Living in metropolitan cities like Jakarta and Beijing, one would often feel helpless witnessing spatial rights taken away in front of their eyes. In these cities, many public spaces are governed by private institutions that restrict access of the public while the free ones are inadequate, constantly diminished and being replaced. In South Jakarta, Jakartans have nowhere to walk [...] One’s right to public space is a vital part of creating social infrastructure, which is often overlooked yet has been proven to be crucial in improving civic life (Klinenberg). In cities that are more designed for cars and economic capitals rather than its inhabitants, the resort lies in the connection between existing informal community spaces to rebuild the city’s social networks.
By Keara Cormier-Hill. Harvard GSD. Published: Fall 2018
Our contemporary world, with its dynamism and plurality, is a battleground governed through bureaucratic hierarchy where one’s personal voice is submerged by the importanceof many, or the important. Even though we have enjoyed much sovereignty in a digital society, the advancement of technology pushes this phenomenon more, leaving one to feel even lonelier—no longer submerged but lost in the sea of connectionsand urban strangers.
Living in metropolitan cities like Jakarta and Beijing, one would often feel helpless witnessing spatial rights taken away in front of their eyes. In these cities, many public spaces are governed by private institutions that restrict access of the public while the free ones are inadequate, constantly diminished and being replaced. In South Jakarta, Jakartans have nowhere to walk. They have to drive even within a 5-minutewalk, as sidewalks are taken by parking lots and commercial sites. In Wudaokou, Beijing, people have no place to sit, as local cafes and bookstores are being replaced by expensive and exclusive restaurants. One’s right to public space is a vital part of creating social infrastructure, which is often overlooked yet has been proven to be crucial in improving civic life (Klinenberg). In cities that are more designed for cars and economic capitals rather than its inhabitants, the resort lies in the connection between existing informal community spaces, such as cafes and art centers, to rebuild the city’s social networks.
While the digital social platforms constantly disconnect people from reality, one cannot deny that everyday apps like Google Maps and Yelp also make life easier. Thus, the progress and turn to the digital world may be geared as a solution to the falling of social infrastructure. The problem with such apps is that they are designed for efficiency rather than quality, rendering information without hierarchy and resulting in a virtual world where there is no need or desire to maintain physical social infrastructure. How can digitalsocial platforms be used to connect people to rebuild social infrastructure and the city?
Our goal is to study how media can enhance solidarity by creating effective networks in reality. We created a website called JOURNEY that enables people to express their opinions on urban environments and find places to meet other people with similar motivations. Our project was inspired by bottom-up urban movements, such as LA Urban Rangers and Death Café. The former develops guided tours to spark creative explorations of everyday habitat while the latter hostssmall events in local cafes around the world to discuss death and live a better life. We also look into AR game Ingress for location-based social platforms.
In this project, we are specifically analyzing two areas in metropolises: South Jakarta and Wudaokou. Both areas are highly packed commercial districts where spatial rights are always contested. We started to look at a few informal cafes in our neighborhoods that have a broader community network. In Wudaokou: Bridge, students’ favorite study room; Lush, the home for foreign students and teachers; Me After You, where you can find Korean translation; Mann, the hub for Beijing drifters; and local Ingress ENL. Jakarta: Cyclo Coffee & Apparel, a cycling community; Ruang Seduh, where coffee ad independent film enthusiasts gather; Suwe Ora Jamu, a traditional medical drink and art center; and Kopi Manyar, a place for coffee, architecture and design. We are speculating that our implementations would help rebuild the social and physical infrastructure of these two areas, which would be developed and implemented in other areas and cities in the future.
Journey is a key and portal to the real world, through which people can have access to neighborhoods’ cafes and join their community. Unlike other apps like Yelp and Google Maps, Journey will filter cafes that have a broader community network (such as: art, film, cycling, students, etc.) than just a commercial component. Thus, the app becomes a tool of social empowerment, connecting people with actual places and communities that they usually do not have access to—a casual way to interact.
