Post A: Designer homes


by Marcella Cheng

While it was so easy to be distracted by the bright mural paintings in Kali Code, I was also enamoured by the amazing architecture of the buildings that lined the riverbank. It was amazing to me how tightly the houses were packed together on such a steep slope, yet still spacious enough to easily move through. More than that, I loved the simple, functional, yet still creative design of the buildings themselves, of which I had never seen in a set of buildings in my life. This is a design that stands true to both modern and traditional Indonesian culture.

Kampung Code, once a rabble of criminals and immigrants who lived in barely more than cardboard houses, was completely transformed in 1983 when the architect priest Y. B. Mangunwijaya proposed a plan to rehaul the entire village. This renovation would not only give Kampung Code a new and respected reputation, but also better and real homes that could survive the danger of heavy floods (UCA News, 1992). In this, the design grew largely “organically” as it responded directly to the site conditions and needs of the inhabitants (Lian, 2011); any buildings that the villagers needed were created and fit like a glove along the riverbank.


They also took care to use local materials such as woven bamboo and lightweight timber to support and lift the houses from potential water damage. By the end, the design of these homes have weathered the last 35 years with little damage, and is still a popular sight within Yogyakarta today.

In comparison, a tightly packed set of apartments in Tokyo have also just been overhauled by Japanese Hiroyuki Ogawa Architects. While these rooms also emphasise simplicity, functionality and creativity in a small space, they do it in a completely different way to Kampung Code that can only come from their local context.

This room for example, while also using timber panels, covers not only the floor but the wall and even part of the ceiling with the same material. Offset with the stark white wall, the only other colour in the room, it creates an even stronger emphasis on simplicity and minimalism that Japanese design so loves.

This second, darker room plays with a variety of textures from materials that Kampung Code would not have been able to afford. Japan’s wealth shows in this room, albeit in a more sophisticated and understated way, again with very minimal touches and a two-toned colour palette. In the modern day, these rooms aim not only to house temporary residents, but to also provide a unique experience away from the city, which reflects the locals’ desire for peace and quiet.

It is interesting to see how these architectural designs have responded to their local environment from their ethnic backgrounds, and how they allow an incredible difference creativity despite their similarity in space.



Aga Khan Award for Architecture. 1992, Kampung Kali Cho-de, viewed 16 Feb 2017,
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UCA News. 1992, Islamic Award for Architecture to Indonesian Catholic Priest, viewed 16 Feb 2017,
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Lian, H. 2011, Kampung Kali Chode Yogyakarta, viewed 16 Feb 2017,
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Gibson, E. 2017, Hiroyuki Ogawa Architects designs pair of contrasting Tokyo apartments for Airbnb guests, viewed 16 Feb 2017,
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Post B: Walk Your City


by Marcella Cheng

In the hustle and bustle of today’s urban world, it is difficult to choose walking over the speed and convenience of cars and transport. Indeed, we have seen a spike in vehicle usage by an incredible 123% in the Oceanic region alone from 2005 – 2014 (OICA, 2017), which means that less and less people are choosing alternative methods of travel. Vehicle usage seems to be especially popular in wealthier urban areas; the same areas in which obesity has risen parallel (WHO 2013). The “Walk Your City” campaign aims to rectify this and encourage whole communities to “get out of the cars and explore the place under their own power” by employing a variety of signs that help raise awareness of the surrounding environment.

The project was begun in 2012 by a recently graduated American student, Matt Tomasulo as a way to help citizens take back urban streets for pedestrians and cyclists (Teasdale, 2015), rather than vehicle users. Essentially, Tomasulo arranged for a series of well-designed signs to go up in busy intersections of his home city to point passers-by to nearby attractions (such as the local coffee shop, a hiking trail or a movie theatre) that they could walk to instead of drive.


This “guerrilla wayfinding” was a way Tomasulo hoped could give local residents “the power to create change quickly, easily, and cheaply”. While shortly after the project’s debut, the signs were taken down due to council violations, they’re now back up and even supported by local governments across the world, along with donations from Knight Foundation and their Kickstarter campaign.

The signs were made available on the Walk Your City website, where anyone from anywhere can make and design their own signs, that are printed and sent back to be put up in local cities. These signs also have a QR code embedded into them that can be scanned with one’s phone to download a more detailed map of the area. This idea of “hactivism” that is currently trending worldwide means that local citizens can “retrofit” their communities into a closer, social, and healthier community (Teasdale, 2015). In short, it is a fantastic example of small ways individuals can work together to create the change they want to see in their world.

Check out their website at !


