Nov 14, 2018 Last Updated 6:23 AM, Nov 5, 2018

Planning Jakarta


Julie Shackford-Bradley

In this book, Abidin Kusno examines trends in architectural design and urban planning in Jakarta over the 20th century that resulted in the 1998 riots. Kusno's objectives are to show how 'imagined community' takes concrete form and substance in the 'real' spaces of the city' in order to understand the ways in which postcolonial cities alter the space and form of the built environment for themselves, in the process, forming a dialog with their colonial past. As a representation of that dialog, Jakarta exposes its blind spots. Kusno argues that Jakarta's architects and urban planners have struggled with legacies of the colonial mind-set, particularly the 'tradition vs. modernity' construct used deceptively by both the Sukarno and New Order governments in their quest for power. The results have been disastrous for Jakarta's underclass.

Kusno contends that, while Sukarno promoted Jakarta's post-independence design in terms of 'modernist' nationalism, the downtown area was discreetly modelled on elements of aristocratic Javanese power and grandeur. Display models of the city's master plan simply ignored the kampung (lower class areas), as did Sukarno's urban policies.

Suharto's equation of nationalism and the 'traditional' was just as inconsistent. The New Order saw the emergence of an upper class with transnational dreams of 'First World' style housing developments and culture. Motivated by a fear of falling in status, this upper class elevated itself, literally, through the creation of fly-overs (elevated highways) that build up confidence leaving behind the 'lower' classes who are routed through the crowded street at ground level. Through transmigration, the becak (pedicab) removal program, and Petrus, (mysterious shootings), the urban street was further transformed into a site of disturbance and criminality. Now nationalism was linked with development and the mass media announced the birth of a new ideal middle class subject of the nation. Meanwhile, the underclass was degraded into a mass of 'undesirables'; excluded from the new nationalism, they had no overarching affiliation and nothing to lose in 1998.

These issues are familiar, but benefit from Kusno's analysis of their spatial aspects. The book also presents a discussion of tropical architecture, from both the colonial period (featuring the buildings of Thomas Karsten and Henri Post) and the present (Sumet Jumsei's 'water-based' cultures, and Ken Yeang's bioclimactic skyscrapers) that blend local/traditional and modernist elements. Through such examples, Kusno projects a hopeful vision for the future in which more Indonesian architects and urban designers can practice this type of fusion, once freed from the colonial mindset that still constrains them.

Abidin Kusno, Behind the Postcolonial: Architecture, Urban Space, and Political Cultures in Indonesia, London and New York: Routledge, 2000

Julie Shackford-Bradley (julie_shackford-bradley@csumb.edu)

Inside Indonesia 72: Oct - Dec 2002

Latest Articles

Photo essay: Hope in the face of disaster

Nov 02, 2018 - MELANIE FILLER & TIM BARRETTO

Source/ Melanie Filler & Tim Barretto

Palu after the tsunami

Surviving while seeking asylum

Oct 26, 2018 - GEMIMA HARVEY

Hazara asylum seeker Shiringul first fled Afghanistan to Pakistan and then when the danger spread to Pakistan, she was forced to flee again, this time to Indonesia. She said the streets outside of Kalideres immigration detention centre were her best option. Source/ Gemima Harvey

A change in Australia’s asylum policy has denied refugees in Indonesia vital support

Review: The killing season

Oct 01, 2018 - FRANK BEYER

More than 50 years on, mis-truths about the 1965-66 killings and what motivated them prevail in Indonesia. Geoffrey Robinson's and other books and films on the issue, based on archival research...

Essay: Harmony versus hate

Sep 19, 2018 - DUNCAN GRAHAM

Masykuri Bakri doesn’t fit the stereotype for a moderate Muslim leader

Subscribe to Inside Indonesia

Receive Inside Indonesia's latest articles and quarterly editions in your inbox.

 


Lontar Modern Indonesia

Lontar-Logo-Ok

 

A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar