Pasar Senen How Life Between Buildings Matters In Market Revitalisation

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©Derrick Juda

©Derrick Juda

Jakarta Provincial Government has carried out many traditional market revitalisation projects for the last half-decade. A long while after Pasar Mayestik three years ago, Pasar Blok A, Pasar Senen, Pasar Karang Anyar, Pasar Benhil and, the latest addition, Pasar Lontar – Kebon Melati are now under major refurbishment or at least being planned for it.

Amidst all those markets, Pasar Senen possesses huge potentials to be a walkable, safe and vibrant commercial and business district. Although Senen sub-district has long been associated with crime, prostitution and anti-social behaviour, the potentials still prevail as it is pretty much centred on the bus terminal, Pasar Senen Train Station and the markets.

The history of Pasar Senen began in the Dutch colonial era when Justinus Vinck, a Dutch entrepreneur, developed Senen Market in east of Batavia in 1733. Pasar Senen, or Planet Senen as it was called few decades ago, became a poor area full of shacks with high crime rate and prostitution after Indonesian Independence in 1945.

Ali Sadikin, the former Governor of Jakarta, initiated “Projek Senen” (Senen Project) in 1970 to regenerate the dilapidated area. In addition to the localisation of sex workers, a trade centre and a youth centre were built to improve Planet Senen.The later was inaugurated in 1974 and produced many artists and poets. Benyamin Sueb and Bing Slamet are two of the well-known ones.

Nowadays, there are six blocks of market/ trading areas which sell a wide range of products, from food and clothing to used books and electronic appliances. Since the opening of the first three buildings, proper maintenance has been a rare occurrence causing building facade, structure as well as utilities to deteriorate. The fourth and the fifth, the newest buildings, hold wholesale trading where small retailers/resellers get their stock.

Block VI, which sits next to the bus terminal to the north, is a large, but under-maintained traditional market. Block III, which got burned down in early 2014, is still in the reconstruction process with temporary trading spaces provided for the affected tenants. Though the train station has been renovated and equipped with additional security guards, the overall condition of Pasar Senen is still unpleasant, polluted and threatening.

One of the notable experiences of visiting Pasar Senen is that motorcycles are simply everywhere. They spill over to the road, causing congestion, and even occupy the green passageway and spaces between buildings. A street market takes place on Jalan Stasiun Senen on weekdays, making the area even more crowded. Anxiety and insecurity intensify when walking around the area, mainly because it is cramped, chaotic and dark in some places, especially in the traditional market (Block VI) and in the bus terminal area. The condition createsl eft-over spaces that allow criminal activities to be conducted.

“People now are coming to markets not only for the price, but also for the pleasant shopping environment.” – Warson Aritonang, a shoe seller at Pasar Senen Block VI

For the first timers, they would find the area is difficult to navigate as no straight access from the nearby station to the commercial and business area. Actually, there was a direct access, but a 3-metre wall and a car park area create barriers that separate the train station with the core area. People coming from it have to walk around and further to reach the market. Coming from the Transjakarta bus shelters is not even a better option. Two shelters, both are situated on the road median, are not connected with proper, let alone safe, pedestrian crossings. It is obvious that Pasar Senen has the advantage in terms of connectivity, accessibility and commercial activity. A train station, a bus terminal and two Transjakarta bus shelters serve the area. No wonder it’s always bustling with people especially during the day when trading activity is at its peak. However, Pasar Senen, definitely, needs major changes and upgrades to thoroughly improve and rejuvenate the decaying area. A question arises: What enhancement does Pasar Senen require for the spaces between its buildings?  

©Derrick Juda

©Derrick Juda

Besides the transit infrastructure; the youth sport centre, Gelanggang Olahraga Remaja Senen; and the nearby performing arts venue, Gedung Kesenian Bharata; are the other catalysts that can encourage the regeneration of the disordered area. The green passageway, currently is a motorcycle parking area, could be the ”wow factor” of Pasar Senen. The revamped and extended passageway will be a green pedestrian corridor with commercials on both sides. It connects the train station and the trading centre and, possibly, to the Atrium Senen Mall across Pasar Senen Street as well.

Moreover, a war memorial and its barren plaza should be made inviting with more vegetation, public amenities and water features. The redesigned plaza will signify the new, regenerated Pasar Senen. Both corridor and plaza also aim to provide more space for people and draw them into Pasar Senen area. Further improvement to the area would be renovating the cinema building across the trade centre and the other corner buildings at the junction.

“First life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works. If you have more space for public life or city life, you will have more people and public life.” – Jan Gehl, founder of Gehl Architects — Urban Quality Consultant

The area will always be a busy trading centre as it has been for almost three centuries. Having all those diamonds in the rough, Pasar Senen could be a successful regional trading centre as well as a prime example of a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) area in Jakarta.

Yes, resolving the problems and maximising the potentials go beyond urban design. The traders and how they conduct trading activities should also be the main focuses along with involvement of urban design and any other major physical upgrades. Government (up-bottom) intervention and their concerted effort are crucially required to kick-start a regeneration program for Pasar Senen, if there is one planned.

Derrick Juda
Derrick Juda is an urban designer working at a multidisciplinary built environment consultancy company in Jakarta. Graduated from School of Architecture, Planning and Policy Development at Institut Teknologi Bandung, he then pursued further education and obtained an MA degree in Urban Design from the University of Westminster, London, UK. He now lives in Jakarta and practices urban design at AECOM Indonesia.