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Exhibition 'What If Lab: Sustainable Public Spaces': Sustainable Public Spaces in Jakarta Villages

The 'What If Lab: Sustainable Public Spaces' exhibition is an intercultural program between Indonesia and the Netherlands which aims to design sustainable public spaces together with the Kampung Susun Kunir community, West Jakarta.


Jakarta is growing as one of the most populous cities in the world. Unfortunately, the large population in this city is not yet supported by adequate infrastructure evenly. Dense residential areas, combined with other factors, have threatened Jakarta residents with various environmental vulnerabilities such as heat waves, floods and air pollution, as well as increasing social problems. Responding to this challenge, Erasmus Huis Jakarta, Dutch Design Foundation, and Playo launched the exhibition 'What If Lab: Sustainable Public Spaces', an intercultural program that aims to jointly create sustainable public spaces in village communities in Jakarta.


This program involves designers from Indonesia and the Netherlands who are members of a team called Kampung Kollektief. The prototypes and designs created by these designers were displayed in the 'What If Lab: Sustainable Public Spaces' exhibition at the Erasmus Huis Dutch Cultural Center, South Jakarta, which took place on February 17 and will end on April 30, 2024. This exhibition aims to empower local communities to reorganize and revitalize their public spaces, especially in the Kampung Susun Kunir Community.


Kampung Kunir is a village located on Jalan Kemukus, Pinangsia Village, Taman Sari District, West Jakarta. In 2015, around 77 families were recorded living in Kunir Village. This village won the Jakarta Green and Clean Award in 2010. However, this village experienced eviction on 27 May 2015 as a result of the flood mitigation policy through the construction of an inspection road network on the banks of the Ciliwung River. This is because the way of life of the people in this village is considered to be the cause of river pollution.


After the eviction, the residents of Kampung Kunir were forced to look for new housing. For years, they rejected offers to move into flats and chose to voice their need for decent housing, which respected community values, the economy and the identity of urban village residents.


After collaborating with various parties, in September 2022, Kampung Susun Kunir was established. A total of 33 households began to live in and adapt to life in Kampung Susun Kunir.


Through several visits and workshops, the designers together with residents in Susun Kunir village developed the meaning of an ideal public space that represents the aspirations of mothers, fathers and local children. Ideas such as wanting to have a roller coaster on the river or a hot air balloon on the roof are popping up a lot. These ideas are then developed into joint solutions.


The designers introduced several public space intervention ideas that utilize the infrastructure around Kampung Kunir such as roads, the space between river walls, and the river. The idea is physically visualized through interaction with village-scale modules and 3D printed models. Through this model, the residents of Kampung Kunir have the opportunity to discuss, criticize, and decide on ideas that might be applied to infrastructure in the surrounding environment.


The designers also designed a system for implementing temporary public space on the road which was named Rujak Plaza. This name comes from the warm memories of the residents of Kampung Kunir before the eviction, where they spent time together while eating rujak. This design was created using the concept of recycling waste and becomes a public space that is easy to replace, move, store, and can be created anywhere.


Making this design involved the residents of Kampung Susun Kunir by paying attention to the residents' relationship with nature, fellow humans, and memories of the past, as well as maintaining easy road access by emergency vehicles.


Even though it was designed as a temporary exhibition, this program is planned to be continued under a new name, namely Kampung Kollektief, which focuses on collaboration and co-creation with the community with a 'co-creation' approach to create more sustainable public spaces.


The story of the transformation of Kampung Kunir presented in this exhibition can be an inspiration for cities everywhere in organizing slums and creating livable settlements. Collaboration and co-creation with the government, local communities and the public can present innovative solutions, and pay attention to the needs and aspirations of residents in the development of sustainable public spaces and encourage the creation of strong and resilient communities.


Temporary public space on the road

The community road between Kampung Susun Kunir and the Ciliwung River, where people used to live before being evicted in 2015, has little traffic. Only nearby residents use it. It not only serves as a road to drive on, but it is also often used to park vehicles. A few spots have also already been used as mini-public spaces. Seeing this potential, the designers designed a system to encourage temporary public spaces called Rujak Plaza. By allowing the community to reclaim the road, they can connect with nature and their community, while the road also remains accessible to emergency services. What if roads were more focused on people instead of cars? What would Jakarta look like if, even for a short time, we easily turned our neighbourhood roads into public spaces?


Rujak Plaza

When asked what residents missed about life before the eviction in 2015, families in Kampung Susun Kunir recounted their fond memories of eating the Indonesian dish rujak (fruit salad). This is a side dish made from fruit picked directly from nearby trees. The act of eating and preparing rujak brought the community together to enjoy the meal. This memory inspired the designers to design Rujak Plaza. This plaza consists of mobile units that can be freely placed and moved in public spaces.


The exhibition can still be visited until 30 April. Is Indonesia a bit too far away for you? You will also be able to visit the expo in Eindhoven during Dutch Design Week 2024!

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