Is Jakarta really dense? Or just not efficient? By density we should really mean to include the people, not just the square meters of built floor; and meanings, not just empty spaces; and also multiplicity of uses and relationships, not just mono-functionality dictated by short-term real-estate efficiency. By density we should mean not only the volumetric density, but programatic density, which is the real, historical essense of urbanity.
In that context, we find it reasonable to doubt if highrise buildings solve the density problem. See Feature by Andrea Fitrianto and Guest Column by Meutia Chaerani http://rujak.org/2009/08/apartmentcentral-vs-housesuburb/
Instead of imagining Jakarta consisting of towers highrise and high cost in both construction and operation periods, hence environmentally not friendlycan we really not imagine different forms, such as medium (4 to six or even 8 stories) high all over Jakarta?
The fact is that most of the expanse of the metropolis is low-rise medium density. The propaganda on the metropolis’ density is also false in that most of the high density zones are high density only in volumetric sense, without programatic density or complexity.
Often also, as in the case of gentrification, or super-gentrification such as the taking over of already up-scale houses in Menteng by the nouveau-riche, square meter densification does not at all accommodate more people, but on the contrary often accommodates even less people, resulting in less people in larger built floor area. Often also, with more cars.
Therefore, higher density of square meters does not necesasarily mean higher density of inhabitants on the same area. The same case is true with Kemang area, where now there are more larger houses and yards with less people or families, with more cars, than 20 years ago. The same is also true with the so-called Sudirman Central Business District (SCBD) that about 15 years ago displaced thousands of families living there.
Density of contestation takes place not only in the major spaces, but also in marginal spaces such as along railroads and under fly-overs. See http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/05/29/take-paradise-put-a-parking-lot.html; http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/02/14/old-immigration-office--private-partnership-distortion.html; http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/03/21/the-plight-and-plea-menteng.html. See also pictures of Jakarta Biennale 2009 intervention in marginal spaces.
Elisa Sutanudjaja compiles basic information that shows how “density” issues are institutionalised in urban planning practice in Jakarta. And, no less important: how it relates to our daily life. See her Tips: Tata-Ruang untuk Awam.
For other resources, see in Rujak/Resources: http://rujak.org/2009/08/density-in-urban-development/ and http://rujak.org/2009/08/practical-decisions-facing-urban-planners/