by Apurva Bose DuttaJun 03, 2019
On city planning (Macro point of view)
This opinion is based on keenly observing our surroundings in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, which is now under partial lockdown (large-scale social restriction). This pandemic has forced people to live their lives differently by being healthier and self-conscious, which hopefully will be the new, better life style. As most people now work from home, they go out more and spend time on the streets (around or inside their housing complexes) either just to get some sun or to do some light sports. We realised that the small food stalls and mobile street vendors are surviving, whereas shopping malls are closed. The interest for urban farming is suddenly growing. People are practicing micro urban farming in their courtyard, growing plants of chilli, kale, spinach and catfish, and are selling them to their neighbours. The production of slow food is actually happening around here, where the source of the ingredients or the produce is occurring directly next to our own kitchens. This is the future, where a neighbour can be an agent selling goods directly from farmers. Whoever requires rice or meat can order collectively from the agent before the farmers can send the order in bulk. Hence, we can get food essentials and ingredients for lower prices than the supermarket.
As mentioned by Singgih Kartono (1), a product designer and entrepreneur from Temanggung, Central Java, we believe that the future is the past in a new form. The above examples have been around for quite some time, even before we were hit by this pandemic. It grows organically as a part of our nation’s character ethos ‘gotong royong’ (cooperation by members of a community to achieve a common goal). In an urban context like Jakarta’s, city planning will be much more important than ever and it must take these organic and informal elements into consideration. The city planning should not only be based on the commercial investment, it also needs to refocus on the social purpose.
As people will be walking and travelling by bike more, a well-integrated pedestrian walkway, crossing and bike lane are very much needed. Infrastructure such as the linkages and the open spaces in between, which connect buildings, are as important but not more important than the building itself. It is in these spaces where the social interaction is happening. Learning from the condition of this pandemic, people will rethink they way in which they gather in large enclosed spaces like shopping malls or supermarkets. Hence, instead of investing in shopping malls, people will invest into small stalls that exist at shop houses in the main streets or in the parking lots. We have already observed from our F&B projects that the ones who have an option to move to online food delivery service have more chances to survive.
We hope to see a collective push from all parties to create a built environment with social purposes such as public parks, open spaces, shuttle buses and space to accommodate the small food businesses in the street that are currently surviving and provide the new normal facilities such as hygienic booths and hand-wash counters in the public areas.
The government should give incentives to owners and tenants who utilise heritage buildings for private or public use. Precedents like M Bloc (2) in Kebayoran, Jakarta by Arcadia Architects, which sparks more social interaction, should be encouraged and supported to promote preservation and restoration in the city.
Away from the urban context in Indonesia, small towns have many chances to develop their potential based on their own character. For example, what Singgih Kartono and his community has done to promote Pasar Papringan (3) in Temanggung, Central Java is inspiring. This type of approach that suits the character of the place developed by the local residents, led by a respectful figure, can be the future of many small towns that are currently wide spread across the Indonesian archipelago.
On virtual design (Micro point of view)
Our approach has always been to first and foremost understand the character of each individual client as well as the site that we will be working on. In our view, design is fundamentally about problem-solving. It is really the traditional approach of site visits and meetings with clients to fully understand the brief and distilling all aspects to create a well-considered approach that make each project unique. In addition, we are always keen to showcase local materials and craftsmanship whenever it suits the context of the project. This often requires a tedious process of testing and evaluating mockups and samples, not only at the workshops but also at the construction sites.
With physical distancing still being followed for a while, it will be quite a challenge for us to continue the normal design process that we earlier followed. We realise that we need to be resilient and we might have to approach projects differently now.
Currently, following the guidelines of the partial lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic, we are practicing this approach. As per the standard processes that we follow, we begin the project with a client consultant meeting and site visit. However, at the moment, we are using sharing platforms instead of physical sessions. We realise that we need to evaluate and create detailed and precise drawings to make them effective and communicate the right information and to explain our design intentions clearly. With this intent, we hope to minimise on-site adjustments and if we need to visit the site, the meeting can be quick and directly point out and solve the problems right away.
As for the materials to be approved, this is something that is a bit tricky, especially in case of natural materials. Materiality is an important aspect and an integral part of our design. If there is a possibility to be sent for direct evaluation that would help, otherwise this will be done through creative photos and/or videos.
The key to this approach would be to be more efficient and avoid customisation. We need to create more modular construction and use prefabricated materials more creatively. We have been using this method for some of our projects, however, this pandemic has made us think harder on how to further streamline to create truly efficient projects. We are quite optimistic that in the future, we can use this approach to many small, medium and large-scale projects.
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