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Nusantara: The Archipelagic City Amidst a Sea of Trees

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In recent years, there have been serious talks by the governors of Indonesia on taking the capital city status away from its current one, the city of Jakarta. In 2017, in the current presidential era of Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo, a substantial attempt at capital city relocation began [1]. For Indonesia, one of the main reasons for doing this is the environmental-based problems that had been plaguing Jakarta for years now, in the form of huge air and water pollution problems [2][3]. The city is also sinking by an above-average rate of 1-15 centimeters per year as it was built on swampy lands, causing it to often be flooded by rain and rising sea levels [4]. For these and other strategic reasons, the Indonesian government finally decided to relocate its capital city to a new city that will be built in an area on the eastern side of the island of Kalimantan, to buy precious time for Jakarta to recover [5].

Since then, things have been moving pretty quickly for the relocation into the future capital city, which has been bestowed with the name of “Nusantara[6]. The government had wished for the new capital city to be green and zero-emission, and so a capital city design contest was organized from October to November 2019 [7]. The design of "Nagara Rimba Nusa" (Forest Archipelagic Country) submitted by the team “URBAN+” would later win the competition with a city design that is built on the principles of ‘Biomimicry’, which meant that they learned from models and elements of nature, and used them in their design [8][9].

The "Nagara Rimba Nusa" design picture that shows off the meaning of its namesake
The "Nagara Rimba Nusa" design, an archipelago of buildings among a sea of trees

Photo by URBAN+ [16]


Heeding the warnings from international media and environmental organizations, the URBAN+ team was keen on making an ecologically-friendly design that would allow water and wind movements around the city. This meant that forests and consequently wildlife would be able to grow and thrive in and around the cityscape [10]. The design also included botanical gardens, mangrove forests, protected forests, a restoration forest, a biomass forest, an algae forest, a tropical rainforest eco-tourism area, and an Orangutan eco-tourism area [11].

The future Presidential Palace design named "Astana Indonesia Raya" (Indonesia Raya Palace), as submitted by team URBAN+
"Astana Indonesia Raya" (Great Indonesia Palace), the Presidential Palace design of team URBAN+

Photo by URBAN+ [17]


Built on the basis of ‘a forest city’, the principles of being in harmony with nature would become one of the main performance indicators in the new capital city’s development. Firstly, the city is expected to have more than 75 percent of its 256,142 ha of space be used as green spaces. Secondly, the city is expected to allow 100 percent of its population to be able to access recreational green spaces within 10 minutes. Thirdly, the city is expected to have 100 percent replacement of green space for every high-rise institutional, commercial, and residential building, or building with more than four floors [12]. With such high standards, the new capital city’s construction is expected to be completed in 2045 [13].

In the many years to come, many hurdles that will threaten or at least slow down the completion of Nusantara will definitely occur. Regardless, the Indonesian government stated that construction work on the basic infrastructures of the city is expected to commence very soon this year [14]. By 2024, it is expected that there would be enough facilities and personnel in the city for it to officially take over the title and obligations of a capital city from Jakarta [15].

Current Indonesia President Joko Widodo goes camping at the site of the country's future Capital City of Nusantara
Indonesia's President, Joko Widodo, goes camping at the site of the future Capital City of Nusantara

Photo by Agus Suparto [18]


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