While this system has been used extensively in Putrajaya, more private investment is being sought for a variety of commercial and real estate ventures.

Planners / contractors: Putrajaya is a completely local endeavor, planned and executed by local Malaysian planners, consultants, contractors and joint venture partners.

Environmental and sustainability strategies: 

  • Putrajaya has been a leader in Southeast Asia in promoting community gardens for residents to grow their own fruit and vegetables on communal plots and expand locally-sourced food.
  • Putrajaya has promoted the “Green City” idea of buildings that use grayscale water management systems, efficient lighting (Energy Commission Building as main model), and Gas District Cooling, all within a ‘low carbon cities framework’.
  • Putrajaya’s wetlands (200 hectares) are a bird breeding ground and a natural filtration system that will absorb pollutants from upstream river water, filter it, such that the water is Class 2B quality (suitable for body contact) upon entering the lake.
  • Existing vegetation was used on-site for mulch, while stone quarried during construction was used on-site for roads, dams and some buildings.

Commercial: The city is primarily intended to be home to national government ministries, with 3.8 million square meters for government offices and 3.4 million square meters for commercial development. Putrajaya Holdings now seeks to focus on injecting variety and vibrancy into Putrajaya’s commercial landscape and rapidly speed up the development of commercial land.

Precedents: The designers of Putrajaya looked to a number of precedents for various aesthetic elements. Architecture from various civilizations in the Muslim world (Egypt, Iraq, Central Asia, India, Iran) has been adopted to project a sense of Islamic heritage. Putrajaya’s main 4.2 km long axis was inspired by the Champs Elysées in Paris.  Other planned capitals were studied including Canberra (Australia), Washington, D.C., and Chandigarh (India).

Attractivity: Putrajaya primarily seeks to attract civil servants and their families, students and businesses owners by offering a peaceful, spacious, green and connected city.

Local challenges: 

  • Changing the general perception of Malaysians that Putrajaya is only available to the government and civil servants.
  • Partnering with the public, government agencies, businesses and local government on programs and project implementation towards the realization of a ‘green’ city.
  • Predicting technology has proven challenging as Putrajaya invested heavily in fiberoptics at a time when they were very expensive. Investments in technology can be risky as it is easily outdated as technologies have shifted and prices have dropped dramatically in recent years.

This post is part of a series tied to Cityquest – KAEC Forum, our leadership event on new cities. Each week, we’ll publish extracts from the report from our inaugural Cityquest event in 2013. Access the full report here.