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ADS5: The Universal Campus

Jessica Tiffany Hindradjaja

Jessica studied architecture at the Architectural Association and the Royal College of Art, London. Prior to her time at the RCA, she worked at DP Architects in London, contributing to projects across hospitality, retail, and community space. Her personal interests currently extend over architecture, everyday objects and furniture design, materiality and craftsmanship, as well as topics surrounding domestic labour, maintenance, collaboration, and alternative urban narratives.

Born and raised in Indonesia, Jessica has revisited her hometown through her final project at the RCA.

Degree Details

School of Architecture

ADS5: The Universal Campus
Daily life of the mid-rise building as social housing in Jakarta


Moving and still images with sounds from Jakarta's kampung kota


A Corridor That Is a Room
Preliminary Hand Sketches
Floor Plate Design — preliminary hand sketch
The Step Threshold and Level Difference
The Mid-rise, front
Vertical Extension of the Street
The Mid-rise, rear

The project began intuitively, by designing a space that is both pleasing to walk through and inhabit at the same time. I looked into the photograph of a verandah by Roberto Menghi. The verandah is a slightly sunken and open space in relation to its surrounding. It seems protective but not enclosed, and inside but also outside. This lack of either or spatial qualities potentially allows the verandah reading as both a circulation corridor and a room. 

I looked into the details of the verandah that create its in-between qualities: the step threshold and the level difference. As one approaches the verandah from the outside space, they go up the step and come back down to a level lower than that of the outside. I have replicated this detail into my floorplate, creating three adjacent spaces separated by a 20 cm high step threshold and a 40 cm level difference. Each of the spaces is four-metre wide, as it is the width in which the long corridor-like spaces can start to be inhabited as rooms. 

In translating this floorplate into a vertical building, staggered instead of linear stacking is used. Linear stacking would turn the outside space into a roofed balcony covered by the floor above it. But the step-like figure generated by the staggering allows for the open and exposed outside space to exist on the upper floors of the building, and in that way preserving the relative in-between qualities necessary for both circulation and inhabitation within the verandah spaces. 

While in many projects that adopt the stepping figure the rear sides have also been staggered to allow natural light, I have extended each floor plan to meet the rear edge of the uppermost floor. In doing so, I created rear spaces of varying depths on each floor. 

The building has been kept five-storey high to avoid excessively large rear spaces on the ground and lower floors. 


1:20 model - plasterboard, wood, plaster, mdf, castor wheels


120 x 100 x 120 cm
The Alleyway as a Shared Open-Plan
The Alleyway of Kampung Kota — South Jakarta
Spillages from the House and into the Alleyways — House 01, kampung kota in South Jakarta
Shared Infrastructure: Framework for Spillages — House 02, 03, 04, kampung kota in South Jakarta
Rejection of the High-rise Typology for Social Housings — Local online news clippings

The building as a project progressed through its appropriation into Jakarta’s kampung kota, an urban neighbourhood typology of closely knitted low rise-houses and narrow alleyways. 

In researching the alleyways and the houses, I used walking as a tool for observing as well as collecting lived experiences of spaces, objects, sounds, and momentary occurrences. Through varying times, routes, and paces of walking, I was able to understand that the alleyways possess a life beyond access. Throughout its daily life, the network of alleyways is access, supply shop, eatery, workplace, laundry, kitchen, playground, and living room altogether.

The alleyway is essentially a narrow but long and meandering open-plan space that accommodates temporary and periodic spillages from the houses. The sharing of the open plan through continuous negotiations enables the social relations of exchanges and sharing of not only the space but also labour and resources among the neighbours. Such spillages allow domestic work, typically done as a private familial matter, to be carried out collectively instead. This has become a social infrastructure that substitutes for the neighbourhood’s lack of formal infrastructure and material resources.

However, kampung kota typically occupy the city’s riversides. Self-built, their proximity to the river was crucial as they lack water infrastructure, to begin with. Today, ongoing evictions and demolitions of these neighbourhoods have been justified as the city’s urgent flood management effort, as they occupy land intended as a floodplain. During the rainy monsoon season, flooding is unavoidable here. In the words of a kampung resident: “This is the place for water.”  

