vindicating informality and infrastructure in Jakarta

REDEFINING GROWTH: from transient to resilient urbanism


The industrial era was driven by the assumption that our resources are limitless. The production of goods also means the production of markets, then the production of consumers. In the hyper-capitalist model, national growth is often associated the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) or quantity of consumption. At the level of the urban environment, growth is often associated with real estate developments, new malls, retail centers, Olympic parks, cultural institutions and international expositions. Logan and Molotch describe this contemporary view as the view of the city as a “growth machine”. The meaning of growth is, however, much denser and more complex than is outlined by contemporary media or society. Within the context of a globalized and capitalist economy, there has been a misunderstood propaganda of symbolic growth. Symbolic growth is characterized by manifestations such as large government expenditures on physical infrastructures, urban revitalization, tabula rasa developments and increase in entertainment or retail spaces. In the increasingly fast-paced economy, Fanstein laments, “economic composition of places seems to have become less and less permanent”, more transient. As a result, cities struggle to respond and often result with a negative compromise of neoliberal policies.

The notion of transient urbanism is an aggregate of hyper-capitalism, globalized economy that is mobilized through neoliberal campaigns in American cities. Capital and political investments are often directed towards pure economic growth or symbolic growth rather than real growth. This results in often short-term solutions or responses to urban problems that lacks foresight. The conditions of contemporary neoliberal cities are also “transient” in a way that they are often structurally vulnerable to global economic shifts. These transient factors – ideology, culture and economic models – accelerate or move faster than physical infrastructures, population, demographic compositions and often times political will. As a result, cities suffer from negative consequences such as uneven development, unsustainable shrinking cities, political decentralization, economic injustice and displacement of the urban poor.

Fainstein calls for a “new strategy for growth” so as to counter declining urban conditions. This new “strategy” should fall short of a “One Size Fits All” model but more of a dynamic process that emphasize resilience over transient forms. The definition of resilience in cities is foresightedness and the ability of systems to persist, adapt and change to external forces. In the resilience model, authorities, regimes or institutions act as the immune system of the urban environment. They act to diagnose persistent problems or new problems that is created by the polarized global economy. When institutions take a neoliberal stance or a conceited dedication to pure economic growth, the city becomes vulnerable to the virulent attacks of the volatile global economy. As Fainstein suggests, cities need to “escape from total determination by outside forces” and find “a formula that will limit capitalist hegemony within both the workplace and the community”. The argument towards resilience can be made through a discursive approach as well as looking at current progressive movements and direct actions being applied.

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INCEPTION: experiences from Solo Kota Kita

Over the summer, I had a great opportunity to work with the founders of Solo Kota Kita, John Taylor and Michael Haggerty, Harvard GSD graduates, Emily Lesk and Emily Schlickman, both current students in Urban Planning and Design and Landscape Architecture at the GSD, and most importantly Ahmad Rifai and Ardian Pratomo from Solo. The Solo Kota Kita project is a pioneering project that focuses on process rather than product. Recently, it has been covered by mainstream media such as GOOD magazine and Design Observer.

first day in our new office

The experience of Solo Kota Kita can only be equated to the process of “inception” in the movie. An idea is planted while an event is happening concurrently. The CONCRETE RIVER project was still in progress when I was working and learning with Solo Kota Kita. I was in the process of developing proposals that will include generative ideas for urban revitalization as well as insightful policy recommendations. A large number of communities will be affected by decisions that relates to the space of the toll-road. Therefore, tactful understanding, engagement and analysis of the adjacent communities become crucial to the success.

The Solo Kota Kita project was an innovative pilot project for community-based mapping and data collection. Both qualitative and quantitative information about the Kelurahan (Neighborhood / Village) is collected through extensive interviews by community facilitators. The community facilitation process was thorough and provided a closed cycle of empowerment.

First, data collected directly from the community can prevent elite capture. For example, flooding in a specific drain in the poorer part of the neighborhood may not be seen by the community leader. When national budget arrives, it may end up being spent on other forms of infrastructures that may not be as pertinent or useful to the community in need. By “fine-graining” these issues, as worded by John Taylor, we can begin to micro-manage from the bottom up and direct resources to solutions that is most important.