Goodyear, S. 2015, DIY Wayfinding Signs Are About to Go Mainstream, viewed 15 Feb 2017,
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Teasdale, A. 2015, A very good sign, viewed 15 Feb 2017,
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World Health Organization. 2013, Global Health Observatory (GHO) data, viewed 15 Feb 2017, << >>

OICA. 2017, Vehicles In Use, viewed 15 Feb 2017,
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Post C: Yogyakartan Street Art


by Marcella Cheng

Our group mural project in Kali Code was the first time any of us had ever used spray paint in our art-making, and so we were relieved to have been given the assistance of a young Yogyakartan street artist by the name of Mosaif. While he seemed mostly amused at our clumsy attempts, he was always more than happy to help clean up our continuously dripping mural and to answer any questions I had.

As it turned out, Mosaif had been painting since he was young, for about ten years or so, since his high school and university days. He said that most of the street artists start out young like him, just quickly tagging walls to slowly master the spray can. It was interesting to find out this bit of information, as the attitudes towards “graffiti” in Australia tend to be extremely negative and usually illegal. While we would consider young street artists as vandals, Mosaif described the activity as a fun trend and a popular way for the youth to express themselves. This was another reason why street art was more prevalent in Yoygyakarta than Jakarta, he explained, as there was far more youth here.


Upon researching, this should hardly be surprising as the street art trend can be tracked back as early as 1998, where political graffiti first emerged mostly from student movements during the Reformasi era. In a time of great political upheaval, it is easy to understand how young people especially would have found “putting spray-can nozzle to wall” as a way to engage in political “self-expression and national identification”, a way to claim their city (Lee, 2013). Lee continues to unravel street art as a form of communication between people of all classes, where anyone could read or view the visual protests and in turn, draw their own response. These wall murals have become “an omnipresent feature of New Indonesia’s urban landscape” that Wilson describes as having a “strong social consciousness interlaced with humour… a bold aesthetic and strong commitment to craft” that could only come from the voices of Indonesian youth.

Another reason why street art is far more popular in Indonesia than Australia, for example, is the incredibly cheap prices of the materials. Even I was shocked, when Mosaif took me to the paint store, that the prices per can averaged from 13000rp to 5500rp (which is $1 – $5 AUD)! When we compared these prices to Australia’s, which averaged $10 per can, as well as the lack of walls to even paint in Sydney, it’s no wonder the art form seems to flourish in Yogya.


All photographs by me (Marcella Cheng)

Mosaif, February 2, 2017, interview

Lee, D 2013, ”Anybody Can Do It’: Aesthetic Empowerment, Urban Citizenship, and the Naturalization of Indonesian Graffiti and Street Art’, City & Society, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 304-327

Wilson, M. 2003, Sama-Sama/Together, viewed 13 February 2017,
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Post D: As Beautiful As It Is Deadly- Indonesia’s Pencak Silat


by Marcella Cheng

The contemporary health and fitness craze of these recent years has seen a resurge of interest in martial arts in hopes of relearning the ancient ways of reconnecting with one’s body. While gym-goers might be more familiar with the more sport-heavy Muay Thai, few know of the beautiful but deadly martial art whose home is rooted deep within Indonesia’s history; Pencak Silat.

Being a practitioner of Taekwondo and Karate myself, I took a strong interest in researching the more secretive martial art that originated from my birth country, Indonesia. Like many ancient practices, Pencak Silat’s true historic origin appears to be an elusive mystery, though most have recorded its origin from the study of animal movements. Interestingly, many legends have attributed women as the originators of the art, such as in West Java “whose Cimande style is said to derive from a woman emulating the movements of a tiger fighting with a monkey” (Clarke 2010). Indeed, unlike most Muslim countries, women are encouraged to practice martial arts in Indonesia (Fight Quest, 2005).

(All illustrations by Marcella Cheng)

Perhaps the most defining traits of Pencak Silat that set it apart from other martial arts, is how it uses “a beauty of action, fluidity, and quickness” in a “dancelike rhythm” (Draeger 1972), that stands in sharp contrast to its deadly movements. One of the hosts of the Discovery Channel TV show “Fight Quest”, emphasised the difference in the hand movements in particular to modern day arts; While most arts keep arms tucked in close to the body to protect it, Pencak Silat boasts elaborate and intricate twisting of hands and arms to distract the opponent. Watching these “dances” myself, I am heavily reminded of a snake charmer lulling its prey in preparation to strike.

Another curious aspect of Pencak Silat is how its practice has been shaped by its history. Pencak Silat itself is an umbrella term (much like the word Kung Fu) to encase a variety of styles and variations of the art. Maryono gives thorough examples on how it is practiced in different areas: as a sport and recreation for the Sundanese, and in West Sumatra as a public dance form and self-defence for their travelling youth. Interestingly, the more deadly and military aspects of Pencak Silat seem to have flourished during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, in which the art was either suppressed in many areas, or mixed and encouraged with Japanese martial arts such as Judo, Jujitsu and Kendo. Later during the Dutch occupation of Indonesia, Pencak Silat evolved yet again to a more brutal, guerilla style warfare that proved far more deadly in the terrain compared to clumsy firearms of the enemy. These aspects of Indonesian history have shaped Pencak Silat into the mesmerising martial art it is today.


