Putting people at the heart of real-estate development:
Kuching For Me
This exercise is part of a PlaceCORE project – the world’s first integrative development solutions incorporating insights from Masterplan, Business, Design and Human Development delivered by CPG Consultants and Consulus
Described as one of the most attractive cities in Southeast Asia, Kuching is a delightful blend of modern structures and old-world charm. When we first visited Kuching for a PlaceCORE project with Saradise (previously known as Vanadium Land) – a property developer in Sarawak, Malaysia, the Group CEO, Dato Chris Chung enthusiastically played tour guide and showed us the old town. During which he shared personal stories about growing up there and the priceless memories that some of the shops held for him. His face lit up with appreciation and pride while sharing the beauty and charms of his city and the immense potential and opportunity it has to offer.
In our experience, people tend to search from the outside for what they think is the best, forgetting about what they already have. As we have done in so many projects, we tend to invite our clients to search for their hidden gems from the inside; and in the case of Kuching, to start with a very fundamental question: “What makes Kuching special?” And who else can give us a better answer to that question rather than the born and bred Kuchingites?
Through this contest, we realised that our role as a developer is meaningful only when we build something that represents the spirit and identity of Kuching and help to bring people of Kuching together. We agree with so many of you that Sarawak is really a paradise, a place where nature, identities and people co-exist in harmony.Dato Chris Chung
Why it matters to engage the people
Now, you may wonder why we bothered to ask Kuching people about Kuching while what we were about to do here is developing a 272-acre integrated township in the city. Here are three reasons why community engagement at the early stage of any property development project is critical for its future success.
1. The local community gives us insights that could not be found in any feasibility study
Community engagement is more than market research. It helps property developers to understand their potential customers from a more personal approach as we literally ask people what the city means to them, what they like and don’t like, how do you want to the city to become, etc.
2. By understanding the place from the inside out, we can turn it into a liveable and unique place where its people can call it “home”
Property developers can build many more buildings, but it would not make any difference to the local community if the buildings do not address the fundamental question of what the development means to those who call it home.
3. A property that embodies the unique identity of Sarawak
In a world where people are seeking meaning and authenticity, it is time to build places that mean something and not merely brand them. Out of many property development projects in the region, if we remove the brand name and logo, would you be able to recognise which project is that? This is also the challenge for local property developers in Sarawak as they struggle to find a way to differentiate their property from other projects which were all claiming to have luxurious Western-influenced design mushrooming in the Land of Hornbills.
Kuching For Me Online Story-telling contest
As we moved around the city, one can sense that something different is emerging. Yes, there is this old town charm, but from the new cafes emerging you can sense that there is this great capacity for creativity just like how you can feel the vibe of Penang. To affirm our initial thought, we decided to ask people, who call this city home, through an online storytelling contest.
But why through stories? Stories, especially the stories about a place, matter. Stories have always shaped civilizations, religions and in our times, even businesses. Above all, stories form a unique identity and help future generations understand what it means to be part of a people. This contest is then absolutely critical to identify the aspirations and thoughts about Kuching and shape how we can design the mixed-use township to fit the vision of the people. This is why we named the contest “Kuching for me” and invited contestants to start their stories with the line “Kuching for me is…”
A snapshot of Kuching For Me Facebook Page (2015)
Over two months, the contest attracted and engaged almost 6000 people from Sarawak, aged 16 to 70 years old, with over 130 stories submitted and more than 3000 comments on both the contest’s official website and Facebook page.
Dato Chris Chung, Group CEO of Saradise (middle, back row) with top 30 Finalists at Kuching For Me Story-telling Contest 2015 Prize Presentation Ceremony. Image Courtersy of Saradise.
A compilation video of all the stories submitted by Kuchingites during Kuching For Me Story-telling Contest 2015
Conceptualising a new brand identity
The successful story-telling contest ignited new thinking and imagination and more importantly, it reinforced the dream of the developer to build a meaningful place. Based on the nostalgic conversations and heartwarming stories amongst Kuchingites, we were able to find “the soul of Kuching” and redefine the place identity.
Based on the common phrases that people used to describe Kuching in the stories, the new brand name “Saradise” was developed. The name “Saradise” is coined from the two words “Sarawak” and “Paradise”. It is meant to present the beauty and richness of Sarawak not just as a place but as an ideal for civilisational harmony, ecological balance and artistic appreciation.