Secondly, the community facilitation process allows a continuous training of community facilitators in the city of Solo. They are trained to engage and conduct community forums, interviews, surveys, and analyzing basic GIS maps – developing a critical skill to analyze problems spatially. As a result, these often part-time community facilitators has a growing internal library of knowledge about the city. They also become attached or become an important contact to the neighborhoods they have served.

analyzing spatial data

PRODUCT: is a poster that contains important information for the community’s identity, issues, assets and spatial plan. The poster is well designed

Here is an example of the poster:


The CONCRETE RIVER project requires similar rigor in analyzing the communities. The goal is to produce these neighborhood-scale analysis with regard to the space under the toll-road, looking into existing activities, needs, issues/concerns and potentials. Thank you Solo Kota Kita!

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Infrastructure = Architecture

Here are some previews of the research in progress.


Mapping of two broad typologies across the Jakarta Inner Ring Road (JIRR):





Mapping of the structural typology across the JIRR. The variation in structural types are informed by the ground plane and topography. At the same time, they create spatial variations that can encourage different usages and activities.


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Informality vs. Informal Formality

a formal shop-house (ruko) typology storefront in North Jakarta. Rather than using a billboard, the owner have decided to use the facade as a product catalogue.

In  recent architectural discourses, informality seems to be a growing focus of peripheral explorations in architecture and urbanism. The notion that informality is the uncontrollable, organic and bottom-up formation of the built environment seems to be something that architects are trying to understand, grasp and hopefully be able to take control. It is indeed an exciting time in the neo-colonial period where most academia lives in. But for those of us who remains in such a predicament, they are conditions that we have to deal with daily. Rather than romanticizing such conditions – smothering it with an orgy of speculations, we are given the opportunity to find real solutions.

In the case of Jakarta, the case of informality come in layers. The conventional informal developments occur concurrently with the “devolving” formal realm that is – under the radar of urban law enforcements – slowly becoming informal in its performance. The above example is just one of the many mutations of land-use policies as a result of the lack of urban design or spatial planning monitoring.

In many parts of Jakarta’s middle-income and upper-middle income housing complexes with proper land titles, and under certain land-use jurisdiction, residential units (American style, Neo-classical even) are transforming into salons, restaurants, bakeries, and sometimes mini-production lines.

How would these begin to affect the urban fabric?

A much more serious question, how does this affect the infrastructure networks of utilities, water and waste?

shophouses (ruko) rising above with upward mobility

The rebellious urbanization of Jakarta both in the formal and informal sector outlines the slow response of the municipal governments. However, this is not to say that this condition is a mode of failure. This can only propel new ideas and projects for designers, planners and engineers alike.

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Kolong Tol: Community-Based Urban Revitalization

This is the final presentation for the MercyCorps internship over Summer 2010. It was also presented to FORKIMJA (Forum Permukiman Jakarta / Forum for Informal Settlements in jakarta) as well as to the head of BAPPEDA (Department of Regional Planning) of Jakarta.

This research into both technical/design proposal as well as possible community-based policy recommendations is only the beginning. More to come!


Intoduction to the potential and issues of the 12km elevated toll-road in North jakarta. MercyCorps’ Participatory Spatial Planning (PSP) program was highlighted as the medium by which this project can progress.

PART 1: Community and Policy

This section takes a look at how Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and local gangs (premans) /organizations can become an asset to the sustainability of the revitalization project.

PART 2: Urban Revitalization

Jakarta’s 12km elevated toll-road has an immense potential for interesting design and planning interventions. Cities such as Paris, Glasgow, Seattle and Toronto are in the process of transforming such infrastructural spaces. Jakarta, with its own unique resources and culture, can begin to develop her own way of undertaking the transformation of the concrete mammoth.

PART 3: Implementation

Solution and strategies are key to project success. This section outlines the implementation phases for the project. Ultimately, a new office or task force for the urban poor should be developed – representing community, technical consultants and the respective governmental bodies.

