25 January 2016

Sister City Telescopes

To develop itself, a city needs optimism. And together with every other cities, it needs reflections and experience sharing, especially with greater ones. One way to learn, cooperate, and sharing each other's experience is through Sister Cities (or Twin Towns) concept.

There are many cities in the world that are 'sisters' (or 'twins') to Jakarta, but Berlin in Germany and Los Angeles in USA are very interesting, for they are also 'sisters' to each other.

Talking about reflection, Berlin and Los Angeles, are surely good for Jakarta to reflect itself to; to see the differences of each other, to learn from them, to know them better. We want to know how they manage their city, how they live their life, how the people act as citizens, their pasts, their effort to build their great cities.

This is a concept of an instalation whose function is to allow the people of Jakarta, on their daily life, to demonstratively "take a peek" at people's daily life in developed cities in other part of the world; the Sisters of Berlin and Los Angeles.


Heart of a city is its urban mobility system. It manages the flow and circulation of people and resources, that in turn generates economic value, and in time becomes a collective capital to develop the city further.

In terms of transportation, rail based public transportation was the force that revolutionized people's land-bound mobility. Its speed, range, capacity, and uninterruptable system was unbeatable compared to any other means of public transportation. It was not built by a developed city, instead, a city will develop vigorously when it is connected to such transportation system.

As a city, Jakarta also enjoys the benefit of railed public transportation system, though of lesser quality and technology compared to those of developed cities around the world. Built mainly during the Dutch colonisation of Indonesia, there are railways connecting many places in Jakarta, several of its neighboring towns; Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi, and Bandung, as well as inter-provinces destinations.

And of course, as a developing city in a developing nation, it also has the typical problems of its kind. Let alone the fact that a very lot of its public servants are corrupted, incompetent, twisted-minded, and literally lunatics (though in recent years now it has a comparatively great governor); the people, though to be fair not entirely, despite living in one of the biggest city in the world, their attitude towards the city and their fellow citizens still reflects "primitivity"; careless, unordered, uncaring, and inferior.

There's a telltale of ours about ourselves that says; many times Japan sold or donated their old railcars and locomotives to Indonesia. Though they are 40 years old railcars, they are in almost perfect condition when they arrived in Indonesia. But just give us Indonesians six months using them, their shape will be miserably ugly. Yes, are very bad in taking care of our public facilities.

Thus it might be a good idea to give chance to the citizens of Jakarta to take a look, reflecting theirselves, at the citizens of their Sister Cities far away across the globe. To witness with their very eyes, to interact, to reflect their selves; how is the people attitude in public spaces, how they treat public facilities, how is the social order, how do they interact with their fellow citizens.

Jakarta Kota is the main station in Jakarta, the biggest train station in Indonesia, and one of the oldest in Jakarta. In a regular working day, there are more than 35,000 of people circulating through the station; from other stations in Jakarta or from the neighboring towns, of every kind of occupation and economic level. A very busy urban transit node in a dense neighborhood, a perfect place to set up the installation.


The installation will be a simulation of a set of periscopes that thrusts straight lines into the earth between the triumvirate Sister Cities; two pieces of periscopes in each city of Jakarta, Berlin, and Los Angeles pointing towards each other. Using simple technology of internet and CCTV, it will allow the people of the three cities to interact in real time and look at the surrounding environment and activities. In Berlin, the installation can be set up at Hauptbahnhof, while in Los Angeles at The Union Station.

 First we convert the hour, minute, and second coordinate system of the three cities into decimal degrees system. Then, employing geometrical calculations, we determine horizontal and vertical inclination of two set of straight lines that extends from Jakarta to Berlin and to Los Angeles.

The detailed design of the periscopes will be of each cities' style, representing their own characters, spirit of time, and ideological aesthetics.

In Jakarta, The Sister City Periscopes are meant to give passers an abundant experience of geometrical, mathematical, and structural space; in coherence with its surrounding, geometrical and structural style of the Jakartakota train station.

All in all, it becomes a statement that development can only be achieved through modern science and technology.

Each periscope consisted of six parts: 
  1. Backbone: As the name already tells, as a backbone system to sustain overall weight of the structure. 
  2. Backstage Module: As weighting module and space to store functional devices.
  3. Screen Module: To place the main screen and camera of the periscopes.
  4. Viewing Module: An opening to see into the periscope.
  5. Direction Aiming Module: An integrated installation that "teasing" and "directing" people to peek towards the direction that it points at.
  6. External Camera and Screen: A camera that captures the surrounding of the installation, send it, and shows back from across the world.

When a passer comes and peek at the opening of the telescope, a video camera will capture their image and send it in real time through the internet to be shown at the telescopes in Berlin and Los Angeles. At the same time, a screen will show what's captured at the other Sister City telescope.


Of course, the impact for Jakartans, beyond being an aesthetical and interactively fun installation, would be unknown. But the intention of The Sister City Periscopes, by allowing people to observe our Sisters and interact with their citizens, are to invite people to see and realize, that if we are willing, together we can be a great city, civilized, healthy, and humane.

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