All illustrations by me (Marcella Cheng)

Pencak Silat, 2008, television program, Fight Quest, Discovery Channel, USA, 28 January.

Clarke, D. 2010, “What is Pencak Silat”, viewed 28 Jan 2017,
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Draeger, D. 1972 “The Weapons and Fighting Arts of Indonesia”; Charles E. Tuttle Company Japan, p.33.

Maryono, O. 1999, “Pencak Silat in the Indonesian Archipelago”, Rapid Journal Vol 4 No.2, << >>

Maryono, O. 2002, “The Militarisation of Pencak Silat during the Japanese Occupation and the Era of Revolution”, Rapid Journal Vol 6, No.
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Pikir Tentang Anak Mu

By Marcella Cheng, Jennifer Kim and Miyoung Kang

Kampung Code, once an “urban slum” now dubbed as “Yogyakarta’s Rio de Janeiro”, is famous for its brightly coloured homes that stand out spectacularly on the banks of Kali Code. These vividly coloured roofs have often become a platform for many advertising companies to take advantage of, including cigarette factories, but now have been subverted in a colourful Anti-Smoking campaign that we were proud to be a part of. The project started on Monday the 30th of January, until opening night on Saturday, the 4th of February. Our project was to design and paint a wall mural to fit in with and as an artistic response to the campaign.

The wall itself spanned about 1.5m x 2m. We aimed to design something bright and eye-catching, yet fitting with the other murals that were in the vicinity. Most importantly, the mural would have to clearly and strongly convey our anti-smoking message. Our greatest concern was being able to design something simple enough to be able to produce, as this was the first time any of us were going to be using spray paint as a medium. What we came up with had to be strong in its message, yet at the same time, not so revolting as it was going to be a permanent addition among the villagers’ homes.


The two people who were most influential in our project were two artists; Koma and his assistant Mosaif. Koma is a talented graffiti artist from Jakarta who has worked in various fields of graffiti world wide and has led an innovative design movement in his field using comic illustration. In Kali Code, he painted the roofs and walls of the village with vivid anti-smoking murals, and was our inspiration and guide for our work. However, it was his assistant, Mosaif, that helped us the most with our work. While he was officially there as Koma’s assistant, he spend many hours with us, even taking us to the paint shop and helping clean up our mural.

It was interesting to find that while most countries regard wall painting without permission of the proprietor as the destruction of the arts or an act of vandalism, graffiti and mural painting is actually permitted in most streets of Yogyakarta legally, and the government even encourages the autonomous participation of artists (Yogyantaro, 2017). For example, we often encountered murals in every corner of the city, which was also a source of inspiration for us.

(Rough Photoshopped sketch)

After many iterations, we eventually decided on a cartoon-like design that Jennifer drew, featuring a grotesque adult smoker suffocating their child with passive smoking. This illustration style was agreed to be the most fitting with Koma’s mural style, although still being uniquely different. The bright, eye-catching colours and cartoon style aims to attract youth and younger audiences, who most easily fall into the smoking culture in Indonesia. This was combined the words “Pikir tentang anak mu”, which translate to “Think about your children.” We agreed that the effect of smoking on their children or loved ones was a significant factor that often helped smokers to at least think about quitting, and that this was we were going to focus on.

Transferring our design onto the wall was a different problem altogether. By using different caps on the the spray cans, we could control hardness, sizes, thickness, consistency, compatibility and also patterns as well. Using all of them created different linework and gave hierarchy to our design. The spray cans themselves ranged from about 13000 to 55000rp ($1.3 – $5.5 AUD) each, with the most expensive being the flurouscent colours. Mosaif mentioned that it was these incredibly cheap prices that made street art so popular amongst the youth in Yogya (compared to Sydney, where the cans average about $10 or $12 each).


Overall, this was an amazing opportunity and project to work on. It was really interesting to see the Anti-Smoking campaign come to life in Kali Code and to see our work in practice. One of the best things that came out of this project was meeting and working with professional Indonesian artists, whose work was not only incredible to watch, but also a great inspiration to us all. Learning about and immersing ourselves in their culture and art, within the village of Kali Code was crucial in understanding the way the local context shapes design. For us, it was also a great opportunity to design this mural in response to their work, and to show an alternate way of illustrating the same message. It was fun to dip into an art style and medium we have never tried before, but is so central to Yogyakartan street art, and a great way to experience the local design culture.



Koma_Indo, 2017, Koma (@koma_indo), Instagram photos and videos, viewed 09 February 2017, <;., Indonesian street arts, viewed 09 February 2017, .

Linda, P. Untitled,, viewed 4 March 2014, .

Diply. Heart Waffle Iron,, viewed 4 March 2014, .

BHa, P. Graffiti font,, viewed 4 March 2014, .

Kang, M. Kim, Gguerim. Cheng, M. 2017, Show your colours, Kali code, Indonesia.

Yogyantaro, H. 2017, interview, 4 Feb.