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Kolong Tol: Participation and Multi-Scalar Collaboration to Solve Design and Political Gaps

This paper was published in the Conference Proceedings of Arte-Polis 3, an international conference on creative collaboration held in Bandung.


Jakarta is a bifurcation of massive urbanization in both the informal and formal sectors, a juxtaposition that lends the informal to act as the ‘residual’- easily disposed of whenever modernization calls for evictions and urban reclamations. New developments of exclusive superblocks and inner-city malls diminish the public realm through the continued dissolution of public spaces, even after the end of Indonesia’s authoritarian regime. In recent times, the city administration promises greater community participation in forming the Jakarta 2030 Spatial Masterplan. In this context, new political processes and paradigmatic shifts in understanding informality in Jakarta can lead to new springs of urban explorations. In addition, re-thinking under-utilized physical spaces within the urban fabric such as the ‘Kolong Tol’ – the space underneath the tollway – allows for a renewed public imagination.

By documenting the lessons learned from the story of Jakarta’s Kolong Tol and the experiences in the Rawa Bebek informal community, this paper explores both discursive and practical modes of arguments for participatory spatial planning and the need for multi-scalar interdisciplinary collaboration to incubate a more sustainable and equitable future. Although the participatory method may have its challenges, it can become a tool for capacity building and empowerment, which may result in more resilient communities and urban spaces. On the other end of the spectrum, the government should begin to recognize the need for localized grassroots political mobilizations in order to achieve a successful synthesis of top-down and bottom-up approaches.

Keywords: participatory planning, spatial planning, infrastructural urbanism, urban development




Mercy Corps, Universitas Indonusa Esa Unggul, Kelompok Masyarakat Peduli Kolong Tol (KMPKT), RW 13 Rawa Bebek community, Cornell University, D+E|E+D: Design, Engineering, Education and Development, Desi Sukowati, Diah Citaresmi, Michelle Kooy, John Taylor, Jeremy Foster, Yehre Suh


ALBRECHTS, L. (1999a) Planners and Change: how do Flemish planners on the shop floor cope with change. In: Sociedade e Territorio 29, pp. 36-46

ALLEN, Stan. “Infrastructural Urbanism.” Center 14: On Landscape Urbanism (2007): 174-181.

GEDDES, PATRICK (1915), Cities in Evolution

HARIAN PELITA. 28 February 2010 <;.

HARJOKO, Triatno Yudo. (2004) Penggusuran or Eviction in Jakarta: Solution Lacking Resolution for Urban Kampung. 15th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia. Canberra: ASAA.

KUSNO, Abidin. (2004) “Whither Nationalist Urbanism? Public Life in Governor Sutiyoso’s Jakarta.” Urban Stud 41 (2004): 2377-2394.

Lerup, Lars. Stim and Dross: Rethinking the Metropolis. CENTER 14: On Landscape Urbanism (2007): 94-107.

OSSEO-ASSARE, Y.D. (2010) afrch. 11 Feb 2010 <;.

SUKOWATI, Desi. (2009) Laporan Kegiatan Participatory Spatial Planning (PSP) Program: Program Penataan Ruang Kolong Tol Berbasis Masyarakat. Mercy Corps Indonesia: Jakarta

DEPARTEMEN PEKERJAAN UMUM. May 2009. 25 April 2010 <;.

VAN DEN BROECK, J. (1995) Sustainable Strategic Planning: a way to localize Agenda 21. In: Proceedings of the Nakuru Consultative Workshop. Nakuru, Kenya

VAN DEN BROECK, Jen. (2004) Strategic Structure Planning. Loeckx et al. Urban Trialogues Localising Agenda 21: Visions, Projects, Co-Productions. pp 169-186. UN Habitat: Nairobi.

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Made in Jakarta version [urb.1.0]

“Shamelessness can become useful. So let’s start by considering that these shameless buildings are not collapsible into the concept of ‘chaos’, but are in fact and intricate reporting of concrete urban situation.” – Changing our Surroundings into Resources, Made in Tokyo

In “Made in Tokyo” by Momoyo Kajima, Junzo Kuroda and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, catalogued a series of “Da-Me Architecture” or “no-good architecture”. These no-good architectures tells a story of Tokyo’s hyper-dense urbanism and methods of how engineering, architecture, industry, human settlement and the market form innovative (not necessarily aesthetically appealing) response strategies. These extra-cultural productions are largely under the radar of commonly accepted culture of tasteful architecture and intellectually approved artistic productions. Ironically, they define the contemporary urban culture much more clearly than processed, sometimes utopian, architectural productions.

