Title: Public Space Transformation in a Secondary City. The Role of Collective Space in the Boulevard Commercial Project of Manado - Indonesia
Other Titles: Openbare ruimte transformatie in een secundaire stad. De rol van collectieve ruimte in het Commercieel Boulevard Project in Manado - Indonesie
Authors: Susilo, Cynthia Ratih
Issue Date: 25-Jun-2015
Abstract: The new decentralization policy, which began in 2001, granted each of the 480 local Indonesian cities the right to manage their own fiscal and development policies. This new decentralization policy targeted the acceleration of development in cities in eastern Indonesia as a remedy for the long-standing retardation of physical, economic and social developments, which they suffered under the New Order regime. As a result, new local entrepreneurial regimes emerged. These local regimes attempted to attract as many big private investments as possible in order to stimulate the growth of each local economy. Inspired by Jakarta’s model of CBD or mixed-use commercial developments, ‘spectacular’ mega commercial projects become the most favourable means through which to win acknowledgement as a new rsquo; of inter-urban competition both at the national and regional levels in many intermediate and smaller size Indonesia’s cities.
As the second largest city in eastern Indonesia, Manado pioneered with the construction of a mega commercial project in this region through its Boulevard Commercial Project (BCP). Its advent generated a sudden transformation of its urban context and set the precedent in physical developments for its fellow eastern Indonesia’s cities. Soon, other eastern Indonesian cities follow the path of the BCP development of Manado. Since Eastern Indonesian cities have long been trapped in involution instead of evolution due to a large development gap which exists between the centre of the nation and its periphery. When a project like the BCP arrives to these cities, its arrival is regarded as evidence and as a symbol of development, urbanity andrsquo; that breaks with the past unequal history of their urban development. It is no wonder that their citizens enthusiastically occupy its space and interact with the project for their social activities. However, when a project of this type emerges suddenly, its impact could dramatically trigger fundamental transformation, especially on the everyday urban life of the local citizens, who previously lived in a more traditional and communal urban setting. The dynamic wave ofrsquo; brought about by this project is capable of reconfiguring routines of daily practices of the city, breaking up the existing mechanisms of inclusion-exclusion and introducing a new form of social interaction.
As a result, an interesting, but contested, urban reality follows the rise of Manado urbanity triggered by the BCP. Despite the popularity of the BCP, both local non-governmental organization activists and local academics constantly voices critiques concerning the impact of the BCP; among others, the impact of the BCP on urban space of Manado; which most particularly is related to the provision of space for public realms and activities. The advent of the BCP has often been portrayed as the space that further articulates inequality, causing fragmentation, disintegration and fractionation within the city of Manado, following expanding development gaps in Manado’s urban societies, and similar to other common critiques of mega commercial projects elsewhere. The problematic process of the establishment of the BCP, which involved forced relocations of fisherman communities, accompanies this issue. The BCP is also criticized as the cause of the decreasing importance of other existing public places, including the central role played by the previous city centre. The narration of rsquo; public space follows this issue, echoing the common discourse of profit-oriented mega commercial projects elsewhere.
On the other hand, more citizens have increasingly given positive responses to the BCP. In walking around Manado and asking youths, elderly, and those of age, about their favourite place in this city to socialize or merely spend free time outside the home, the majority, regardless of social class, refers to the BCP. This response includes the responses from those living in poor areas in Manado and in the settlements near the BCP. When questionnaires were completed by 217 respondents, randomly and equally distributed to three poor settlements, Tuminting, Wenang and Malalayang, 76% chose the BCP as the most favourable place at which they can involve themselves in social interactions, as well as engage in commercial and consumerist activities. Moreover, a significant number of daily, urban-scale activities involve a large number of diverse individuals, groups and communities frequently take place in the BCP. Nevertheless, neither is the BCP meant formally as a ‘public space’ nor is it owned by the public.
There appears to be a contradiction between the critique that portrays the BCP as an exclusive space for the upper classes and the reality in the field that shows the co-presence of diverse groups in the BCP. This contradiction reflects the complexity of the presence of the BCP, a complexity which opens up room for interpretation of this project. This contradiction also reveals the failure to connect the locally circulating discourses on the BCP on the one hand and the absence of research which is based on the actual observation on the uses, practices and discourses of the BCP on the other. Space [of the BCP] as it is experienced by the users and the citizens have never been observed based on its actual reality.
In this process, the interaction between the common users and this project has largely contributed to the (re-)shaping of the urban space and the meaning of each urban place. However, there has been a lack of actual research and observation concerning its presence, operation, contribution and its impact upon its urban context and on its local public realms. Most particularly with regard to the BCP, there is insufficient empirical research which addresses how the users and this project interact and what the meaning of this project is to its users without desiring to fall into rash, rsquo; judgments concerning the public-private space dichotomy.[i]Considering the significant impact this project could have on Manado’s future (and on the development of eastern Indonesia’s other cities), it is necessary to understand this dialectical urban transformation in its actual reality.
Observing public life experiences in the BCP area is the point of departure of this research since the mark of the way an urban society values its public life depends very much on its unique setting, cultures and time [generation] in each part of various urban spaces in the city (Carr, 1995:22). How the BCP interacts with the public life of Manadonese society, through its uses, practices and discourses, reflects the expression of the way this society values its public life. Furthermore, all of the complexities of urban societies are reflected through public realms (Madanipour, 2010: 1). Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that the initial purpose of the establishment of the BCP is a market-driven and profit-oriented one. The BCP will surely be framed as the antithesis of public space when judging it through normative ‘public’ and rsquo; categorization. This way of framing the BCP is insufficient to explain the presence of vibrant rsquo; activities that take place in the BCP along with the various backgrounds of its participants and visitors. Manuel de Sola-Morales has stressed the importance of ‘collective space’, by considering its potential and valuable contribution to the effort of the city in expanding places for social interactions (de Sola-Morales, 2008). An emphasis on redirecting attention towards the acts of ‘urbanizing the private’ is being promoted to support this view, (Hajer and Reijndorp, 2001:48; de Sola-Morales, 2008). By observing the BCP’s realms as collective spaces, with its dual natures, both public and private at the same time, an alternative way of seeing its role in everyday activities and in social and public life of the citizens becomes more apparent. The view through collective space provides wider lens for capturing the actual preferences of local citizens in ordinary Indonesian cities, most particularly in Manado, concerning actual space of their public [inter]actions, space appropriations and spatial practices that take place in the project. Additionally, by focusing on the case of the BCP, this dissertation simultaneously gives an actual contribution to the observation of urban transformation in Manado, in particular, and on the development of research on eastern Indonesia’s urbanity more generally.
Considering the aforementioned reason, it is necessary to observe the way in which this typical mega commercial project interacts with the local citizens in daily social and public realms of this ordinary [eastern] Indonesian city. Gaining an understanding of this interaction might provide the knowledge necessary to improve both the attractiveness of existing physical public space and the degree of access to the city’s collective spaces in which major public realms exist and spatial mediations are taking place. This dissertation attempts, therefore, neither to promote the concept of collective space nor to confront the concept of collective space with the concept of public space. Instead, it attempts to find a new inspiration in spatial practices in rsquo; life that take place in popular collective spaces of a mega commercial project so as to improve the quality of publicness of the future public and collective spaces. For this reason, these lessons are drawn by answering the following questions.What are the roles of the BCP’s collective spaces for Manado’s urban spaces? How have the BCP’s collective spaces been produced? What are the limitations of the BCP’s collective space? What can be learnt from the BCP Manado’s types of urban development for the future urban development of Manado and of eastern Indonesia in general [on its public space]?
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Architecture and Design (+)

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