In return for the eviction, the government offers relocation into newly built high-rise social housings. These high-rise social housings are modelled after Singapore’s HDB tower, a hyper-dense, hygienic, and efficient housing model. Despite the model’s success in Singapore and many other cities, the HDB tower model faces rejection in the case of Jakarta. 

Shortly after relocation into the high-rise, many have returned to illegal settlements or their rural hometown. While the relatively lower level of state involvement plays a role in the rejection of the high-rise housings in Jakarta, unfamiliarity with height and disconnection to the ground also contribute. Yet, more fatal is overlooking the labour dynamic and system of support among the neighbours as enabled by the alleyway.

The Mid-rise as Jakarta’s Social Housing
The Verandah as a Laundry Room
Second Floor Plan
Housing Unit as Bedroom and Storage
Spillages from the Housing Unit into Rear Production Space
Rear Production Space — First floor
Vertical Extension of the Alleyway
The Verandah as a Kitchen and Eatery
Ground Floor Plan
The Ground Floor as Water Treatment Facility and Market
The Ground Floor as a Flood Plain

The project appropriates the terraced building as an alternative proposal of social housing for Jakarta, which reintroduces the open-plan alleyways of kampung kota and the everyday labour dynamics within it.  

The five-storey height is retained; a mid-rise instead of a high-rise is important in negotiating density with the resident’s unfamiliarity with height and the need for a sense of connectivity to the ground. The building includes housing units, production spaces, and spaces for spillages.

Utilised as housing units, the long inside spaces of each floor are elongated to different lengths to accommodate varying sizes of productions taking place at the rear spaces. It becomes longer as the rear production space becomes deeper towards the lower floors. Each housing unit is a room that functions as a bedroom and storage. The kitchen, laundry, bathroom, and living room all spills into the verandah and parts of the rear production space. 

The rear spaces are altered to be completely open for multiple reasons. In the tropical climatic context of Jakarta, where insulating walls are not needed, the open peripheries of the rear production spaces allow for natural light and ventilation; spatial versatility for appropriations; less use of materials and lower construction costs. 

Circulation is provided by a U-shaped external staircase, which provides a persistent sequence of access from the outside throughout all the floors. The open and exposed outside space becomes a vertical extension of the street. While the verandah becomes circulation corridors, providing access to individual housing units and across the building. 

Additional steps are placed to suggest where public horizontal circulation across the building takes place. Although this is likely to be altered by the residents, the circulation implied by the additional step divides the verandah into two, further suggesting its use as rooms to inhabit.

A goods lift, which services the rear production space, is also external to the building to maintain a similar experience of accessing from the outside. 

Appropriated into the floodplain site of kampung neighbourhood, the ground floor is altered to accommodate flooding. It is left completely open to allow both the restoration and occupation of the floodplain. Unlike the remaining floors, the ground floor has a persistent stepping that extends beyond the three adjacent spaces and out towards the river. Allowing flooding within the building negotiates the restoration of the flood plain for the city’s flood management effort without relocating kampung residents away from their neighbourhood. 

Testing its multiplication possibility into a mirrored twin, the restored flood plain is occupied as a market on one building, and a neighbourhood association facility on the other. However, on both buildings, the ground floors are essentially water treatment facilities, which serve both the mid-rises and the neighbouring low-rise houses of the kampung. The mirrored buildings created a new alleyway that opens up into a riverside square, which reintroduces the public use of the riverside. The square is occupied by both low-rise houses and a constellation of public furniture and spaces.

In imagining the building’s inhabitation, I looked into the camping-like way of inhabiting the kampung alleyways that allows for such spillages, and the necessary infrastructure that facilitates it. A communal water tap, electricity point and laundry hanger, for example. 

Therefore, the detail of the building is designed to turn the building into a framework for such a nimble way of inhabiting. Services such as lighting circuits, electricity sockets, communal water taps, and water drainage are mounted on the walls and left exposed. This allows for easy alterations as well as periodic maintenance by the residents. Hooks are mounted onto the columns to suggests the possibility of appropriating. The columns can be turned into a laundry line, shade, and perhaps an eatery banner, while every other part of the building is left for the residents to appropriate and misappropriate.