We can all learn from the urban phenomenon in Tokyo documented in “Made in Tokyo” that “informal” processes (meaning not within the boundaries of traditional intellectual locus) of architectural productions can contribute to our culture and our understanding of a city and its people. This is an extension to Bernard Rudofsky’s “Architecture without Architects” or vernacular architecture. Rather than formal traditions, these architectures contain coded self-made expressions and responses to urban needs.

In studying Jakarta’s landscape, its socio-political context lends itself to interesting forms of urbanism or urbanistic productions. The following are a series of satellite images that are unique to Jakarta’s urban landscape.


Ciputra Development developed this highly exclusive concept. The first image shows Bukit Golf in Pantai Indah Kapuk, an upper class gated community development. The second image shows its precedent in Pantai Indah Kapuk, another exclusive gated real estate plot. The Golf Island is nested in each already gated neighborhood. The idea is simple: create another extra-exclusive development surrounded by a golf course moat with a view of lush evergreen Golf Course.


The development of the Mangga Dua area is a concentration of retail spaces. The shop-house complex as well as the mall-to-mall connections creates an island of continuous consumption. The area is oversupplied with speculative retail developments that World Trade Center (WTC) Mangga Dua fell victim. Allegedly, some spaces, which were initially bought for investment, are currently rented out for free so as to cover maintenance fees. In other areas of Jakarta, development is following similar models of hyper-concentrating commercial and retail activities.


The Cikarang suburban development is typical of Jakarta’s peri-urbanism such as in Summarecon, Serpong, ModernLand and many other areas one to two hours from the city proper. The plan is an assemblage of mass-produced and highly ordered upper middle class housing, a golf course (to create more green space for market differentiation and attract visitors ala golf-enthusiasts), and soon enough a mall or commercial complex. This assemblage is analogous to a cell. Activities other than work, is concentrated within the cell. The nucleus contains core activities or programs such as mall, recreation and sports. In some cases, all activities are housed within the mall itself. For example, a roller coaster is housed within the Supermall of Lippo Karawaci.

However, what is to be noted in the second image here is the process of land acquisition. Java is one of the densest islands in Indonesia where more than half of the population live, equating close to 2430 person per square mile. This means that most in most areas, land is already filled with villages or conurbations that can approximate traditional urbanization. This means that suburbanization in Jakarta is not just clearing forests or virgin nature but also villages. Typically, the process involves acquiring legal rights to the land from the government and then paying the villagers (who are now considered informal) with small receipts, or “uang rohiman”. Now, the developer has the right to peacefully or forcefully evict the previous settlers. In the case above, it seems that the development was unsuccessful in acquiring a complete set of land, leaving the village formation in the center as Levittown-style suburbanization accrete around it.


The images above are examples of constant juxtaposition of the formal and informal, and the rich and the poor. The wide socio-economic gap continues to grow in Jakarta as the economy becomes increasingly globalized and liberalized. In many places, informality abuts formal and high-end developments without the latter’s knowledge. Development builds upon the kampungs pushing them farther into the background forming a poché in the city. Thus, leaving the globalized nodes of consumption and fantasy as the figure and foreground.

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Rivers to Roads: Shifts in the Urban Landscape

Satelite views of Jakarta’s periurbanism demonstrate a peculiarity. The region of Jakarta is highly hydrated with winding rivers that are productive for agriculture and life in general. The formations of villages, close to the density of urbanization, are often along the path of a river, lining it man made structures – homes. The river provides an infrastructure that brings about crop production and also water for living and sanitation. The water and nutrients that flow from it is a “free” and seemingly “infinite” resource that can be tapped into.

