Jakarta Globe | Insight

Jakarta and Beyond: Vertical Growth Drives Demand for Public Spaces

The right to the city is a powerful concept that reminds us that cities are marred by an imbalance of power and competing narratives. (JG Photo)

An exhibition in Art:1 New Museum in North Gunung Sahari, Central Jakarta on Friday (13/10) Art:1 is commercial gallery & exhibition space specializing in contemporary Indonesian painting & sculpture (JG Photo / Yudha Baskoro)

Art:1 New Museum in North Gunung Sahari, Central Jakarta on Friday (13/10) Art:1 is commercial gallery & exhibition space specializing in contemporary Indonesian painting & sculpture (JG Photo / Yudha Baskoro)

A woman sits in Art:1 New Museum in North Gunung Sahari, Central Jakarta on Friday (13/10) Art:1 is commercial gallery & exhibition space specializing in contemporary Indonesian painting & sculpture (JG Photo / Yudha Baskoro)

Jakarta. This year began in quite a special way for bank employee Kartini Damanik when she was finally able to move into her first home. Kartini previously lived with her parents in Bogor, West Java, which was also near her place of work. But when her office was relocated, she decided to purchase an apartment at Pancoran Riverside in East Jakarta to eliminate the need for a long commute.

Like many residents of big cities, Kartini had to trade the open green spaces and fresh air that landed houses offer for the convenience and practicality of an apartment and a shorter commute.

“If you’re staying in an apartment, there is very little space you can use as a green corner. But the price [of an apartment] is much more affordable for me than a landed house in the same area, and it offers better facilities,” she said.

Yeni Febriyani, an entrepreneur living at Green Pramuka in Central Jakarta, said she moved to an apartment in the inner city to save time.

“I love landed houses because I like to see greenery. I don’t get to enjoy that now because I’m living in an apartment. But now I can access the northern, eastern and central parts of Jakarta more easily. I lived in Kalimalang [in East Jakarta] and the traffic is so awful there. After 6 a.m., nothing moves,” she said.

Yeni spoke about her concerns over Jakarta’s rapid growth, poor traffic conditions and real estate developers that do not seem to consider the importance of open green spaces.

“The complex where I live certainly lacks green spaces where seniors, mothers, children and disabled people can interact. There are also no health-care facilities and spaces to relax, play sports and perform mass prayer,” she said.

Arief Haadi Mulia, who has been living at Green Pramuka for the past three years, echoed Yeni’s comments.

“The developer is very eager to add more towers, but I’m not seeing the green they put in the name [of the complex]. We live in Jakarta and the traffic is nauseating, so the need for green spaces does exist,” he said.

National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said the ratio between green spaces and buildings in Jakarta is still poor, but that cities such as Surabaya in East Java are slowly changing the game by expanding their green zones.

Bambang said city governments have a responsibility to invest in green zones.

“Why city governments? Because it is a matter of zoning. Sometimes they need to purchase land [that can be turned into parks]. They cannot just make the most of unused land in the city, because parks need to be in certain areas,” he said.

Bambang said urbanization is unavoidable and should be seen as a potential for every city to grow bigger. Big cities must start building houses vertically. This trend is already starting in Jakarta and its surrounding areas.

Commercial real estate firm Colliers International Indonesia predicts that Jakarta will have 114 apartment buildings, or approximately 59,000 units, by 2019.

“The development in big cities has to be vertical if we want to have public spaces. If everyone lives in a landed house, we would not have any [space] left,” Bambang said.

Hendrianto, head of planning at the Jakarta provincial forestry agency, said the capital does not yet have enough open green zones. According to the 2007 City Planning Law, at least 30 percent of Indonesian cities’ total land area must consist of open green zones. Neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore follow the same ratio.

“Of the 30 percent, 20 percent should be public spaces and the remaining 10 percent can be privately owned. At the moment, Jakarta has 14,9 percent open green spaces, but only 5 percent belongs to the city government,” he said.

The agency has an annual target of building at least 10 new parks, varying in size between 3,000 and 5,000 square meters, while all real estate developers are also required to set aside at least 5,000 square meters for parks in every new project.

“We aim to have 8 hectares of green zones across Jakarta in the next five years. We have 5 hectares at the moment, but for us, this target seems doable,” Hendrianto said.

He said in some parts of the city, especially Central Jakarta, it is not currently possible to add more open green zones, but that the provincial government is working on renovation and green revitalization.

“The quickest way to do it is for the provincial government to work with private companies, because if we are relying on the provincial budget, this process will be complicated and take a long time,” he said.

The reconstruction of the Kalijodo area in North Jakarta is an example of a partnership between the Jakarta provincial government, under former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, and private developer Sinar Mas Land. What once was Jakarta’s oldest red-light district is now a semi-natural park with a playground, skate park and sports courts.

Ignesiz Kemalawarta, head of corporate governance and sustainable development at Sinar Mas Land, said the project is part of the company’s sustainable development mission.

“The project won the 2017 MIPIM Award for the best urban regeneration project because it is able to change a very negative area into a neighborhood where people, especially children, can enjoy their activities,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Meikarta project on the eastern outskirts of Jakarta boasts plenty of open green spaces. Chief executive Ketut Budi Wijaya told the Jakarta Globe that the upcoming city will have 100 hectares of open spaces, including parks with trees and lakes.