Journey is designed into two parts, Tour and Meet. The Tourdeals with the image of a city, it will create a spectacle that attracts people to the issue. Once a month, each cafe would hold a tour where the community would walk the street, wearing a distinctive attire associated with Journey, and use the app to take pictures and report sidewalk conditions to fix the street. Thus, the app not only connects people to the events happening in an interior environment, but also events that are happening in an open space, e.g. a small park, the streets. It becomes a social empowerment tool for sidewalk reclamation, which also has the potential of connecting the different communities. The Meet aspect will provide individuals and communities with a way to contribute and improve our city. Local cafes are the “stations/stops” to host events and “museums/libraries” to store local knowledge and distribute copies of published media(guide/map/poster/flyer). Both individuals and small business can benefit from being exposed tothis network.
For implementation, Journey has the following main features: Map, attached to geolocations, in local view which renders immersive local environments for exploring, and a global view rendering all stops in the area for searching; Calendar which shows when there will be tours and meets; Journal, an archive of past events and a track of current events, with posters, images, comments, collective production included; Report, a portal to submit daily urban environment related comments and proposals in the form of images, drawings and texts. Note, these media will be attached to specificgeolocations. Vibes: where users can reach out to each other; and Profile, where users can highlight their interests and contributions on the reports on the city.
After real implementation (journey.dugyu.com), we received useful feedbacks from local students at Cambridge and Beijing. For further exploration, it would be useful to add a search function and implement different languages that could improve the discoverability feature of the media. Another improvement could be geared towards the creation a local community of reviewers that could manage the social network from being commercialized. This project is a starting point on the use of social media and technology development to improve our urban metropolitan cities: how can a social media become an empowerment tool for findability and discoverability of social networks that will turn urban strangers into urban families.
#1: Bridge Café
Mon - Sun: 24 Hours
Students' favorite study room. The flagshipof Wudaokou.
Although Bridge Café has closed, it should never be remembered only as a popular café and brunch restaurant. It is a place full of memories for students and residents nearby. Bridge Café invites people from all cultural backgrounds to spend time here: reading, discussing, attending workshops or salons. Its students’ favorite study room. The atmosphere that everyone is studying makes it easier for you to concentrate. Bridgeis spacious enough for everyone to have its own private space, some enjoy the top-floor terrace, some prefer the friendly home-like area, others tend to meet new friends at English learning corner. The staff remembers people’s preferences for seats and food, while the latter then help the former to communicate with foreigners. In Sep 2010, a monthly basis activity Thinkin China was created at the Bridge Café by a small group of young researchers who live and work in China. It performs as an informal “agora” , a channel for communicating, and debating on current affairs. . If Wudaokou is China’s academic and cultural crossroad, then Bridge Café is the living room for people from all cultural backgrounds.
Home for foreign students and teachers, English Corner.
Lush is a café during the day and a bar at night. It is founded back in 2003, during the SARS breakout of Beijing, when all stores were closed down. A small group of people feel they need a place to meet with friends in Wudaokou, so they find a spot and furnished it super cheap. It operates 24 hours through the week, providing cheap food combos and midnight discounts. It is a favorite spot of many foreign students and teachers who is looking for a home away from home. During the day, people are welcomed to study, chat, practice foreign languages, or drink alcohol quietly here. During nights, there are plenty of live music events going on.
#3: Me After You
Mon - Sun: 8:00 am - 0:30 am
Korean translation support.
Located near the Liudaokou subway station, Me After You has a preferable location but it is often neglected by local residents as it situated behind a parking area. Once you walked up along the narrow staircase, you will find a spacious ‘living room’. Korean students and Chinese students sit around the central large table, all working on their school work. Trees cast shadows on windows, some discuss study or work with friends and colleagues, others buried their heads in assignments. The staff have taken down students’ preferences for drinks and brunch. They even reserve seats for some frequent visitors according to their study schedules. I have met two real estate agents come to this café to find Korean students to help them communicate with Korean tenants, because they know this café is a home for Korean students.
#4: Mann Café
Mon - Sun: 8:00 am - 1:00 am
Home for Beijing Ingress ENL and north drifters.
Mann Café is probably the most popular café among north drifters in Beijing. The cheapest drink, a cup of milk only costs you one dollar. Its cozy atmosphere, its spaciousness, and chargers under each table seems to encourage you to stay for a whole afternoon. When the night falls, the classic style desk lamps lit the room up, making it a lighthouse in the winter roar. Mann Café is a special place for Ingress community in Beijing. Whenever there is a large-scale group activity, the Beijing Ingress Enlightenment agents will come to gather at Mann Café, taken up half of the second floor. They choose this place because the price is reasonable, the owner is welcoming, the space is large enough.