As urbanization rapidly increases, roads began to infiltrate the rural regions of the metropolis. At the same time, each working in tandem, rather, the economy has also shifted from a self-sustaining agricultural system to trade, industry and services. This means that life supports such as food and water does not have to be obtained from source. Roads and transportation, particularly the automobile, allows for goods and services to be mobile. Moreover, a diversification of economy such as providing retail services and basic goods along the road becomes a new form of life support, made possible by money and trade. Why? Food and water can be exchanged with batteries, gas or cigarettes. Fiat money greases the wheel.

As such, the pattern of urbanization or conurbation, to the least, becomes fairly similar to that of the riverbanks. Village formations or congregations of communities, begin to line along the roads tapping into the passers by – trucks that delivers goods across Java along link roads, cars that carry individuals or families that are touring the country-sides or en route to their suburban homes. Instead of tapping into the direct source of life – food and water, they are tapping into trade and transactions from human consumption.

The goal of these conurbation patterns is simple – survival.

More often than not, the historical rural conurbations around the river banks call for access to other goods and services due to demand and supply shifts. As a result, a converging hybrid of rivers and roads emerge with an ecological consequence. Examples of consequences are increasing density of settlements straining the local agricultural resources and storm-water run-off from asphalt damaging the delicate balance of the agricultural land.

* All images are courtesy of Google Earth

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format [draft]


This chapter is an overview of large-scale interactions between the city and infrastructure. The symbiotic fluxes between the organization of the toll-way and the city demonstrate the various assets, potentials as well as unintended problematics.


  1. The Jakarta Ring-Roads: A Viewing Apparatus for a Post-Colonial City


  1. Concrete River: an imposition of Jakarta’s ring roads and the city. The general organization of the city’s administration, CBD, airport and other significant nodes. A series of mapping understanding the layers and traces of information about the city ensues – demography, administrative boundaries, hydrology, arterial roads and streets.
  2. Territorial Fluxes: an organizational view of the inner-ring road toll-way and the city. The map diagrams the exits, entrances and the territories that the toll-way traverses. The toll-way interacts with the original urban topography of the city and through a time-based catalytic process, the toll-way reorganizes the way the city grows, embedding itself in a landscape as a “naturally-occurring” frame for development.
  3. Landscapes of Globalization and Fantasy: a map of Jakarta’s poly-nucleated and Occidentalized “fantasy islands” of speculative developments and gated communities. The rise of exclusivist inner-city malls and concentrated retail zones [such as shop-houses, or ruko (rumah kantor)] have led to a point-to-point motion about the city, the dissolution of public spaces and the reduction of social locus and transactions.
  4. Informality as Poché:
  5. Vector Relations of Streetscapes and the Mega-Infrastructure: a superposition of arterial roads, streets and the ring-road. The directionality of interaction between the streets and the toll-way may be used to understand the interactions on the ground plane. At the same time, this may lead to future strategies for interventions.
  6. Power Lines: a diagrammatic map of those in power – the various stakeholders of the toll-way and its territories – in spatial relation to the city. This would be an imposition of municipalities, districts, sub-districts, communities and other governmental entities such as PT. CMNP, PT. Jasa Marga, PLN, etc. These path-like layers, hence, power lines, are then interconnected according to possible communication channels amongst themselves.


This chapter is an appendix that is nested within the territory, a typological catalogue of diagrammatic physical conditions that can be found in the toll-way-city interaction. A physical typology generates certain prototypical human activities within itself. For example, variances in height, light, proximity, physical and perceptual density results in multiple solutions for inhabitation on the ground plane.


  1. 1. Re-Thinking Infrastructure: The typological study will involve exploring the elevated-tollway from the ground plane – a perspectival understanding that removes the urban-scaled context of the toll-way. The physical manifestation of this mass production and consumption viaduct is localized into the human scale. What would these structures mean to city-dwellers at this microcosmic level?



  1. Interchange types
  2. Ramp types
  3. Number of Lanes / Width of Ground Plane
  4. Structural elements
  5. Grade Separation
  6. Sub-Crossings
  7. Other Physical Peculiarities: rivers, canals, railways, parallel arteries, residential, formal (if so, what type? What type?), informal, adjacent streets


This chapter is a systematic segmenting of territorial interactions with the elevated inner ring road. Exploring both spatial relationships (perceptual and planological) of the territory within proximity of the toll-way as well as the physical interactions (architectural) of the infrastructure with the immediate landscape.


