enCity planners join the Design Competition for Indonesia’s New Capital


11.2019: Jakarta and Bandung (Indonesia) – enCity planners, Elizelle David, Le Minh Ngoc, Tran Trung Tin and Nguyen Do Dzung, join a team of Indonesian designers led by architect Doni Iskandar, our Design Consultant, to submit a proposal for the new national capital of Indonesia in East Kalimantan. With the formal announcement made by President Joko Widodo in August, the proposed relocation of the capital city from Jakarta to a chosen area in the North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kertanegra Regencies aims to foster equitable economic and political distribution within the whole country. The New Ibu Kota Negara (IKN) is envisioned to be a City in the Forest and a Smart Metropolis that would represent the president’s vision of Forward Indonesia.

Known as the largest archipelago nation, Indonesia is home to more than 270 million people of which 57% are concentrated in Java Island. Given the country’s rapid population growth and consequent uncontrolled urbanization, Java is experiencing great pressure to sustain its urban functions, especially in the current capital of Jakarta, where land subsidence is becoming an alarming issue. Through transferring its capital to a more centralized location in East Kalimantan, the government hopes to relieve the stresses in Java and disperse economic growth to other regions of the country. Moreover, the move is also foreseen to mitigate the environmental impact in Jakarta and ensure a safe and liveable capital city that is less susceptible to geohazards and the effects of climate change.

The chosen site for the New IKN, comprising of 180,000 hectares of former timber production and mining lands, is strategically located between two of Borneo’s burgeoning cities – Samarinda, East Kalimantan’s administrative centre, and Balikpapan, the island’s financial hub. By leveraging on these two metropolises and the planned infrastructure for the province, such as the on-going Balsam Toll Road and the prospective East Kalimantan Railway, much potential can be added to the new capital city. Meanwhile, greater consideration should be given to the ecological context of the area, wherein more than 30% is to be allocated as nature reserves. Although much of the area may not be considered as pristine terrain, it has an inventory of wetlands, streams, reservoirs and natural green cover vital to the whole island’s bionetwork; thus, the design of the IKN should be able to not just retain, but add value to its present ecosystems in order to truly embody its vision of a City in the Forest.

A physical comparison between Indonesia’s IKN and some cities with similar contexts in terms of their administrative cores, capital cities and expansion areas. Relatively, the allocated land appears to be smaller than the rest; however, with principles of compact development and zero-carbon transportation, the new capital’s development area can be further reduced in order to provide more land for nature, while maintaining a healthy population density to cater to its designed urban infrastructure.

While moving and building a capital city from scratch is not new, there is great anticipation for Indonesia’s ambitious plan in today’s milieu, where there are more and more debates about how cities should be designed, operated and sustained. The East Kalimantan project will become an exemplar not just of an administrative capital, but also of future Asian cities that respond to the challenges posed by ecological preservation and the opportunities brought about by modern technology. More importantly, the new capital city will symbolize Indonesia’s identity and exemplify its motto of Unity in Diversity – a dictum built on the country’s strong communal spirit despite its myriad of subcultures and ethnicities. Given all these factors, the New IKN will be an excellent opportunity to create new and innovative planning solutions that would further enhance and propel nations into a more liveable and sustainable future.