(Summer ’11) Stephen Kennedy G

Stephen Kennedy G and Alice will work with an urban development and design non-profit, Solo Kota Kita (Our City Solo). The internship will support the City Development Strategy project for three cities in Indonesia (Solo, Pekalongan and Banjarmasin), in collaboration with UN HABITAT and the Cities Alliance.

Blog Post 03: A portrait of production in Solo, Indonesia, July 27, 2011

As you read this, some of you may be sporting a pair of fresh Nike kicks, tapping away on your Apple laptop, or consuming countless calories via Starbucks’ latest flavored frozen coffee drink. Rarely do we stop and think about where these things come from or how they are produced. In our hyper-consumer world, it is easy to assume that machines mass-manufacture the things we use on a daily basis. While this may hold true for the cereal you ate for breakfast or the bus you rode to work, the story is a bit different in the developing world.

Throughout Solo, Indonesia, countless cottage industries cluster in distinctive neighborhoods to share resources and techniques. Because the city lacks the accessible natural resources on which many mid-sized Indonesian cities subsist (let’s save a discussion on palm oil production in Kalimantan for another day), small-scale production is integral to Solo’s local economy. The city has taken measures to ensure support for this scale of industry by actively limiting the development of malls and chain retailers and upgrading the traditional markets where these goods are sold.

Unlike the mega-factories of mass produced goods, places of production for hand-made goods also happen to be people’s homes. On an afternoon stroll (known colloquially as jalan jalan), you can stumble through the borough of birdcage makers, the blangkonquarter, and the stomping grounds of the shuttlecock crafters. Of key civic importance are the batik neighborhoods, which historically supplied the royal family with the highest quality of traditional Indonesian cloth.

The Solo Kota Kita (SKK) team recently visited several of these neighborhoods and met the people who make these products by hand. We learned quickly that the friendliness of Solo’s citizenry is surpassed only by their adeptness, ingenuity, and skill. Below are a few ‘portraits of production’ in Solo.

Above: This couple represents one of many families who live within several blocks of Solo where shuttlecocks are handmade. Each house produces, by hand, an astounding 3,600 shuttlecocks per week.

Above: Batik cloth production at Kanjaeng Suwarno’s batik workshop and in Laweyan, Solo’s 500-year-old batik neighborhood. At Pak Suwarno’s workshop, each classic design takes 2-3 months to hand draw and color through a series of wax-resist dying phases. This meticulous process results in batik of the highest quality.

Above: Slicing blocks of tempe for frying at our neighborhood warung. This woman is one of the most jovial people around and proudly proclaims a sing-song ‘terima kasih!’ every day after our lunch.

• See more photos and videos of our fieldwork in Solo.

• Get updates about Solo Kota Kita on our website or join the facebook group.

Blog Post 02: Breakfast by Boat in Banjarmasin, Indonesia, June 30, 2011

On our first morning in Banjarmasin the Solo Kota Kita (SKK) team awoke for a 5:00 a.m. breakfast at the morning market. Our route, however, denied our land-locked sensibilities and instead took us on a waterborne journey through the city’s extensive river network, passing under low-hanging bridges in the dark hour before sunrise. On either side of the narrow waterways we passed people bathing and brushing their teeth, getting ready for their morning work.

Our boat emerged from a small channel onto a much larger body of water. As our eyes adjusted to the dim morning light, a congregation of small boats appeared. Buyers and sellers jockeyed for position on the water to trade their fruits, vegetables, and handcrafts. We set our sights on the breakfast special: sprinkled donuts! Grab a stick, poke a pastry, and collect a cup of joe (Is coffee still called Java if the beans hail from Borneo?).

The reality is that a breakfast of this sort would have been unreachable via the congested roads of Banjarmasin. The white line indicates a potential land route one would take to get to the river market, while yellow indicates our waterborne route.

Breakfast by Boat in Banjarmasin, Indonesia The white line indicates a potential land route one would take to get to the river market, while yellow indicates our waterborne route. Click on the map to see it at full size.

