Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sigit is an emerging architect and urban designer best known for his design projects and research in architecture, urban planning, and environmental and social community movement. A nominee of Satu Indonesia Award 2011: Indonesia Inspiring Youth, Sigit founded Belajar Desain or Design Learning Community, an open designers community for young designers, artists and architects. He also co-initiated Indonesia Berkebun, an urban farming community that spreads positive spirit to city dwellers while combatting the growing issue of food security that won a 2011 Web-Heroes Award by Google Asia Pacific. Sigit is also currently an executive steering committee member for Atap Jakarta – House Vision Indonesia, an organisation that conducts activities focused on future housing in Jakarta. His new firm, sigit.kusumawijaya | architect & urbandesigner (SIG) which is also based in Jakarta, concerns itself with how Green, eco, urban farming, food security and sustainable issues relate with architectural services in accordance with its local context towards liveable cities.
MK: You were born in Jakarta, grew up in Surabaya and internationally educated in the Netherlands. What prompted you to return to Indonesia to build your practice?
SK: I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to intern under Andy Rahman, a famous Indonesian architect. Following the internship, I had to continue my studies and chose to go to the Netherlands and focused on urbanism and architecture. While I valued an international education, I was prompted to take up these studies because I was concerned with many urban issues in Indonesia. Along with many transport and traffic issues in Jakarta, the city’s urban issues are becoming increasingly complex. Public squares have been removed and concrete flyovers are no longer maintained. This is not aesthetically pleasing nor does it promote liveability or respect of the city’s many landmarks. I felt a sort of responsibility to make use of my education and contribute to making the city a better place.
MK: Aside from architecture, your focus and interests tend to be largely concentrated on issues of community empowerment. Where did these interests first resonate?
SK: While completing my studies, I chose to study minority communities. Aside from working with communities in Sumatra and Flores Island, I visited the slums of Kialitsa in Cape Town, South Africa. There I learned about communities that are living in extreme poverty and segregated by racial discrimination. These populations are pushed almost 30 kilometres outside the city, making commuting to and working in the city difficult. When tasked with having to revitalise these communities, I gained a new appreciation for community empowerment. Thus, when Ridwan Kamil, an architect at that time but now mayor of Bandung, asked the public for support with converting brown zones in the city into more productive landscapes, I felt that was an opportunity to change the city in a positive way. These negative spaces were often neglected, empty or used as sites for dumping waste. While I was initially more concerned about improving the urban infrastructure, I became more attentive to the benefits that urban farming provided to the community. We were able to borrow land from individuals and ask the community to join our movement and do more than just plant trees. The rural areas of Indonesia are more rapidly being taken up by major city centres, and this is not only affecting our country’s farmers but also the security of our food supply. More work and attention needs to be made along these peri-urban areas of the city that are being converted from farmland to urban residences.