Soekarno, Indonesian First President, and His Vision of a Modern Capital

Trained as engineer and architect, First President Soekarno dreamt of a modern capital that is not only a ‘gift’ from the colonialism era but a new capital that would become the exemplar and inspiration for emerging countries around the world. Indonesia’s 1957 acquisition of Dutch assets and Japan’s war solatium money, including the 1962 Asian Games, were the pushing factors as well. These factors lead President Soekarno to push the development of the capital in various ways. In addition, since he was the president at that time gave him enough power to push his vision in reshaping the capital. He erected numerous new buildings, district creation, and revitalization, while also constructing monuments as a bold statement of an independent country.

Arriving in Jakarta through Kemayoran Airport, which had its golden years in 1958, contingents were driven along the modernized boulevard of Jendral Sudirman Street and Thamrin Street, passing by the Welcome Monument in the middle of Hotel Indonesia Roundabouts, built-in 1961. Contingents stayed at Hotel Indonesia, the newly built modern hotel completed in 1962, which will later become the center of social life for the elites. Asian Games 1962 was conducted at the newly completed Gelora Bung Karno sports complex, one of the biggest stadiums in the world at the time of completion. Soekarno also constructed the first mall in Indonesia, Sarinah shopping center, which was meant to set and stabilize retail prices for the country.

After Soekarno’s impeachment in 1965 by President Soeharto, some projects are put on halt, which later is continued by the great then-governor Ali Sadikin, who served from 1966-1977. Some of the projects ranging from the 1950-1980s include Hotel Borobudur, Gedung Veteran, House of Representatives, National Monumen, Istiqlal Mosque, Taman Ismail Marzuki planetarium, and Taman Impian Jaya Ancol recreation center.


Jakarta Post. “Sukarno’s Vision of a Modern Capital.” The Jakarta Post. Accessed December 8, 2019.

2 Comments on “Soekarno, Indonesian First President, and His Vision of a Modern Capital

  1. It is understood how a president has such power to reshape a city. It is also interesting how modernity is envisioned as only having (western) buildings and street layouts that would appeal to the international stage and the elites, while other vital aspects of the city such as the transport network and housing may have been neglected.
    Perhaps do tell what happened and why the president was impeached

  2. It’s certainly a special case when the president actually have the vision and knowledge on how the city should be, and seemingly it was a success as the new capital became an exemplar and inspiration for emerging countries around the world. Do you think there are cons to it as well as opposed how usually governing and city planning are not driven by the same person?
    It would also be interesting to know that even Soekarno’s plan was later continued by governor Ali Sadikin, are there any noticeable differences between the projects before and after Soekarno’s impeachment?

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