Our river route brought us swiftly to the market using a means integral to the daily movement of people and goods throughout the city. Banjarmasin, the self-proclaimed “City of a Thousand Rivers,” sits just north of the Barito River’s mouth at the southern tip of Borneo, where the river empties into the Java Sea. Although the actual number of rivers running through the city falls quite short of the thousand declared, it quickly becomes apparent just how integral the river system is to the daily life of its citizens.

Around 500 km of rivers, canals, and tributaries course through the city and are used for transportation, cleaning, bathing, trade, recreation, production, fishing, and eating. Many of Banjarmasin’s urban poor have constructed their homes directly on the river’s edge, often extending well beyond to capitalize on direct access to water.

A snippet from our return journey, our first view in full light of the slum housing built up along the river.

The SKK team is spending a week in Banjarmasin doing initial fieldwork and data gathering for our second of three city profiles (read more about these from my first post on CoLab. The blog is also below this post) for UN-HABITAT.

Local planning officials are ambitiously reorienting the city towards its rivers, calling attention to pollution, bacteria, fires, and other vulnerabilities that plague the city’s most distinctive asset. In an effort to reestablish the riverbanks, some of the city’s measures to improve water quality and reinforce embankments also include slum clearing. While these measures reduce the physical vulnerability of the urban poor, we hope that the initiatives are sensitive to the economic and social repercussions of displacing people whose lives are so closely tied to the rivers. In many ways, it is their daily activities that impart the liveliness that gives Banjarmasin’s rivers its character.

Breakfast by Boat in Banjarmasin, Indonesia

See more photos and videos of our fieldwork in Banjarmasin.

• Get updates about Solo Kota Kita on our website or join the Facebook group.

Blog Post 01: Initial Impressions of “Our City Solo”, June 9 2011

Stephen Kennedy signing on from Solo, Indonesia! I am Master of City Planning student in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning. This summer, I am embarking on my first trip to Indonesia with fellow classmate Alice Shay, where we will be working with the organization Solo Kota Kita (“Our City Solo” in Bahasa, or SKK for short). We will be implementing a project for UN-Habitat, sponsored by the Cities Alliance, called “City Development Strategies: Making Urban Investment Work” that involves field work in the Indonesia cities of Banjarmasin, Pekalongan, and Surakarta (Solo).

The primary purpose of the project is to create city profiles to be used as facilitation documents for neighborhood-level planning and participatory budgeting in the fall of 2011. The profiles will provide each local community with a range of visual documentation, mapping, and analysis of urban issues related to development, environment, poverty, and local governance through the use of data, interviews, and field observation. We will be working with an interdisciplinary team to interpret and communicate urban patterns and potential futures in these three cities in a way that is user-friendly for government officials and the wider public alike.

• I am excited to work in a context of capacity building through this project. Our team will be bringing to the table a particular set of skills, but will also be focusing on enabling local community members to leverage their personal understanding of their community and improve their own skill sets. My personal draw to this project is in leveraging design primarily as a means for visualizing typically dense information about urban conditions. I believe strongly that visualization is integral to making information more accessible and increasing capacity for communities to engage in the processes shaping their environments.

• To kick off the project, Alice and I spent last week at Metropolitan Exchange, an architecture, urban planning, and research cooperative located in downtown Brooklyn, New York. Michael Haggerty, one of our project supervisors, led us on a crash course of Solo. We looked at the data and analysis developed by SKK last year, sketched new map overlays, and discussed our initial thoughts on development in this mid-sized city in Central Java.

• Can’t wait to share more about the city and our fieldwork over the course of the next two months!

• More information about Solo Kota Kita and their work in Solo can be found on their website.

• An extensive visual collection of Solo can be found on SKK’s Flickr page.

• Also, join the SKK Facebook group to get live updates and see what’s happening in the community.

• Information on UN-Habitat and City Development Strategies can be found here.

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