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City Form Lab Exhibit Tells Multimedia Story of Indonesia’s Rapid Urbanization

With a population of over 258 million people, Indonesia is the world's fourth-largest country, third-largest democracy, and largest majority-Muslim nation. Yet the story of its remarkable urban growth has been largely overshadowed by the narratives of other rapidly urbanizing countries such as China and India.

Now, a new exhibit developed by the City Form Lab in partnership with World Bank Indonesia is seeking to change that. Currently on display in Harvard Plaza, “Indonesia’s Urban Story” employs photography, data visualizations, and written material to illustrate work and research done by the City Form Lab alongside Indonesian city governments over the past three years.

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“Indonesia's Urban Story” on exhibit at the Indonesian Stock Exchange

“It is a capstone exhibit, in a way,” says Andres Sevtsuk, assistant professor of urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and curator of the exhibition. “The exhibit attempts to shed some light onto the fascinating challenges the country is facing with rapid urban growth.”

The installation is organized by five topic areas: housing, land management, transportation, solid waste management, and disaster management. These are displayed on illuminated panels which fit into an aluminum structure designed by the City Form Lab and built specifically for the exhibition. (A similar technique was used to create the yellow grid structure currently on view in the Gund Hall courtyard.)

Data about each of these topic areas are paired with stunning photographs of Indonesia today, each photo depicting a country in transition from a largely agriculture-based economy to an urban one. One chart shows that if population growth continues in Jakarta as expected, by 2030 the city will reach 38 million inhabitants, overtaking Tokyo to become the largest metropolis in the world. This astounding projection is juxtaposed with a photograph of an Indonesian woman selling freshly slaughtered chickens from a make-shift stand on the side of the road while a man on a moped looks on.

A visitor browses the City Form Lab’s exhibition on Indonesia’s growth
A visitor browses the City Form Lab’s exhibition on Indonesia’s growth

Following a run at the Indonesian Stock Exchange, “Indonesia’s Urban Story” has traveled to Cambridge, where it is currently displayed in the Harvard Plaza, just outside Harvard's Science Center. The exhibition will then head to Washington, DC to be showcased at World Bank headquarters. The City Form Lab plans to continue its work with Indonesian governments and the local World Bank office to help city planners anticipate Indonesia's most pressing urban issues as the country continues to grow at a dizzying rate.

Browse the exhibition online here.

Read the World Bank publication developed in conjunction with the exhibition here.

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