Firm Foundation

Participatory public space design for riverfront communities

Firm Foundation aims to reduce environmental vulnerability in the riverfront settlements of Sungai Jingah in Banjarmasin, Indonesia, where a community of low-income families’ livelihood and social interaction depend upon the Andai River. Through a participatory campaign, residents worked with the Solo Kota Kita design team to envision a new waterfront public space. The project positions Banjarmasin’s rivers as an asset for sustainable development and is a catalyst for future investments in basic services.

Firm Foundation was constructed in April 2013 in partnership with PNPM Mandiri, Indonesia’s national program for slum upgrading and community empowerment.

The design restores a port that had fallen into disrepair, thereby recovering important daily economic activities such as residents purchasing vegetables from boat vendors. The public space steps down to the water and creates multiple ways to engage the river through fishing and other activities. It also provides flexible open and shaded space, which the area lacks. The shaded area also provides seating for an adjacent food stall, thereby supporting another local economic activity.

Social Design Field Guide: a handbook from experiences in participatory design in Indonesia

In order to share this experience more widely, we published the Social Design Field Guide. The 68-page book illustrates nine design tools and methods applied during Firm Foundation and narrates lessons learned and reflections from working with residents to reduce vulnerability. With this publication, the team is expanding the impact of Firm Foundation through storytelling.

Social Design Field Guide


Bappeda Kota Banjarmasin

Ir. Fajar Desira, Banjarmasin, Indonesia

Dtrk Banjarmasin

Ibu Betty Goenmiandari, Banjarmasin, Indonesia

Yayasan Kota Kita

Addina Amalia, Surakarta, Indonesia
Ahmed Rifai, Surakarta, Indonesia
Alice Shay, New York, NY
Alykhan Mohamed, Cambridge, MA
Bima Pratama, Surakarta, Indonesia
John Taylor, Jakarta, Indonesia
Michael Haggerty, New York, NY
Stephen Kennedy, San Francisco, CA

Pnpm Mandiri

Korkot Banjarmasin
Pak Heru Sujatmiko, Banjarmasin, Indonesia

AECOM UrbanSOS Program

Daniel Elsea, London, UK
Kimberlee Myers, Jakarta, Indonesia
Pierre Pohan, Jakarta, Indonesia
Rachael Pengilley, London, UK
Iman Prasetio, Jakarta, Indonesia
Sibarani Sofian, Jakarta, Indonesia
Merry Thong, Jakarta, Indonesia
Hari Widijanto, Jakarta, Indonesia
Sheau Fong Wong, Singapore