Joanne Tiaw Zuo Eng
The Sanctuary

Thesis Supervisor: ​Ho Weng Hin

Project Site: Gebeng Industrial Estate, Kuantan, M’sia 

Kuantan is highly regarded as one of Malaysia’s most significant biodiverse coastlines, yet it is also one of its most contaminated. Over the last decade of industrial occupation, the topography of this fragile environment has radically transformed. Kuantan Port, shipyards and water-bound infrastructure now define a highly modified and dilapidating shoreline. Despite being one of the most prominent and earliest resort towns in Malaysia, enormous scale of industrialisation has sprawled mercilessly across the coastal regions.

The ongoing saga of people power against the state-backed corporate power shed light on the world’s largest rare earth extraction plant - Lynas. In what way might the delicate ecosystem of the Gebeng’s low-lying swamp be renewed amidst an extent landscape of post-industrial degradation? Tapping into the established tourism platform, this thesis centres around a re-conceived rehabilitation of post-industrial ecology through the means of eco-tourism in different phases.  

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A Replay of the Tragic Saga

Truckloads of contaminated waste are still being delivered from the former refinery to the permanent dump site, where a 10 meters high wall of granite and rocks forms an “unnatural” hill on the outskirts of Papan – with a short distance of 5km from the town area. In the face of fears and uncertainties, the remaining residents surrounded their homeland with 

plantations that are believed to have anti-cancer properties. Similarly, it is hard for the Gebeng residents to treat Lynas objectively when lucrative profits have never failed to outweigh the well-being of people in Malaysia’s history. Rubbing salt into the wounds of a bitter national controversy that have yet to recover, Lynas seems to be a replay of the tragic saga.

The Fall & Rise of Blooming Flowers

The speculative proposal challenges conventional approaches towards brownfield clean-up in developing countries after the cease of operation - uncontrolled, huge stinking dump sites without seeing an end to the global exploitation.

As a response to the industrial exploitation, the project re-imagines an inhabitable landscape centering around the powerless, rehabilitating both displaced community and contaminated site physically and psychologically. Strategic phases aim to bind these fragments together, recreating intimately woven relationships between the community and the environment. 

Environmental Stewardship

Tapping into the established tourism platform, the proposal aims to lift both displaced community and contaminated site as a new form of life (socially and ecologically) through the means of eco-tourism in different phases.

The Interconnectedness of Life 

Given its advantageous geographical location gifted with the abundance of natural resources, Gebeng once housed a sustainable community of farmers and fishermen along the coastline. Ever since then, the fate of both farmers and Gebeng are interconnected. Yet again, both the riders on the storm are left with powerless voices. 

An Augmented Landscape of Resilience

Having the advantageous precondition as a low-lying swamp in Gebeng, the growing ecosystem would give value back to the community in a self-perpetuating cycle that assured the long-term sustainable livelihood  of both people and nature, steering towards community cohesion and environmental stewardship.

The Sanctuary

The abandoned site has once held intense emotional meaning for certain individuals and groups of people. The Sanctuary weakens the solemnity of the conventional memorial architecture, endowing the post-industrial site with open and amiable qualities.