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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Man of 1000 shoulders

  • Trisha Sertori

    The Jakarta Post

Ubud | Thu, December 11, 2014 | 11:09 am
Man of  1000  shoulders

Creator:   Tjokorda Abinanda with a portrait of his father, the inventor of the Sosrobahu road construction technique, Tjokorda Raka Sukawati.

A hydraulic car jack slipping on spilled oil inspired a revolution for building flyovers across Asia.

The man who inspired the revolution, Tjokorda Raka Sukawati, died on Nov. 11, 2014 and was cremated in Ubud on Tuesday. He was 85.

Sukawati, who was awarded one of the nation'€™s top honors for his work, developed an engineering technique used to build flyovers that earned him and his method the nickname sosrobahu, a thousand shoulders.

Last rites:: The great cow and royal sarcophagus of Tjokorda Raka Sukawati, the inventor of the Sosrobahu road building technique.Last rites:  The great cow and royal sarcophagus of Tjokorda Raka Sukawati, the inventor of the Sosrobahu road building technique.

Speaking from the palace in Ubud on Monday, Sukawati'€™s son, Tjokorda Abinanda (better known as fashion designer Tjok Abi) remembered the Sunday morning when a potential accident became the idea that would lead his father to an intense year of research and trial-and-error development.

'€œFather liked to tinker with his car. It was a 1971 or '€™72 Mercedes. One Sunday morning, father was using a hydraulic jack. It was a small jack, but it could still lift the heavy Mercedes. There was spilled oil under the jack and father found the car could be moved smoothly around with the jack,'€ says Abi.

Living in Jakarta at the time and heading up PT Hutama Karya, an engineering and road building company, Sukawati saw in that sliding jack a potential solution to flyover construction.

Sosrobahu:: A piece of an elevated highway is ready to be rotated into place via the Sosrobahu building technique in this undated photo.Sosrobahu:  A piece of an elevated highway is ready to be rotated into place via the Sosrobahu building technique in this undated photo.

Abi said that under the Sosrobahu system, flyover sections are constructed alongside existing roads, lifted into place on a series of oil-filled hydraulic jacks and then turned 90 degrees and lowered into place.

'€œBefore Sosrobahu, the government had to buy all the land under the flyover path as the building area for the road. This was in heavy traffic, so temporary roads also had to be built until the completion of the flyover. They could now build the road sections without greatly disturbing traffic flows and then lift the sections and swing them into place,'€ says Abi.

The year between inception and implementation was tough on the family, Abi said. The first application of Sosrobahu technology was in 1988.

'€œMany people came to meet Dad after he discovered and then developed the Sosrobahu system. Soeharto awarded him the Bintang Pratama award. But the year before, while he was working on the Sosrobahu, we as children had to keep quiet so as not to disturb him. Mum said '€˜just be patient. We have to understand father. He has a big project. After it is finished you will know what he did.'€™ And what he did was amazing,'€ said Abi the day before his father'€™s cremation.

Sukawati'€™s dedication and passion were lessons for his children.

Abi said that his father was strict, asking his children to focus on achievement in their chosen fields. '€œHe was very wise '€” but very strict with discipline in areas such as punctuality. Also as Balinese and as members of a royal family, we must be polite and smile, even when our hearts are breaking, because we have a duty.'€

'€œWe have a heritage, but we also have a responsibility,'€ Abi, who studied fashion design in London, says.

'€œDad supported my choice of profession, even though I knew he wanted me to follow in his footsteps in engineering. But it'€™s the same '€” it'€™s all design,'€ Abi says. '€œDad designed flyovers for roads and I design fashion. As long as I could get good results from my endeavors, Dad backed my decision. He said whatever you want to do, if you are disciplined and focused, you will succeed.'€

Sukawati died on Nov. 11. His wife of 53 years, Tjokorda Istri Rai Pemayun, died two years ago.

'€œThey loved each other. They were together for 53 years. Incredibly Mum died on the 11th and it was also a Tuesday, like Dad. Mum died on a Tuesday morning and Dad in the evening. So their cremations, held 28 days after their passing, were also held on the same day and date, but on different years and months,'€ Abi said.

Sukawati was cremated on Tuesday with the honors given to national heroes. His body was carried on a 23-meter-tall bade, a richly decorated series of nine platforms representing the deceased'€™s high caste, across four villages by 400 men in rotation.

A greater memorial for one of Indonesia'€™s finest engineers are the flyovers and bridges built using the Sosrobahu in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the US.

'€” Photos by JB Djwan

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