Seafront, our public space

A seafront is not just a waterfront. Open sea has been bringing people to and from distant lands and cultures for millenia. It shows us horizon,too. Most cities evolved from this disposition into a cosmopiltan nature. They owe their seafronts for open mindedness through meetings of different peoples, and for wealth gained from trade. It is a blessing for a city, when it still offers a daily touch with the sea to its population.

One of such city is Manado. I first visited it in early 1990s, when they were starting to reclaim its seafront. There was then a promise of a modern waterfront to replace the old, gently curving, publicly open Strand Boulevard, now named Jalan Piere Tendean. Strand is a dutch word which means beach. The proposed new waterfront was a developmentalist malvision which was difficult to resist back then. Then was the time when the term public-private-partnership was introduced.

After almost twenty years, the promise is not delivered. The former Strand Boulevard no longer borders the water directly. Between them there are now five or six chunks of commercial lands reclaimed from the sea. The new seafront is a jagged discontinuous edge.  Each of the reclaimed lands draws its own border with the sea, and is accesible separately through its own paying gates. Is it privately public or publicly private? The government was given 16 % of each reclaimed land. But these public parts are not connected to each other, as each of them is located separetly within or next to the private lands. There is provision for streets along the waterfront of all reclaimed lands, but they are not all connected.

Manado, June 7, 2011

It is on this issue of form that we regret that no social-cultural idea of public life along the seafront was concsiously conceived. Architecture, that dimension of space that embodies social-cultural ideas, is here merely seen as a consequence, an afterthought, rather than a pre-conceived goal in itself.

What about Jakarta?

Jakarta has a standing reclamation project. Those against it, including the former minister of environment, has quoted ilegal procedure and eco-social issues, had brought it to the court. The Supreme Court decided in favour of Jakarta Government and the companies that hold the concessions.  The reclamation project need to request new permits to continue. Apparently there is room to rekindle new debate. Jakarta government would like to integrate it into adaptation strategy to face climate change. I would like to promote the issue of quality of the seafront as our public space, in terms of access and forms. Jakarta has 30 km length of seafront. It is an incredible blessing. But, how much can we access freely, and how often can we see the sea in our daily life in this metropolis?

This entry was posted in Architecture, Jakarta, Nature and Environment, Urban Development, Urban Life. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Seafront, our public space

  1. Jason says:

    I wholly agree. The commercial complexes along the Boulevard have blocked the public from what could have been its greatest asset, the beach. I have always envisioned the Boulevard to look like the beach along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. The public access white sand beach would stretch for miles, providing economic and recreation sources for its citizens and tourists alike. From Rio to Chicago, we can see the benefits public beaches bring to their coastal cities.

    True, what the government of Manado did _was_ good for the city back then. The commercial areas provide jobs and commercial boost for the city. The public, however, was supposed to be given an antidote for the commercial side-effects with Boulevard 2, a proposed road that run along the Boulevard, behind the shopping establishments. It does not look ever going to materialize.

    Which leaves us an irony. Back before the Boulevard, the coastal area of this city is considered backwater. Hundreds of small houses and fishermen’s huts scatter along the beach, trash and dog droppings dot the narrow alleys off Sam Ratulangi Street, the main thoroughfare. Now that the malls and the shops have been built, will the coast again be at the fringe, as backwater where the drainage ends?


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