Elective Affinities: Architecture across Scales in the Contemporary City

I had the privilege and the opportunity to attend another Urban Seminar by Harvard Graduate School of Design on February 24th, 2016 at Ritz Carlton, Pacific Place. The speaker was Felipe Correa, Associate Professor of Urban Design and founder of Somatic Collaborative. He was in Jakarta to showcase his studies on Jakarta with Harvard GSD Students invited by Aecom and to present one of his projects called A Line in The Andes. In that particular project, he was asked to design a public transportation system in the city of Quito, some 2500 meters above sea levels and over two North and South townships. The challenge of the project was the terrain and the MRT line cannot be designed as a straight line as a result. His most striking quote of the night was when he cited that “Political Objective has to align with Design Objective”. This particular quote strike a chord with me since I think Jakarta and its political leaders for the last 20 years have mucked up Jakarta so bad in terms of its urban development (or lack thereof) that it feels somewhat impossible to untangle the knotted wires. The uncontrolled immigration, the non-existent of public transportation development until recently, the surging of middle class and their fixation on cars, the lack of education of Jakarta inhabitants and the lack of organized urban and city planning have seriously put Jakarta near the bottom of every Livability studies. Traffic and pollution is standard daily conditions for commuters (with its 20-30 millions population including Tangerang, Bekasi, Depok and Bogor). Annual flooding during the rainy season has been a staple and expected condition for most of the population.

In their studies, the Harvard GSD Students that helped with their research and presentation oddly did not provide any solutions on their boards but they have meticulously displayed the chronological and historical development of Jakarta for the past 300-400 years. I hope they will continue their research and provide us with a meaningful solution that is urgently needed.