  1. Vertical density
  2. Horizontal density
  3. Settlement density
  4. Program / Zones in proximity (percentages of retail/commercial, industrial, ecological, open spaces, residential, unused, automobile/motorized vehicle circulation, pedestrian circulation)
  5. Capitals: social/political/economic/cultural


The Architectural-Tectonic Study, will be a study of the different permutations of physical typologies within the territory. These typologies are not only permutated or combined in interesting convergences but they are also varying in scale such as (height, light and density) such that it produces various prior, pre-existing and potential conditions given the planological framework.


The continuous push and pull between scales of the widespread urban condition allows for a synthesis that leads to innovative physical landscape strategies and architectural interventions.

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review [+ pin-up] 3 Yehre (3/5)

Moving forward:

  • urban large scale analysis should go more in depth, defining important or significant zones in teh city and the relationship to the toll-way
  • finalizing the format of the booklet / study
  • because of limited information about the dimensions of the toll-way, it will be difficult to create multiple axometrics of the different typologies. They could be diagrammatic and speculative at best

Possible format:

  • an urban scale analysis
  • political / power maps of the site
  • significant zones
  • The chapters will be segments of the continuous elevated toll-way with specific physical conditions (have to do it objectively even if it means repitition, i.e. do it every x meters)
  • The typologies will be categorized and will then be re-contextualized to the “significant zones”
  • this would then be a resource for strategies

Mappings so far:

This is an image of Jakarta metropolitan region superimposed the natural hydrology along with the ring roads. The dotted purple lines are in the proposed or pre-planning stage. A third ring road is being planned that extends outside the metropolitan region suggesting the future consolidation of other municipalities and regions through connective infrastructure. The question is: will the growth be centripetal or centrifugal? polycentric or monocentric? this will determine the sustainability of Jakarta’s imminent megapolis.

The turqoise pluses indicates the locations of malls or shopping centers near Jakarta. The information was collected from Google Earth, which may not necessarily cover all the shopping centers or nodes of consumption and trade. Further layers such as how people could access these nodes and where the nucleated enclaves are can further explain the “point-to-point” traversing of Jakarta. It seems that informality or the “kampung” is a poche in the foreground of fantasy and global consumerism.

The superimposition of the streets or roads and the toll-way will begin to inform how human and traffic flows interact with the space underneath it. Whether access or visual access is parallel, perpendicular or at an angle to the space can determine the way the space is imagined by the communities around it or the city inhabitants who passes through it. Physical accessibility will also be determined through closer analysis of the various segments. Typology will include information whether the segment is 1) directly accessible by pedestrians 2) bounded by low or high capacity roads 3) bounded by canals, sewerage or waterways, and so on.

Another aspect to this study will also include the ratio of streetscape to the segment area of ‘kolong tol’ (potential public area). Because streetscapes are often the public function for residential neighborhoods, especially in the dense and cramped spaces of the informal communities, they are usually used as zones of social transaction and relaxation.

The two layers above contain information of which zones are formal (grey) or informal (purple). This is not to be confused with the location of poverty or the exact location of where informality occurs itself. The bottom layer map demonstrates the relationship between poverty (yellow to grey-yello tint) and informality. The ring roads are superimposed to further understand the relationship of the economic or legal zones to the toll-way which may explain future or prior use. Prior use would be defined as what the space below the toll-way was used for before the 2007 and 2008 city-wide eviction was conducted.

With just a quick analysis, it can be quickly established that the areas adjacent to the elevated toll-way are concentrated with informal settlements.

This mapping exercise begins to focus on a closer look at the kolong tol condition, particularly in North Jakarta (the municipality, walikota, is highlighted in turqoise). The districts (kelurahan, outlined in yellow) that are affected or in proximity tot he elevated toll-way is highlighted in pink. The green nodes are the communities (kampungs) that was previously colonizing the kolong tol.

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