Hidden Gems
Grace Lim 
Works of art at the new underground MRT stations
When the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) project was formally launched mid-2011, there was a collective sigh of relief as it meant better access to hard-to-reach areas. Three lines were proposed, and the first MRT line to be given the green light was the 51km Sungai Buloh–Kajang line that would be launched in two phases.

The first phase from Sungai Buloh to Semantan opened in December last year. Last month, the second phase linking Semantan to Kajang became operational. Out of the 19 stations along this line, seven are underground. But what makes them even more appealing is the design of stations, each with a specific theme.

Eschewing the uninspiring, homogenous look of the past, these new stations possess an energy befitting a bustling modern city. It is no coincidence either that they are located in various hotspots in the city with the heaviest human traffic.

The station’s entrance takes its design cues from naturally occuring quartz at Klang Gates

MMC Gamuda KVMRT worked with Veritas Architects and NEUformation Architects on this ambitious project. Veritas designed four stations, namely Muzium Negara, Pasar Seni, Merdeka, and Bukit Bintang, while NEUformation took care of Tun Razak Exchange, Cochrane and Maluri.

Tricia Low, the architectural manager for MMC Gamuda KVMRT worked with her colleague Yap Seh Cheong, the design manager, to coordinate the designs of the underground stations, and also provided support for the site team during the implementation stage.

The entrances to each of the underground station is inspired by the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, a dyke of naturally occurring quartz. What makes this ridge special is that it uniquely displays four types of quartz formation instead of just one.

Cochrane Station is loocated in an up-and-coming neighbourhood in Cheras that includes a massive Ikea outlet, its Urban Living theme is expressed through a wall of vibrant orange and yellow. Another outstanding feature here is the triangular air well that lets in plenty of sunlight.

“This MRT project is an ecological intervention as we had to dig deep into the ground, so we were also inspired by the city’s geological heritage,” Yap explains. “Each entrance is of a different shape. As the quartz is multi-faceted, it also serves as a reflection of our society.”

Jalid Hussin, the principle director of NEUformation Architects, echoes this sentiment. “Each individual station has its own identity. It was designed based on the site context and the surroundings of each station,” Jalid notes.

Low highlights that the purpose of the themes for each station is to make them more identifiable to the passengers. “In an underground environment, one tends to feel disorientated if everything looks the same. By giving each of them its own identity, you know exactly where you are without having to look at the signboard,” she says.


Merdeka Station's theme takes its cue from the station’s name, which means “independence” in Bahasa Malaysia  

Collaborative effort

University students were also roped in on this project – all the benches in each underground station were based on designs submitted for a competition. “Since the MRT project is such a public one, we wanted to engage the people as well. We wanted a form of art in our stations, so why not have art we can use? We decided to tap into students’ creativity and ideas for this,” Yap elaborates.

“We wanted to show that these stations are not just another utilitarian building. Train stations all over the world have advanced, and we wanted to Malaysianise ours,” Jalid adds.

Yap reiterates that the stations are meant to be enjoyed everybody. “It was designed to dispel the notion that underground spaces are dodgy and unsafe. We wanted to create a bright, cheerful, and safe environment. It is a Malaysian-led effort for Malaysians and we could not have been more proud with what we have achieved.”

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 245.