#5: Cyclo Coffee & Apparel
Mon.Tue.Thu.Fri: 7am - 10pm Wed.Sat.Sun: 6am - 10pm
Cycling culture and healthy lifestyle.
Located in the Crumble Crew, a lifestyle joint of a fitness enthusiast, Cyclo Coffee & Apparel is a cafe which is popular among the cyclist and runner community. Israndi, the owner, hopes to create a stronger cycling culture and healthy lifestyle in Jakarta that is filled with many cars: “We are a community. We sell serious parts for the not-so-serious cyclist.” Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday (6-8pm & 10-12pm), free community night cycling sessions are held where the cafe becomes the starting point and the pit stop, ending the session with conversations over a steaming cup of coffee. On the weekdays, the cafe is also filled with visitors from the local offices that filled the neighborhood. Thus the cafe becomes a pit stop for different types of clienteles.
#6: Ruang Seduh Kemang
Mon - Sun: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm
A cafe for coffee & independent film enthusiasts.
Ruang Seduh is not just a cafe, but a haven for coffee enthusiasts where they could have a non-intimidating experience and guide by local baristas on how to make a good coffee. Think of Ruang Seduh like a guide for dummies on how to make your own cup of coffee. While learning to become a barista is expensive, Ruang Seduh offers free lessons on how to pick coffee beans, use a coffee machine, make latte arts, etc. The best part of the cafe is that it is located at Ak.’sa.ra Kemang, which is a hub which provides access to different communities that are also tenants of the space, such as Kinosaurus, a local micro-cinema that screens independent films, a creative art centre Ganara Art Space, a film developing lab Lab Rana, and the Ak.’sa.ra bookstore.
#7: Kopi Manyar
Mon - Fri: 8am - 9pm, Sat - Sun: 8am - 10pm
Coffee, architecture and design.
Owned by four architects of Andramatin firm, Kopi Manyar is a cafe designed in simplicity and modest setting that allows you to connect with other community of designers and architects that are residing in the neighborhood. The cafe is also a house for an art gallery with regularly rotated themes. Events and film screenings on art, architecture, and design are often held in this cafe after hours, providing a space for design enthusiasts and communities.
#8: Suwe Ora Jamu
Mon - Sun: 11:00 am - 12:00 am
Traditional drinks meet art, music, theatre & journalism
Suwe Ora Jamu is a cafe that sells coffee and Jamu, traditional medicinal drink, Jamu. Its owner intends to keep the traditions of this ancient remedy alive with a modern take, promoting a new approach to a healthy lifestyle. Located at Komunitas Salihara, Jakarta’s first non-governmental art center, this cafe becomes a place to meet communities of people that are interested in art, literature, journalism, theatre and music.
Angela Mayrina is currently pursuing a Master in Design Studies in Art, Design & Public Domain (’20) at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Growing up in Indonesia with appreciation for its deeply rooted heritage, Angela has always had an eye for art, history and design. Her work reflects a high regard for craftsmanship, and finding balance in drawing inspiration in the past for the contemporary world. She graduated with honors from Pratt Institute’s BFA program for Interior Design, with a minor in Psychology, and has worked in multiple firms in the U.S. (SF and NYC) and abroad (Jakarta). Her love for art and design history informs her approach to design, which seeks a holistic approach that bridges a design, its context, and the user. She believes in designs that evoke memories through curated unnarrated experience—exploring ways in which a design could communicates and elicit questions through a constant interplay between boundaries that redefines common assumptions.
Guangyu Du is currently pursuing a Master in Design Studies in Technology (’20) at Harvard Graduate School of Design. She received BArch from Tsinghua University in Beijing, where she grew up. She has worked in architectural firms in Beijing and New York. Her architectural training and computational design expertise established her interest in both the real world and digital world spatial experiences. She has practiced advanced parametric architectural design, and now she is more passionate about the relationship between people and urban spaces designed for them. She aspires to a world without loneliness through the shaping and combining of the physical environment and virtual context. She believes location-based augmented reality and immersive virtual reality is a key in building responsive environments, creating emotional experiences and forge long-lasting social connections.