“This will offer enough space for residents to enjoy nature, to meet and socialize. We are also looking to build our expat communities. A cultural center is an important part for us,” he said.

Libraries and Museums

In Jakarta, it is much easier to find shopping malls than parks, cultural centers and libraries. A mall is still the preferred choice for most people to spend their leisure time, mainly because it serves as a one-stop venue that offer various services and entertainment options.

However, this does not stop public and private entities from polishing their spaces and catering to residents’ need for leisure and education.

In September, the National Library unveiled its new 27-story glass-walled tower that looms over the colonial-era building on Jalan Merdeka Selatan in Central Jakarta. The new building is home to some of Indonesia’s most precious manuscripts, including La Galigo (circa 13-15 A.D.), Kakawin Sutasoma (circa 14 A.D.) and Babad Diponegoro (1831-1832).

According to Ofy Sofiana, the library’s deputy head of literature and information services, the new building receives between 300 and 400 daily visitors on weekdays and double that on Saturdays.

“The number of visitors has almost tripled compared to when the National Library was still located at its old headquarters on Jalan Salemba Raya,” she said.

Art 1 Museum in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, which was launched in October 2011, did not come about in an instant. It began as Mon Décor Gallery, established in 1983, which was located in four different places across Jakarta: Gunung Sahari and Wisma Mulia, and the Plaza Senayan and Grand Indonesia shopping malls.

The collections include works by Affandi, Basuki Abdullah, Sudjojono, But Muchtar and contemporary artists such as Heri Dono and Entang Wiharso. After acquiring more than 4,000 artworks since 1986, Art 1 Museum managing director Monica Gunawan said it was time for them to relocate and rebrand. The institution functions not only as a museum, but also an art space for temporary exhibitions and art conservation.

“At that time, there wasn’t a place in Jakarta where people could go and enjoy artworks. The National Museum mostly exhibits Indonesian ethnography. The only place [for arts] is the [state-owned] National Gallery. There wasn’t a private one,” she said.

Finding a location can be tricky, because museums must compete with malls, which already occupy some of the most strategic locations in the city.

“The problem with location is that it’s like finding a soulmate. We happened to find land here [in Kemayoran]. We did not consider South Jakarta because we could not find a large enough space there,” Monica said.

Fenessa Adikoesoemo, chairwoman of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (MACAN), said they decided to pick Kebon Jeruk in West Jakarta because the up-and-coming area has the highest number of schools compared with other parts of Jakarta.

“Hence, the location would support the museum’s core mission in education, manifested through programs like sponsored school visits and teachers’ forums,” she said.

Monica believes art and culture are clear indicators of whether or not a city has fully progressed. Paris, London and New York are currently the meccas of modern and contemporary art, but she said Tokyo, Miami, Hong Kong and Shanghai are starting to capture the world’s attention.

“In 2008, Beijing provided financial support for the establishment of 800 museums. Anyone who wants to build a museum will be given money and incentives. As a result, the art scene blooms. Art schools and galleries are mushrooming. The most expensive artworks come from Beijing. There are 40 Chinese artists who hold auction records from $4 million to $40 million,” she said.

People With Disabilities

These new establishments also made sure that they are disabled-friendly, something that has yet to happen when it comes to public facilities in Indonesia.

Abi Marutama, an activist for people with disabilities, said the Jakarta administration already has universal design regulations in place that require city infrastructure that caters to people with limited mobility.

“The [term] universal design means anyone must be able to use a public facility, not only disabled people, but also senior citizens, pregnant women and children,” he said. “Unfortunately, the implementation is still very minimal. I think private developers did not get proper information on how to create infrastructure that is effective and accessible.”

Abi said the city already improved pedestrian facilities for the disabled in Tanah Abang and Salemba in Central Jakarta, complete with guiding blocks, but that there is still plenty of room for improvement.

He said the universal design feature should be introduced and taught to architects and designers because they are key when it comes to creating effective infrastructure.

According to Paulista Surjadi of Yayasan Kota Kita (Our City Foundation), a nonprofit organization that seeks to help people make thoughtful and inclusive decisions about the development of their cities, Indonesia already ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2016.

“Our law is already progressive. The 2016 Law on Disabilities is a good document because it emphasizes proper work, accessibility, inclusivity and accommodation,” she said.

Paulista added that poor implementation of the law occurs because the concept of disability is not yet in the mainstream.

“Disability is not a sectoral issue. There should be a shift in thinking. Everyone can become disabled in a split second. Any facility that is accessible for disabled people will also be convenient for the rest of us. Who wouldn’t benefit from better pedestrian access?” she said.

Abi and Paulista also criticized the state of public transportation in Jakarta by saying that the TransJakarta busway and the light rail transit system, which is still under construction, do not seem to consider the disabled in their planning or only do so as an afterthought.

Paulista said cities have the power to set an example in making changes. The city of Solo in Central Java, where the foundation is based, already declared inclusivity as part of its agenda in 2008, when it was led by former mayor and Indonesia’s current president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

“So they were ahead of the national government. Disability is a mainstream interest in Solo. They also provide disabled people with opportunities by employing them in private and public companies,” she said.