‘Tales of Kebayoran: The City of Independence’

Story By
Abimantra Pradhana (AGo Architects)

A story of a city finding its way to progress.

At the end of the 19th century and entering the 20th century, Jakarta's economy had grown rapidly with the development of the banking, mining, oil and business sectors needing offices and housing for their employees. The city of Batavia was already crowded and by 1940 the city's population had reached 700,000. Eight years later, it had increased to 1,174,252. It was impossible for Jakarta to accommodate such a large population without an expansion plan.

Initially, the Kebayoran area, which was 8 km from Merdeka square or 4.5 km from Jakarta and little more than a garden or rice field inhabited by Betawi natives, was the location for an international airport to replace the old Kemayoran airport which was built before the Second World War, and which hindered the expansion of the city to the east.

The plan was submitted to M. Soesilo, an engineer at the Centraal Planologisch Bureau and an architect who graduated from ITB as a student of Thomas Karsten. The master plan was later called Kebayoran Satellite City, an inaccurate term because according to city planning theory, a satellite city should be 15 km away and able to stand on its own.

The city of Kebayoran was planned with inspiration from the garden city concept, 45% of the area was designated for green open space, and the 17 blocks were mostly reserved for middle-class housing or company employees, along with guesthouses / flats for government employees. The Majestic cinema, houses of worship, office buildings, police offices, main market, and departmental offices were built to allow Kebayoran to be seen as an area with a variety of functions.

Initially, Kebayoran was planned to accommodate 100,000 people - which of course has now doubled – and the city that was initially meant for the middle class was eventually populated by the upper class who could afford to own a private vehicle as there was no public transportation. As a result, land prices increased and traffic jams in the middle of the city became common as people returned home to Kebayoran after office hours. Such were the origins of this classic problem.

Jengki House and Post-Independence Indonesian Architecture

As we entered the second half of the 20th century, the sovereignty of Indonesia's independence as the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia was fully recognized by the Dutch, Ir. Sukarno was appointed as president, and Jakarta officially became the nation's capital once more….and the Kebayoran City development project continued.

With the birthing of the new country, the middle-class continued to increase, the majority of whom were state or government officials, leaders or employees of oil and mining companies, and successful traders.

Architecture in Indonesia in the period 1950 - 1960 was also surprised by the emergence of Jengki structures. The appearance of the Jengki style was remarkably different when compared to previous architectural developments in which modern architecture was dominated by horizontal and vertical geometry.

It is not clear who created Jengki architecture, but I see a connection between the birth of a country, the emergence of an upper middle-class society, the construction of the new city of Kebayoran, and a group of young Indonesian architects. At this same time, many American architects arrived in Indonesia replacing the Dutch in teaching and practicing architecture. The word ‘Jengki’ itself comes from the American word ‘Yankee’.

Jengki architecture has a unique roof shape and geometry but at the same time it’s highly responsive to a tropical climate, as if rejecting a symmetrical order by shifting one side of the gable roof or tilting the front wall to form a pointed facade to the roof. The play of texture patterns and composition of openings on the wide side of the wall shows exploration and a high spirit of creativity. It is a symbol of freedom, free from Dutch influence, and now a free country.
 

Writer’s profile:

Abimantra Pradhana has over 15 years experience in the architecture industry, is a passionate architect, lecturer, and urban designer who constantly strives to bring an impact to the city with a considered archictectural approach. He is a certified architect and member of IAI (Ikatan Arsitek Indonesia).

A founder of AplusA architects in 2010, Abi became co-founder of AGo Architects in 2018. He is also a founder of SANA studio, a pioneer active lifestyle hub in Jakarta.

agoarchitecture.com