The Jakarta Post
Catholic priest and cultural observer Mudji Sutrisno said the kampung had life wisdom ' words of truth that are given soul.
'The kampung has an intimate connection to the land it stands upon, bonded to the culture it brings up,'
he said during a recent discussion on the Jakarta Vertical Kampung at the Dutch cultural center, Erasmus Huis.
He said that decades of effort aimed at kampung improvement through the building of high-rise structures, such as low-cost apartments in Klender in East Jakarta and Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta, had failed.
'The structures were built without knowing who their future residents would be. I was among the many activists and artists who criticized its development,' Mudji said.
He said future urban improvement projects in the city should follow in the footsteps of renowned urban thinker Romo Mangun 'as the late Catholic priest, YB Mangunwijaya, was fondly called ' whose experimental architecture project in the Kali Code riverbanks community in Yogyakarta in the late 1980s was a success.
Romo Mangun's Kali Code project was defined by referring the architectural work to its contemporary context ' adjusting contemporary elements to the local, sometimes sacred values of the community.
The term 'kampung', which lite-rally means village, can also connote a slum or densely populated area usually marked by a lack of access to proper utilities or public services.
Eko Prawoto, an architect and lecturer at the Yogyakarta-based Duta Wacana University, said there was more to the kampung than the traditional definition.
'In the kampung, we find a complete system of social structure and culture. The kampung is a complete form; it already has everything in it,' Eko said.
What others may see as a jumbled mess, for example, is actually proof of the adaptive capacity and resilience of the kampung and its dwellers, he said.
'A kampung has a very elastic usage of space. An open area ' like its narrow alley or a small field ' can turn into a nursing area, a children's playground, a clothes drying area, a parking lot or a gathering place respective to the hour of the day,' he said.
In order to accommodate all who lived in it, the kampung utilized elements of rural culture in an urban setting: informality, communal facilities, little-to-no separation between public and private, multi function, time-sharing and spacesharing, Eko said.
'In light of this, why do we need to invent a new social structure? Why not begin from this?' Eko said, adding that vertical public housing was a solution to the lack of living space in Jakarta.
Shortly after being sworn into office late last year, Jakarta Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo laid out a plan to revitalize around 100 of the city's kampungs per year, with the aim of renovating 360 kampungs by the end of his first term in office.
In his vision of kampung revitalization, he aims to build elevated villages and riverbank villages, which he calls kampung susun and kampung deret, respectively.
The kampung susun are planned as inexpensive apartment complexes with dedicated public and commercial spaces, while the kampung deret will provide decent living places for the people currently residing in slums along the banks of the city's main rivers.
The governor hopes to relocate squatters to better dwellings as the city begins work to normalize 13 rivers running through the city, starting with the Ciliwung, Pesanggrahan, Angke and Sunter rivers.
Tens of thousands of squatters are currently living along the riverbanks illegally, causing a narrowing of the rivers and increased sedimentation.
'I think there is now momentum for all Jakartans to contribute to solving the city's problems,' Mudji said.
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