Jakarta. The recently inaugurated Semanggi Interchange, or Simpang Susun Semanggi, has become a new favorite icon of Jakarta.
The interchange, first opened in 1962, has now undergone a facelift, with the addition of two new ramps to ease the traffic gridlock often occurring in the area.
The interchange has now also inspired new works of art by Jakarta artists.
One of them is an installation titled "Semanggi Kita: Berkarya untuk Indonesia" ("Our Semanggi: Work for Indonesia") at Senayan City shopping mall.
Jakarta Governor Djarot Syaiful Hidayat officiated at the opening of the installation on Thursday (17/08).
"This [installation] is a great surprise to us all," Djarot said in his opening speech. "It shows that we're truly a hard-working, creative and innovative nation. There's nothing we can't do if we really put our minds to it."
The 550-square-meter installation, created by Felix Tjahyadi of Mata Studio, is located in the mall's main atrium.
At the center is a two-tiered stage, adorned with a black-and-white sketch of the interchange. Towering above the stage is a replica of the Semanggi Interchange, made of metal pipes, in the shape of a four-leaf clover within a ring.
Small red-and-white Indonesian flags and batik kerchiefs in various colors and patterns flutter along its guy-lines.
Surrounding the main structure of the installation are labyrinth-like compartments, made of corrugated iron sheets, polycarbonate sheets and lumber.
These compartments are dedicated to road management agency Bina Marga, construction firm Wijaya Karya (WIKA), textile designer Chitra Subyakto, photographer Davy Linggar, young artists of Dia.Lo.Gue Artspace, and a drawing booth for children.
"We're very proud to host the 'Semanggi Kita' installation in our main atrium," Senayan City chief executive Veri Y. Setiady said. "The Semanggi Interchange is an iconic structure in Jakarta and yet not many of us know about its illustrious history."
History of Semanggi Interchange
Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, ordered the construction of the Semanggi Interchange in 1961 in anticipation of heavy traffic during the next year's Asian Games, hosted by Jakarta.
The four-leaf clover Semanggi Interchange, designed by Indonesian civil engineer Sutami, has been a symbol of unity between the eastern, western, northern and southern parts of the capital.
Detailed plan of the original Semanggi Interchange, as well as old photographs can be seen in Bina Marga's section of the installation.
"[The Semanggi Interchange] is a masterpiece," said Yusmada Faizal, head of Bina Marga. "But unfortunately, it has also become an area of heavy traffic and gridlock these days."
The Jakarta Public Works Agency conducted an extensive study in 2011 and 2012 on ways to improve traffic flow in the area. The result of the study showed that the Semanggi Interchange needed to be redesigned.
"The real challenge was how to do it without ruining the original construction of the Semanggi Interchange, which has a high historical value," Yusmada said.
Engineers then came up with the idea of two new elliptical ramps, which seem to embrace the original four-leaf clover design.
"The minister of public works [Basoeki Hadimoeljono] was impressed with this design and said that '[the design] is like a watermelon with a clover leaf'," Yusmada said, with a smile.
WIKA was assigned to construct the two new ramps for the iconic interchange. Pictures and videos of the construction process can be seen in the state-owned construction company's section of the installation at Senayan City.
The installation also showcases five new batik patterns by textile designer Chitra Subyakto, who was inspired by the new Semanggi Interchange and its surroundings.
The five new patterns are titled "Semanggi Bridge," "Semanggi Crossroads," "Semanggi Park," "Semanggi Streets" and "Semanggi Traffic."
"I worked together with a group of female artisans living at in Marunda low-cost apartments on these new batiks," Chitra said.
"These women were previously housewives and maids with very small incomes," the textile designer said. "But they wanted to improve their skills and livelihoods, so they joined the batik workshops provided by Jakarta's National Craft Council [Dekranasda DKI Jakarta] at the apartments. And within only six months, they knew how to make batik and created these beautiful pieces."
The booth also offers for sale scarves, pareos and dresses made of batik in the Semanggi-inspired patterns. They are priced between Rp 195,000 and Rp 1,200,000 ($14-$90).
"I'm touched by Chitra's beautiful new batik designs," said Yusmada of Bina Marga. "They've motivated me and my team to create other new infrastructure designs with high aesthetic value, so that they can also inspire other creative young people in making something beautiful."
The installation will be open to the public until Aug. 26.