The tagline “Live a Sarawak Dream” was then developed to emphasise Saradise’s ability to empower the Sarawak community, customers and partners to live their dreams.
From the Kuching For Me stories, our creative team had a very good understanding of Sarawak’s iconic symbols based on which the logo was conceived.
3-Signs™ Framework for Saradise’s new visual identity
New visual brand identity for Saradise
Applications to design concept
To Kuchingites, Kuching has enough of buildings but lack an iconic destination for gatherings. Therefore, based on the inputs from Kuching For Me Contest, CPG Consultants was inspired to design the township with the aim of becoming a place where Kuchingites can live, play, learn and experience the best of Sarawak, all in one place. Each cluster is defined by unique public spaces and inter-connected by a green loop to create a common identity for Saradise – the Lifestyle Hub of Kuching.
Phase 1 of Saradise Kuching Township. Image Courtesy of Saradise.
The urban design of Saradise factors in the challenging hot and wet tropical climate of Sarawak. Future developments will be connected by elevated walkways, between adjacent buildings to protect pedestrians from the heat and rain.
Saradise Kuching has completed 132 units of uniquely designed shop-offices featuring high-ceiling, spacious layouts and full-length glass. It will eventually include a 25000 sqf food street in a garden which will be launch in 2019; a 30,000 sqf grocer in a garden, 40 exclusively designed landed properties, a health-cluster featuring specialist clinics, Grade-A office buildings, an early childhood education cluster and serviced residences. It has a total development revenue of approximately RM5 Billion.
Saradise Shopoffices. Image Courtesy of Saradise.
Ever since Saradise Kuching has been launched, it has become a gathering place for Kuchingites who seek a well-managed public space. It has attracted renowned brands from overseas and even major events by big brands such as Toyota. Since its launch in October 2017, more than 50,000 visitors have come by the development and large-scale events such as public runs have been organised there.
Over 3,200 participants joined the Colour Rush 6.0 organised by Sarawak Children’s Cancer Society (SCCS) at Saradise Kuching to support children with cancer and their families (September 17, 2018). Image courtesy of Saradise.
Applications to the brand mascot and merchandise design
Kuching is commonly described by Kuchingites as the Cat City since “Kuching” literally means “cat”. Inspired by this idea, a brand mascot for Saradise named “Stella the Cat” was introduced as an ambassador to promote Sarawak identity and culture. Our team also designed a limited collection of products which were inspired by Stella and the beauty of Sarawak, as we wish to share with everyone who would love to have a small part of Kuching in their lives.
Saradise Collection No.1 inspired by the beauty of Sarawak and Stell the Cat – Saradise brand mascot. Image Courtesy of Saradise.
Applications to events & activities
A series of events at Saradise Gallery and Kuching for me is regular projects that have empowered more than 828 artists and fans, including shaping the pride and identity of creativity in Sarawak.
Saradise Gallery has become a living gallery and venue to promote local arts and designs. Image courtesy of Saradise.
120 students from 18 primary schools all over Kuching showcased their creative projects for The NextSparks Junior Innovate competition organised at Saradise Innovation Space (located at Saradise Kuching). Image Courtesy of Saradise.
Kuching For Me Contest since 2015 has become a signature event by Saradise, which aims to inspire Kuchingites to take a moment to appreciate what this city means to them. Sharing the same experiences and values growing up in the city enables Kuching people to move together towards a brighter future for Kuching. In 2017, the 2nd edition – Kuching For Me Design Contest provided a platform for all the talented designers and artists who share the love for Kuching to showcase their works. The contest successfully attracted and engaged about 20,590 Kuching lovers with 1,600 hours of involvement.
Dato Chris Chung, Group CEO of Saradise, with Top 15 of Kuching For Me Design Contest 2017. Image courtesy of Saradise.
The Kuching for me contest is really meaningful as it allows everyone to share their thoughts and experience in this Cat City and because of this it inspired me to join this contest with the thought of sharing my life journey which is full of bitter, sour, spicy and sweet moments that actually build up my character and personality as what I am today.Ms Goh Lee Lee
Through this exercise of community engagement, Saradise realized that their role as a developer is meaningful only when they can build something that represents the spirit and identity of Kuching and can bring people of Kuching together. Their project is now the most anticipated development in Sarawak in the next few years.
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