Urban Acupuncture: Cikapundung

Notes about the current condition of Cikapundung, as told by an inhabitant

This is a note from an urban acupuncture workshop (held on August 10, 2011), the first one I ever attended, which focused on Cikapundung River that runs across Bandung, West Java, which is actually an important waterline where early citizens of Bandung started to settle. As with a human body, an urban acupuncture is also similar to piercing and fixing ‘nerves’ where problems exist, within an urban area. It doesn’t try to solve everything all at once, but by taking it spot by spot, as it is conducted by individuals and communities, not by an established (government) institution who has the means to make significant changes.

In order to gain different angles in looking at the problems and, consequently, a variety of conclusions, people from different disciplines and interest groups were invited. There were participants from Komunitas Sahabat Kota, House the House, National Geographic, Kompas, WALHI, Bandung Heritage, LABO, students from School of Business and Management, Industrial Design, Architecture, etc., as well as local inhabitants of Cikapundung River, who became the main keys of our workshop.

Notes about the current conditions of Cikapundung River

The workshop started with an introduction to the area. Although most of us have known Cikapundung, or at least parts of it, it was still an eye-opener to watch photos of how the river has been treated, how it used to be, and its current conditions in different parts. It was especially capturing to watch a video of the whole river (taken in 1998, before the existence of Cipularang Highway and Pasupati Brigde), starting from its spring at the Northern part of Bandung, to where it ends at the South upon meeting the bigger Citarum River before flowing into the sea. Even then we could see parts of the riverbanks that were still lavishly green (i.e. within the zoo property), and where they were being pressed by housings and massive constructions (i.e. next to an expanding shopping center).

Notes from Nicolas Buchoud’s presentation

An extra material for the workshop was a presentation by Nicolas Buchoud, a “senior French urban development expert and planner from Paris, France” (quoted from the invitation). At that moment, Nicolas is a guest of Urbane, who initiated the Urban Acupuncture workshop. Nicolas gave an overview about urban planning and projects he has done, but it is important to note, he said, that he was not going to tell us what to do with Cikapundung since he doesn’t know better than us about the site, and that it’s us who knows best about what we want with that part of our city.

A direct visit in the afternoon to a part of Cikapundung was scheduled as a session of that workshop. However, due to time limitation, we had to cancel the site visit and worked right away on the discussion instead. It was a playful discussion session. Here’s how it went:

Notes about the design requirements

Ridwan Kamil, architect/principal of Urbane, who led the workshop, explained the actual potentials of Cikapundung River, divided into a number of purposes. The purposes don’t have to be entirely separated, but can also be overlapping one another. Since we only had less than three hours to hold the discussion and present the results, only one purpose or theme of the river was chosen: river play.  In three groups, we were asked to come up with a design that accommodates people’s needs to interact with the river in a playful way, such as games or other kinds of fun attractions. Among the requirements was that our proposals should be feasible, or affordable and can be realized within about five weeks.

We were given papers and colorful markers to draw our ideas and plans. The group I took part with had a local Cikapundung inhabitant as a member, who could tell us what has been done and what could be possible, which helped us a lot in mapping out possibilities.

Notes about possible themes for riverside activities

At the end of the discussion session, each group was to present its designs. We really came up with a high variety of games and activities, involving not only the local communities but also visitors, either individually or in groups. The activities ranged widely, from leisure walks and ‘treasure hunt’ to adrenaline-rushing plots and energy-taxing games, which didn’t necessarily require ‘buildings’ or massive structures – some proposals even came in the forms of play-rules and systems.

Considering the time span we had, of course all results were at their initial phase that still needed a lot of substantial improvements. However, we have experienced a participatory design process in a pleasant way.

Closing the workshop, also while waiting for the sun to set as a sign to break the fast, Nicolas gave his evaluation about the workshop and about Cikapundung River in general. He drew over a GoogleEarth-projected image of Cikapundung River from North to South and put colorful stick-on strips at a number of points along the river: bright yellow for ‘average pressure’ and pink for ‘high pressure’.

Among the most important points he mentioned were as follows:

–       Along the river, we could see a lot of massive structures and buildings that will never be altered or disturbed, such as ITB campus, the city hall, and so on, around that area, which formed the ‘strong’ points of the river. We could also see that there are ‘weak’ points that can easily push the river to oblivion. The river could one day be a mere sewer if we don’t take care of it.

–       The weak points are, among others, the squatters and semi-legal housing along the riverbanks, and the greeneries that belong to established properties such as the zoo and the sport field. These points are obviously threatened by the expansion of Cihampelas commercial district.

–       One suggestion would be for independent communities to take over the weak points by collaborating with the proprietors of the greeneries sites, in order to strengthen the river line.

–       Another suggestion would be for communities to inform the (semi-legal) inhabitants along the river, who are the actual guardians of the river whose lives depend on it, that if they want to stay there, they should really take care of the river. Keep the river clean and flowing, free of garbage and foul smell, pleasant to look at and be around with.

All in all, the workshop was a productive one. We realized that this once was obviously not enough, that there should be follow-ups and a lot of works, until our hope and ideas for Cikapundung become concrete.

Related links:

– An article in Pikiran Rakyat about the workshop (in Indonesian): Cikapundung Tertata Bisa Jadi Ikon Bandung di Mancanegara

– An article in this site about Ridwan Kamil’s presentation concerning the subject of design & sustainability: Negotiating A New Indonesia

All scribbles were made during the workshop, using Penultimate on iPad2

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