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A Model of Indonesian City Structure

Nov 15, 2014




A Model of Indonesian City Structure Larry R. Ford Geographical Review, Vol. 83, No. 4. (Oct., 1993), pp. 374-396.Stable URL: Geographical Review is currently published by American Geographical Society.

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With approximately thirty cities of more than a quarter-million population, including seven with more than one million, Indonesia is a primary focus for the study of the city in Southeast Asia. By occupying a position midway between the hyperdevelopment of Singapore and the isolation of Burma, Indonesian cities provide insight into both continuity and change in the region. A morphological model identifies political and economic trends that influence urban form through time. Based chiefly on large, coastal provincial capitals, the model applies in some degree to all cities in Indonesia.ABSTRACT.

NDONESIA is the fourth-largest country in the world, with an area of almost 2 million square kilometers and more than 185million inhabitants. More than 50 million Indonesians are classified as urban, a figure that is expected to increase to more than 70 million by 2000. It is estimated that in 1992 Indonesia had seven urban areas surpassing one million people and twenty-two other cities with populations in excess of 250,000 (Sensus penduduk 1990). Many Indonesian cities have been expanding very rapidly in recent years, with a few exceeding a growth rate of 6 percent annually. An important limitation in examining urban trends outside the largest cities is that only fifty-foururban places, a small minority of the total, have municipal status, which means that they are the only ones with official boundaries and population counts. Most population clusters, even some with more than 100,000 people, are still categorized as desas, or collections of villages, and lack local government. They are administered from the provincial or higher level of authority. In 1980,Indonesia had an estimated three hundred urban places with more than 20,000 people (Hamer, Steer, and Williams 1986). In other words, if anything, the degree of urbanization in Indonesia is underestimated. Indonesia is not a homogeneous country: diversity includes numerous cultural groups and a territory that is a vast archipelago. Its cities reflect this diversity. On Javaand Sumatra urbanization dates back to the eighth century A.D., when Srivijaya,near present-day Palembang, was the center of a trading empire on the Strait of Malacca. For the next five centuries, various inland sacred or palace Hindu-Buddhist cities dominated the islands that constitute Indonesia (Reed 1976). Mataram, Kediri, Borobudur, and, more recently, Jogjakarta and Solo are examples of the once Indianized, but now Islamic, cosmic cities on Java alone. Traditional, religious-inspired urban form still characterizesa few settlements, most notably the sultan's capital of Jogjakarta,-


DR. FORDis a professor of geography at San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182.Copyright O 1993 by the American Geographical Society of N e w York



and this form is also a feature of some coastal trading cities that are now common throughout the urban hierarchy. Most of the large coastal cities are provincial capitals. Given the far-flung and disconnected physical geography of Indonesia, the role of regional centers is especially important, from Medan in North Sumatra to Manado in North Sulawesi. The central government has long been caught in a dilemma over the role of these disparate capitals. On the one hand, the most efficient way to control an effective national territory in a new and somewhat arbitrarily defined country is to create a system of dynamic, reasonably autonomous cities. They would provide the needed infrastructure to help spread the fruits of economic development throughout the country and would minimize the core-periphery problem of hypergrowth in Jakarta, the national capital. On the other hand, Indonesia has long been reluctant to encourage too much regional autonomy because of troublesome secessionist movements, especially in the country's remote extremities (Drake 1989). The central government carefully controls linkages such as international air routes and trade patterns, although in recent years this grip has loosened to the benefit of regional cities. There are many pros and cons in the development of strong regional capitals, and ideological positions play an important role. In recent years, the central government has strongly favored more regional autonomy and economic equality, so numerous smaller cities are growing. The number of complicated governmental regulations that encourage, or even require, industries to locate at or near Jakarta in order to interact with decision makers has been reduced. Financing procedures have been deregulated and liberalized, and banking has become nearly ubiquitous because foreign banks are now free to open branches in cities other than Jakarta. As a result, many regional centers are now expanding more rapidly than is the capital. Medan, for example, is one of the fastest growing major cities in the world, and many of the smaller, resource-rich cities on Kalimantan and Sulawesi are booming as well. Relatively little is known about the form and structure of Indonesian cities. In view of the increasing importance of urban Indonesia, I propose a morphological model that can shed light on the processes shaping them. Models have a way of developing a life of their own as they are reproduced through the years. T. G. McGee (1967) used the phrase "generalized diagram of main land use areas" rather than the term model to describe Southeast Asian urban form. Although I am fully aware of the shortcomings as well as the heuristic value of such models, I propose one specifically for Indonesian cities to generalize about the components of urban morphology and the processes affecting their spatial arrangement and to initiate theoretical discourse. Morphological models are meant not to be finished products or empirically accurate representations but rather to serve as frameworks for asking questions.


Because most rapidly growing Indonesian cities, large or small, are coastal commercial centers established by colonial or at least extralocal powers such as Islamic traders, they provide the basis for the discussion of the development of my model. Although the coastal cities share many morphological and functional arrangements with the cities of the interior and even with the carefully designed palace cities, the discussion of generalized Indonesian city structure focuses primarily on Jakarta, Semarang, Surabaya, Medan, and, to a lesser extent, Padang and Ujung Pandang. Because of its role in a highly centralized political and economic system, Jakarta must be given extraordinary importance in the development of any model. Here were first laid out the basic plans that would define the character of an Indonesian city. In general, what happened first in Jakarta appeared later, at least to some degree, in most other Indonesian cities (Cobban 1976; Abeyasekere 1987; Leinbach 1987). The initial form of most Indonesian coastal cities reflected some aspect of foreign urban ideology. Several cities, among them Demak, Benten, Aceh, Surabaya, and Makasar, were large Islamic centers before the coming of Europeans, and most of them underwent some degree of destruction and reorganization during the colonial period (Reed 1980).By the 1700s, Jakarta, Semarang, and Surabaya each had central areas modeled after ideal Dutch port cities, complete with canals, city walls, cathedrals, and townhouse architecture. Interior towns such as Bogor and Bandung, on the other hand, were designed as highland resorts with large estates and gardens. Still others, such as Medan, were founded as ideal agricultural service centers. In each case, European, especially Dutch, ideal landscapes were imposed on alien cultural and physical environments. Those aesthetic features led to problems as the cities grew. For example, the canals of Jakarta quickly became sluggish, malaria-infested disamenities rather than Dutch-style open spaces, and the city became infamous for its rich variety of diseases. Similarly, the tall, closed, heavy architecture introduced by the Dutch proved to be highly inappropriate in the equatorial climate of Java. The Dutch controlled the cities, but few Dutch lived in them. In 1673, only 2,000 of the 27,000 people who lived in Jakarta wer

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