Project Kambing

In Central Java, Indonesia in early February 2017 the NGO ‘Vital Strategies’ launched the anti-smoking campaign “Tunjukkan Warna Aslimu”, (“Show Your True Colors”) in the village of Kali Code, in Yogyakarta. UTS Sydney sent a team of design students to Yogyakarta to take part in this campaign and support the NGO by creating their own miniature community projects within Kali Code. From this collaboration, our team ‘Project Kambing’ was created.

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Kali Code’s early murals, photographed from the bridge above.

Our project began with a briefing with ‘Vital Strategies,’ which also presented a chance to brainstorm project ideas. During this meeting, we established that our project outcome would need to meet 4 key criteria.

1.       Benefit the community of Kali Code
2.       Be practical and tangible
3.       Be visual and creative
4.       Feature a clear and visible anti-smoking message.

Having only visited the village briefly, many of our initial ideas were not site specific or well suited to the needs of the Kampung (village). However, we had observed that the riverside promenade area was incredibly hot and uncomfortable to stand on for extended periods. This lack of protection from the sun discouraged some of the residents from coming down to socialize and play. We settled on a plan for a shade structure which we hoped would enable the community to enjoy the space.

Manon and Karla, with help from Kali Code villagers, setting up a demo shade.

Our brainstorming technique involved Manon and I generated a variety of ideas at rapid fire and Rachel and Yilin quietly establishing which were practical. Many early ideas involved a fan like structure as well as a Becak inspired design which would be adjustable and foldable. These first sketches were accompanied by numerous ambitious side projects (herb gardens, play equipment, hopscotch) which, during our budget meeting with ‘Vital Strategies’ we were able to whittle down to something modest and achievable. We decided to focus purely on creating shade structures which would be secured to the existing riverside metal plant frames. By painting an anti-smoking message on the top of these shade structures we hoped to fulfill the wishes of both the village and the NGO.

We further refined our shade idea on site during the second visit to Kampung Kali Code and it became clear that our design needed to be user centred and site specific – any structure that wasn’t durable, flexible and suited to the environment would become obsolete, or worse inhibit the residents from using the space to carry out daily activities. Tarp, for example, is often used in Australia due to its lightweight and durable properties. But an evening of Indonesia monsoon weather can easily damage a tarp structure. Inspired by local materials, we decided bamboo was best suited for our purposes and we settled on a simple bamboo blind design which would roll over the top of the metal structure.

indo_8Creating stencils out of masking tape for each of the sun shades.

It also became apparent that compromise and adaptability were central to working within Kali Code. There were ideas the village head would immediately veto due to impracticality, materials were not always readily available and weather inhibited progress. These are all challenges that designers face on a daily basis, but which were amplified by the time constraints of our project and the foreign environment.

Team Kambing putting final touches to the anti-smoking imagery on the shades.

Durable and sustainable local materials such as bamboo were not difficult to find and soon we were prototyping our first blind and beginning the process of painting while Manon set to work collaborating with ‘Vital Strategies’ and the village head to create an anti-smoking design for the blinds. The reaction of local villagers to their ‘time bomb’ design illustrates the power of visual communication in overcoming cultural and language barriers.

In the planning, construction and set up of the structures we received assistance and collaborated with numerous people. Vital Strategies acted as valuable translators, mediators, and advisors for our project, while the villagers of Kali Code provided us with crucial feedback, technical help and direction.

indo_6Washing brushes and rollers after painting our sunshades in Kali Code with Nanda (middle) and friend.

The success of our project depended upon our ability to effectively collaborate with various different stakeholders. As undergraduates, this was the first time we had been involved in a professional project and we had to learn how to navigate the interests of the various organizations involved. Our finished product is a testament to our ability not only to work effectively within an interdisciplinary group but also to engage in lively communication, interaction and collaboration with ‘Vital Strategies’ and the tight-knit community of Kali Code to create an effective and holistic outcome.

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