City, Design, Sustainability

When I was asked to deliver a talk that concerns city, design, and sustainability, I right away browsed the various materials that I have in stock for such subjects, while thinking of a way to integrate them into a legible statement. Most of the audiences, I was told, were (design) students and young delegates from ASEAN countries, so I would have to take into account that not everybody is familiar with Bandung and all its characteristics. All presentation materials, of course, have to do with programs of Bandung Creative City Forum (BCCF), its programs and strategy to create a “creative city”. Here goes.

City - Design - Sustainability


Bandung in Brief

As the capital city of West Java Province, Bandung is populated by about 2,5 million people, of which almost 70% are below 40 years old. Historically, it was among the most cities favored by the Dutch colonial government due to its cool temperature, mountain scenery and hot water springs. It had more to offer: as a resource for quinine and pharmaceutical industry and tea and coffee plantations; it was the first city designed as a garden-city, and where Dutch-Indies architects built art deco buildings. In the 30s, the newest fashion could be found either in Paris or in Bandung, hence the nickname “The Paris of Java” for Bandung in those era. All these historical facts have left cultural heritage beyond mere physical buildings; they left a city whose people are used to having a variety of lifestyles and behaviors, including progressive development in many aspects.

Bandung Potentials

Bandung is located relatively near from Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. Surrounding the two cities are smaller towns with material and production resources, which have become an important part of business and R&D activities in Jakarta and Bandung. Among the advantages are easy accesses to material research, product development and production, market studies, manual skills, traditional and cultural resources, and many more, which are often required in creative activities. Therefore, the location of Bandung is much favorable, considering the surrounding resources and the distance to all these resources. Added by the condition of Bandung, which is known for its pleasant mountainous atmosphere, Bandung has its advantages as a Place where creative endeavors are supported and encouraged.

Since the establishment of the first higher education in engineering in Bandung, the city has become home for about 50 universities and other higher education institutions, both for vocational and academic/research levels. These schools have attracted young, talented people from all over the place, who represent the diversity of Bandung citizens. These generations also possess an abundance of energy and ideas. They commonly gather with people who share similar interests, conducting joint programs and numerous activities in various scales, and holding them in many spots in Bandung. The facts that communities in Bandung are high in number and are very active have lead to the conclusion that the main potentials of Bandung are its People and Ideas, added by the advantage of Bandung’s location and condition: Place. The slide that shows four main programs of BCCF (Helarfest, Kampung Kreatif, Simpul Institute, DesignAction.bdg), with their general road map, gives a picture of how these programs work closely to the field of design and creativity.

Design for the City

How is Design contributing to the development of a city and its sustainability? The following slides attempt to answer this question through examples taken from BCCF programs. Presented here are three functions of Design: as a tool, as a practice, and as a method. Firstly, as a tool, the design of our city branding .bdg has taken effect as a code that unify the different creative communities in Bandung, who can still present their individual identity while having also a collective identity as originated from Bandung (by the community’s name before the [dot], and by the “bdg” that follows). As commonly conducted when defining a brand, prior studies on positioning, values, personality, etc. were explored as well, to find the real soul of Bandung, before translating all these manifestations to a visual form: a logo, a brand and its activations that represent the city.

Secondly, as a practice, design for a city can come in many forms, purposes, and scales.

  1. RekaKota project during Semarak.bdg in 2010, where several public spots in the city were each assigned to a group of designers/artists. Each group designed either a shelter, a smoking corner, a public bench, and so on, depending on the particular spot. RekaKota is among the first BCCF events that attempted to implement a collaboration among designers, business sector, and the government, by offering the public facility designs to a brand or company who would invest in producing the facilities while also subtly promoting their brand, and by having the government’s decision to give permission to the location and the facilities, and for tax reduction if the facilities are considered as an advertisement for the brands.
  2. Bandung Public Furniture projects in Helarfest 2008 and 2009, where industrial design students, lecturers and professionals designed and produced a variety of public furniture and put them in public spaces (open space in malls, public parks, etc.). The products had unusual functions and shapes, compared to the benches commonly found in public areas in Bandung, and it was interesting to observe how people appreciate and interact with these products. This project has gradually proven that well-designed products can add to the pleasant experience of people towards their built environment.
  3. An infographic poster from Regia event in 2013 that was published in Pikiran Rakyat, the biggest newspaper in West Java, informed its reader about Babakan Siliwangi World City Forest in Bandung: the dominant tree species, its Oxygen production, its function as a transit place for migrating birds, and so on. Through this clear and easy-to-read graphics, people are expected to gain information and affection towards the subject at the same time, and – in this case – to be aware and care more about Bandung’s only city forest.
  4. Regia in 2013 contained several sub-events, among which one was Forest Dining, where Baksil ForestWalk was turned into a dining place, collaborating with a nearby restaurant. This environment design provided a new experience in dining, where the “floors” were elevated wooden planks and the “walls” were huge, living trees with its hanging roots, leaves and branches, lightened by random colorful spotlights. Furthermore, another Regia sub-event was going on at the same time: Blues Leuweung, where live blues music performed at Sanggar Olah Seni, a cluster of art studios located at the periphery of the forest, and its sounds reached the ForestWalk, which added to this unique dining atmosphere.

