Englishman Stephen Cairns and Indonesian Daliana Suryawinata have found themselves in the interesting position of proving wrong naysayers who perpetually complain about Jakarta’s haphazard urban sprawl. The two are also curators of “Open City Jakarta,” an exhibition at the Erasmus Huis. The exhibition, which runs until Dec. 1, actually celebrates the capital’s more endearing qualities.
The exhibition is an offshoot of “Open City: Designing Coexistence,” a project of the fourth International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam.
The IABR is a thematically-oriented series of exhibitions, conferences and lectures in the field of architecture and urbanism that looks into cities in third-world countries to see how distinct communities and groups settle and interact with each other and find ways to improve their environment.
Aside from Jakarta, other cities that are a part of the project include Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Istanbul in Turkey and Sao Paulo in Brazil.
For Jakarta, the IABR 2009 committee collaborated with Ikatan Arsitek Indonesia (Indonesian Architects Association) to hold the Gotong Royong City competition, which invited architects from all over the world to contribute ideas on how to make Jakarta more livable. The result of this collaboration is the “Open City Jakarta” exhibition.
“I really like Jakarta,” said Cairns, head of the architecture department at the prestigious University of Edinburgh, last week. “It’s one of my favorite cities.”
The statement, made at a time when traffic and floods are a daily reality for Jakartans, seems quite ironic at first glance.
Yet Cairns may have a unique perspective of the capital that its residents often miss.
After all, he is no occasional tourist.
“Last night on [Jalan] Pecenongan, I had dinner at a warung [food stall] on the streets. There were people selling me DVDs, fans and torches. There was also a band that came and played. It’s a very lively street life and it was late at night,” Cairns said.
In the morning, he was surprised to see that all the warungs were gone.
In their place were auto repair shops. “It’s not a chaos, that’s the key,” he said.
“It’s a lovely ecosystem in which the middle-class people maintain a reciprocal relationship with the poor people. There’s a mutual understanding in it. It’s a very, very rich urban phenomenon.”Cairns said that his own city, Edinburgh, pales in comparison.
“Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Yet, they don’t know how to produce the street life with that kind of richness. It’s very programmed, which means surprises are very difficult to find.”
For her part, Daliana, who was born in Jakarta, used to feel the same as most Jakartans.
When she left for Rotterdam in the Netherlands to pursue a masters degree at the Berlage Institute in 2003, she was actually looking forward to leaving all of Jakarta’s madness.
“I was happy to leave all the mess behind, such as the traffic problem, social issues and my gated way of life of sitting in a car moving between air-conditioned buildings without touching the city, the lack of public space and the impossibility to walk as a pedestrian,” she said.
“Later on, I missed the street vendors and all the diversity that Jakarta has, which Rotterdam does not have.
"And, by distancing oneself from Jakarta, one can have a clearer and more optimistic observation of the city than those who are in the city,” she said.
The firm has been working closely with a number of design firms in Jakarta on some of their projects.
“I think Western urbanism in Europe and the United States is stuck,” Daliana said. “They know what to do, they’ve been planning their cities for ages and they’re working well. But they’re also looking for something to spice up the city life more.
"That’s why there are more research and architectural urban projects going to the south, like Southeast Asia and South America. They want to learn form these informal [environments] and improve it.”
The “Open City Jakarta” exhibition is mounted at the open-air pavilion of the Erasmus Huis. It utilizes crates, fiberboards and corrugated plastic roofs to recreate the twists and turns of a Jakarta kampung.
The exhibition features maps, diagrams, posters and pictures from 12 projects. Wooden shadow puppets attached to slanting walls generate an ingenious interplay of light and shadow in the pavilion.
The puppets, created by artist Eko Nugroho, portray stakeholders in Jakarta’s city life. Made of perforated fiberboard, the puppets guide the visitors to
“We try to note the chaotic configuration of Jakarta in the exhibition,” Daliana said.
“The aim is to ask people to think differently about Jakarta, to look at Jakarta and not to judge it against Western models,” Cairns said.
“Then, Jakarta will always look bad because it’ll never come up to Western standards.”
For the exhibition, Cairns and researchers from the University of Indonesia are also presenting “Cultures of Legibility,” an analytical study of the co-existence of urban and desa kota (rural) activities in the peripheral zones of Jakarta.
“If you go to the BSD [Bumi Serpong Damai] area, you can have a cup of Starbucks cappuccino at the mall and within three minutes, you can be in the middle of the rice fields with buffaloes,” Cairns said. “I find that absolutely amazing.”
Rather than seeing desa kota as a fleeting phase of development, in which the rice fields will one day vanish and be replaced by modern facilities, Cairns sees it as a model for Jakarta’s unique urban condition.
“Unless we change the way we think about the city, then this will always look like a phase on the way to becoming Los Angeles or Rotterdam rather than something that’s legitimate on its own rights,” he said.
“At the moment it’s a beautiful balance between the two elements. And again, you don’t find it in Los Angeles, New York or Rotterdam.”
Erik Prasetya, whose photographs feature at the exhibition, is of a different opinion. “Jakarta is not pretty at all. It was never designed to be beautiful like Paris or New York.”
Despite the bleak images that he has captured, Erik still remains hopeful. “We didn’t have a busway five years ago,” he said.
“Neither did we have car-free days. Positive changes are happening in the city, albeit very slowly. We all have to remain optimistic and fight for them.”
The curators are definitely not blind to the capital’s faults, but in this particular exhibition, they are choosing to look at the bright side. “Jakarta is not yet a beauty, of course,” Daliana said.
“There are mistakes, but also a lot of potential that you wouldn’t want to just get rid of.”
For his part, Cairns remains upbeat about the capital. “Jakarta should be one of the cities we should look at positively, not only criticize.”
artikel ini disalin penuh dari : JakartaGlobe