Creative cities, as Richard Florida of The Atlantic’s CityLab fame posed, require their ‘people climate’--networks of humans and exchanges among them--to safely thrive before ascending to a larger transformation. When it comes to such, Bandung, which joined UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network just recently, benefits greatly from an advance kickstart. Placed in West Java’s mild mountainous patch, this city is genial by nature and is well known to mix creativity with local wisdom.
Story by Sakti Nuzan Photo by Dudi Sugandi
In the time where many cities expand as an immediate result of business and commercial needs, Bandung must plan ahead to ensure it’s growing without leaving its people behind. Convoying the city towards maturity needs a thorough strategy, and it must be a systemic one.
Here’s why a forward-looking government is key to keep tabs on Bandung’s sustained ecosystem. For a long time, design and creativity in the city were mainly propelled by a partial but robust DIY culture. That was only until five years ago, when the then-architect Ridwan Kamil, affectionately nicknamed Emil, came into the picture and started
his time as the mayor.
Part of the narrative he infused was community-based creativity through identity. This is apt, as Bandung is never short of the latter, both in traditional and emerging senses. With policies that highlight both urban revitalisation and creative economy boost, Emil earned himself recognition along with the bandwagon of municipalinnovation in Indonesia. Its urban revitalization took shape in the facelift of public spaces, from traditional markets and kampongs to parks and pedestrian walks.
Bolstered by site-dedicated events and photogenic landmarks, the programmes gain stimulus from the quick spread of stories and activities on various media channels. Leisure parks, now adorned with thematic spectacles, steadily enrich community lives. Teras Cihampelas, the latest addition to the city’s innovative infrastructure, also manages to foster informal businesses around the area while building a new car-free access to the cityscape.
Creative economy, on the other hand, taps into the city’s long observed craft and manufacture history. Take for example, the local fashion industry, which seemed to have lost traction from last decade’s distro boom. If anything, it’s now enriched by the arrival of Muslim outfit and streetwear, among many other, already envisioned by Emil to flourish more through the city’s amicable policies towards businesses.
Naturally, beyond these achievements are critical comments, with the government’s superficial attitude towards resolving ‘real’ issues being the most frequently heard. Some are even aimeddirectly towards the city’s head figure who regularly deploys social media for his communication medium with the city. Yet, whether the efforts are impactful enough isn’t today’s problem. Yes, a creative city must break free from being defined by one-off touristic displays and gimmicks, but the aspect we’re app lauding is the city’s clever and inclusive take on momentum while still embracing – and enjoying – progress.