All in all, “design for the city” that are presented here can be seen not as a mean to merely decorate or beautify a place. Design is meant to provide proper interaction between people and their surrounding objects and environment, to give clear information inclusively, and to create pleasant experiences for citizens in conducting their daily lives in the city. All design projects by BCCF aim to make urban life more enjoyable.

Thirdly, design as a method to solve problems in the city. DesignAction.bdg (DA.bdg) program at BCCF is a workshop-conference that applies design thinking method to find innovative solutions for urban issues, involving the four stakeholders of a city: the government, business sector, academics and communities. The first DA.bdg in 2013 focused on urban mobility issues, where all participants tried walking, taking angkot and bus, and riding bicycles in the city in the observation/empathy phase. The process continued with re-framing up to prototyping, where participants in groups presented and role-played their recommendations to solve urban mobility problems. DA.bdg2013 had about 250 participants from all stakeholders (government, business sector, academics and communities) who gathered for three full days and interacted intensively with each other; an opportunity that seldom comes. The “creative process” that is commonly used to solve design problem is now no longer the domain for designers only, but can be applied to other conditions, including an urban setting, and even to rethink about policies and regulations, to find where bottom-up and top-down solutions can meet, and so on.

What about the Sustainability?

The term “sustainability” refers to the three aspects of Environment, Economy, and Social-Culture. “Design for the City” by BCCF includes these three aspects as well, in the form of the target of each program: Footprints. The slide that contains BCCF strategy to create a “creative city” describes that all BCCF programs and activities aim to leave either one or more of these footprints:

  • Economic: local people or communities should be able to gain an entrepreneurial mindset and to gradually self-sustain themselves by relying on their own skills and efforts
  • Social-Cultural: local people or communities should be able to express themselves and explore their own characteristics inclusively, particularly through creative activities
  • Environmental/ Artifact: there should be a physical object/ artifact that not only reminds the people/ communities about their creative potentials, but also becomes a tool for their creative expressions, while maintaining the quality of their living habitat

The previous examples left these footprints in various forms:

  • .bdg left a city brand and its activations; it gained a sense of belonging towards the city from the different communities; it also accumulated a sense of Pride that we all a part of Bandung; and it encouraged Bandung citizens to be aware of their identity.
  • Public facility projects left a number of physical objects that have improved the urban experience in Bandung, both for citizens and visitors; the project even led to a change of policy at the municipal level concerning creative expressions in public spaces.
  • Design thinking workshop basically provides a new method of solving problems by exploring the creative potentials from all stakeholders of a city, from different backgrounds and disciplines, since this is how usually innovations emerge.

It can be seen in the slide that contains a few of BCCF portfolio since its establishment in 2008: programs and events that were held to respond to, or attempted to find solutions for, a number of urban issues (in the red circles in the middle): green open space, urban mobility, entrepreneurship, public space, heritage buildings, etc. The processes and results are prototypes and recommendations for the city government and all stakeholders, especially seen from the community level, on how people can contribute to many aspects of a city. All programs and events leave the aforementioned footprints; some are better-maintained than the rest, which proves that they all require active participations from all stakeholders of the city.

Conclusively, it is proven that Design can play an important part in a City development: as a tool, a practice or a method. It so happens that Bandung has this potential at a superior level, therefore we – communities – have been using this strength to build our own living spaces, to make them more pleasant. The Sustainability takes place when all stakeholders understand and are willing to contribute to creating a Liveable, Lovable Bandung! 🙂

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