Sunday, June 22, 2014

The need to revitalize Jakarta Kota Tua

The Kota Tua Creative Festival 2014 has given a sneak peek of what Old Town (Kota Tua) could be if it was developed into the capital’s creative hub.

Visitors and participants of the festival shared the same vision — that the historic city be revived into a creative cultural center. 

Pawestri Nurlevia, a 27-year-old visitor, said on Saturday she hoped the designs exhibited in an architecture exhibition, one of many in the festival, could be realized.

“The city would look beautiful and attractive if the old buildings were renovated and used for creative activities,” she said.

The exhibition, curated by Yori Antar and themed “Jakarta Old Town Reborn: 7 Projects for the City”, showed alternative designs to revitalize the old buildings scattered around Old Town, suggesting that the old buildings could be used as museums, art galleries, homestays, restaurants and art activity centers.

Pawestri, who has been living in the capital city for several years, said that she loved hanging out at Old Town but that activities were limited. “We usually only visit museums. If there was more going on, like music concerts, it would be more fun,” she said.

Pawestri said that the city administration could improve the environment by planting more trees and regulating street vendors. 

“I agree if the city administration wants to turn the area into a pedestrian area,” she said, adding that it would be heavenly if she could take a stroll without being honked at by motorists. 

The same sentiment was echoed by another visitor, a 21-year-old architecture student named Bondan. Although he had driven to Old Town, he said he would be glad to park outside the old city and walk to enjoy the architectural scenery of the buildings.

“The city administration should simply provide parking outside the area,” he suggested.

Bondan also agreed that Old Town should became the new center of the creative industry. “Art performances, for example, would attract more visitors,” he said.

Many parties have been trying to enliven the decaying Kota Tua by holding cultural events and art performances, including the two-day festival.

The festival, organized by, among other organizations, the Indonesian Diaspora Network, was held on Saturday and Sunday, presenting various events, including exhibitions of contemporary art, architecture, photography and Indonesian railways; community activities like creative cooking demonstrations; and art performances and installations.

The initiator of the event, Diana Ang, said the festival intended to improve the public space in Jakarta. 

Diana said the committee chose Old Town as it had a uniqueness that could not be replicated in other places. “We want to create a space where people can feel an attachment to the place,” she said.

Regarding the concept, Diana said organizers focused on the creative industry because they believed creativity was needed to revive the area. 

“We have to adjust by respecting the past but having an imaginative future,” she said.

Diana also said she hoped that by participating in the festival, the visitors could feel the life of the old city.

Acting Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama said after visiting the architecture exhibition that he was grateful to the committee for the event, adding that events such as the festival could enliven the city. 

Seeing the suggested renovation plans for the old buildings, Ahok said he would push the owners of the buildings to make it happen.

“If they agree to renovate the buildings, the city administration will give them incentives. However, if they refuse to renovate them, I will increase the land and building tax by 10 times,” he said.

Ahok said if the owners were unable to revitalize the buildings, the city administration would buy them at the market price.

“We also will give a guarantee that the city administration will take care of infrastructure like roads and parking lots,” he said.
Old Town comprises hundreds of historic buildings, most of which are abandoned and decaying without proper maintenance.(Jakarta Post)

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