Singgih of Magno Wooden Radio offers a New Urbanism

Singgih Susilo Kartono among the trees surrounding Magno wooden radio workshop (August 23, 2009@Marco Kusumawijaya)

Singgih Susilo Kartono, the maker of Magno wooden radios, thinks we should grow together with our resources. He wants to prove it in his village, Kandangan, in Temanggung, only 8 km from the house where Police thinks Noordin Top hid.  Will it materialise sustainably or become a bursting utopia? Only more elaboration and testing-out will answer that question. We discussed this issue while enjoying fresh air in his workshop on August 23, 2009.

He envisions his village to develop sustainably with production, consumption and resources growing together in the same locale. He wants to literally grow resources for his factory. He has already started growing seeds of sonokeling, mahoni, and other hardwood that he uses for his products, the famous awards winning Magno wooden radios, toys and stationery. He distributes the seeds for free to his neighbours to plant them on their own lands. One slide of his powerful powerpoint presentation shows how more trees emerge and grow bigger as his production grows as well.

With demand for his products growing (creating a current backlog of one month), it is very likely that he will have to expand his production facilities soon, although he does not wish to hurry on that. His neighbours will also enjoy the desentralised distribution of benefits soon. If things go well in the next couple of years, the village vill soon experience a densification process, having new wealth that willl materialise in the “rural” space

Singgih’s vision of production based on local resources, and a fair distribution of wealth in the locale, revives our imagination of “garden city” and other utopias in the history of urbanism. Resources and production are closely linked with relationships clearly tangible and within sight. It would certainly means very low ecological footprint. Fortunately, his “inputs” of the electrical parts in his radios also come from nearby factories in Semarang, two hours by car from Kandangan, Singgih’s base.

His products are sold so far mostly to consumers abroad. MOMA in New York just started to sell them in their stylish museum shop. Can we assume that the value he added to the woods justifies the emission of CO2 of transporting them?

Need for a plan

In anticipation of the spectre of  “growth” that is lurking from behind both the demand for his products, and the needs of the village, Singgih is already thinking of  creating a “masterplan” to guide the village development into the future. A serious mapping of available assets (natural and man made) is needed. A vision of how a future growth wil also grow and nurture (instead of deplete) the assets will be an intriquing exercise of intellect, creativity and technical skills of many disciplines.

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