Nestled within the heart of Johor Bahru city is the Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD), a 250-acre area bordered by Jalan Tun Abdul Razak on the East, Jalan Seri Lalang on the North, Jalan Ayer Molek on the West and Persiaran Tun Sri Lanang on the South. Stepping foot in the metropolis arouses mixed emotions: as a commercial and corporate hub, the area is very much alive and bursting in its heritage intertwined with contemporary culture, not to mention a home ground to the city’s green lungs.
Most of Johor Bahru’s landmarks and places of interest are clustered in the downtown area, easily meandered by foot with interesting eco-highlights in different pockets of the city. Walkable for 1.3km from North to South and 0.9km from East to West, IIBD’s connectivity appeals to anyone and everyone – a resident, a businessman or a tourist. For this reason, it is no coincidence that this prime location of IIBD is cordoned as the nucleus for the Southern gateway. Whether to live, work or play, one can be sure to find belonging within this vicinity.
The journey begins at Ground Zero
Situated at the southernmost tip of Peninsula Malaysia marks Kilometre Zero, establishing the beginning point of the connecting highway into the country via Johor Bahru. Standing on the walkway along Jalan Ibrahim allows the view of the Johor Strait and across to Singapore, and a turn of the head looks towards the Johor Bahru municipal office and post office buildings.
A royal adventure
No one sets foot in Johor Bahru without taking a glimpse at the royal quarter. Cruising along Jalan Ibrahim, stretching along the waterfront west of the causeway, the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque comes into sight. Perched atop a hill with sweeping views of the Johor Strait and across to Singapore, Johor’s state mosque is an eclectic blend of neo-classicism combined with Anglo-Indian influences in the use of high windows and domed minarets.
From the mosque, a one-kilometre walk towards east continues to Istana Besar Abu Bakar, another of Sultan Abu Bakar’s Victorian showcase. Today, this royal palace surrounded by several hectares of beautifully manicured grounds is reimagined as a public museum with an impressive collection of royal artefacts. Behind it leads to the arched gateway into Taman Botani Zahara, the Royal Botanical Garden.
Stay cool, enjoy nature…and still fill the tummy
Jalan Dhoby is JB’s widely popular hipster street, mainly for its fleet of cafés that attracts millennial café hoppers locally and across the straits. On a stroll along Jalan Dhoby, one wouldn’t miss Flowers in the Window, a unique eco-themed café that lives, breathes and serves flowers and greens (literally). Resembling more of a florist than an eatery, the café is artfully decorated with an overflowing of flora and fauna, not to mention its own garden in the backyard. Beyond its Instagram-worthy interiors and facades, Flowers in the Window offers a refreshing menu concept altogether, serving fresh sourdough, homemade cakes, traditional dishes as well as herb infused beverages. Going eco is very much in its DNA as they also incorporate fresh herbs in their dishes as much as possible, adhering close to its flowery theme.
Of course, no meal is complete without a sweet touch on the tongue; and it only makes sense to savour ice cream in Malaysia’s all-round sunny weather. Touted the longest standing ice cream parlour in JB Old Town, The Ice Cream Project (TIP) serves homemade artisanal ice cream to soothe the taste buds and temperature. It is also the only ice cream shop in town that adopts the liquid nitrogen method. The shop is easily identified with its trademark hanging swing just outside its vicinity. As a sidekick to their eco-friendly agenda, TIP using recipes that are lacto-vegan friendly, without the use of rennet or animal gelatin.
Sights and sounds in the Southwest
Besides its taste affair, IIBD has much to offer with touches of green – a rare trait to find in business districts. Entering the Southwest gateway into IIBD, the path on Jalan Ayer Molek leads to Johor Bahru’s municipal garden, also called the Sultan Abu Bakar Monument Park. The area is home to several significant structures: the VOA Monument on which the state coat-of-arms stands atop a fountain; and the Birds of Paradise, a fond nickname to six diamond-shaped structures resembling birds in the air. In the nights, these structures light up with the rest of the park to project a beautiful symphony of lights, bringing about a sense of liveliness for community to gather and sight-see.
Then comes the icing on the cake. Standing 20 feet tall, situated on the eminent and prestigious Sultan Abu Bakar Monument Park is the newly acclaimed Eco Cornerstone of IIBD. Touted IIBD’s first Urban Tree, the sculpture is significant in several aspects, not just for its presentation but also its representation – one of commitment towards environmental sustainability in IIBD.
Eco-sustainability, inspired by Songs of Nature
Tucked in surrounding greenery, the symbiotic relationship of art with nature in the Eco Cornerstone is a reminder to appreciate the presence of nature’s wonders and beauty. The eco-sustainability ethos is clearly embedded in different elements of the making of the cornerstone; moreover, it encapsulates the preservation of Johor’s eco legacy through design.
The Urban Tree employs metalwork – solid stainless steel, to be exact – and takes shape as the majestic yet endangered Pokok Meranti Johor, with its branches extending into leaves and wind chimes. Thus, art creates art with the gentlest of breezes creating melodious music that will resonate the ‘Songs of Nature’. A poem in its very name is dedicated towards this important goal of IIBD:
Listen to Nature tell her tale,
Of wind song born when Earth began.
The poignant refrains of a grand creation,
Awakening a restless spirit within us.
Have life’s precious learnings passed us by?
Like gentle chimes in a forgotten wind.
Bits of coloured broken glass built into the 20-feet wide base of the sculpture glimmers upon contact with sunlight, in recognition of finding beauty in recycled materials. Beyond the glitter, it underscores a responsibility call to take positive actions to be eco-committed for a sustainable IIBD future.
As the first of four IIBD Cornerstones to be launched, Eco-Sustainability forms an integral part of the masterplan blueprint to elevate the liveability of citizens and businesses of IIBD. The identity of IIBD, articulated through the 4 HOME lenses of Heritage, Opportunity, Mobility and Eco-sustainability, are conceptualised through the collective voice and pulse of Bangsa Johor, and made tangible via artistic Urban Trees as focal identity points demarcating IIBD boundaries. These cornerstones go beyond being a visual landmark, integrating the local environment to produce a new attraction point for IIBD within Johor Bahru city.