Book Review: Planning the Megacity by Christopher Silver

This is the first post of a book review in this blog. The story started when I met with Christopher Silver at the 2007 ACSP Annual Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in October 2007. Professor Silver, Dean of the College of Design, Construction and Planning at the University of Florida, told me that his new book on Jakarta was getting published soon. I promised him that it would be my pleasure to publicize his book through my blog.

A few days after the conference, I contacted the publisher of Professor Silver's new book, Routledge, and was informed that the book would be available in mid November 2007. I received the book from Routledge in early December 2007 and in about a week I finished reading the book.

The book is a pleasure to read, engaging, well conceived and logically organized. There are seven chapters including (1) Understanding Urbanization and the Megacity in Southeast Asia, (2) Fashioning the Colonial Capital City, 1900-1940, (3) Plans for the Modern Metropolis, 1950-1970s, (4) Planning for Housing, Neighbourhoods and Urban Revitalization, (5) Expansion, Revitalization and the Restructuring of Metropolitan Jakarta: the 1970s to the early 1990s, (6) Urban Village to World City: Re-planning Jakarta in the 1990s, and (7) Planning in the New Democratic Megacity.

As we can see from the chapters, the time span examined from 1900 to the present makes this book valuable. More interestingly, the book discovers how the political intrigue of Suharto’s regime dictated the planning process, and how the political revolution triggered by the economic crisis of the late 1990 resulted in a more participatory and inclusionary planning process.

Professor Silver has been researching Indonesia since his first visit to Indonesia in October 1989 and has produced many peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on Indonesia. In addition, he has vast networks with Indonesian planners and scholars. As we can find on the acknowledgements of his book, Professor Silver had been in contact with numerous Indonesian people including Jakarta's most famous governor who just passed away a few days ago, Ali Sadikin, and the incumbent Jakarta's governor, Fauzi Bowo.

The book is carefully researched and provides historically detailed descriptions of the transformed Jakarta. Professor Silver collected and analyzed the information about planning in Jakarta from a wide range of references, including those from Amsterdam and Singapore, and interviews with most of Jakarta’s planning directors and administrators since the late 1960s to the present.

My review on this book has also been published in the Journal of the American Planning Association volume 74 issue 2 (March 2008) as you can find in this link.

Let me provide you with an excerpt of my review of Planning the Megacity: Jakarta in the Twentieth Century, as follows:

I have no doubt that this carefully researched study contributes to the
literature of international planning and planning history. Anyone with a
scholarly interest in the history of planning in Jakarta should read this book;
it can also serve as an excellent source of information in graduate and
undergraduate courses that focus on international planning, particularly in the
Southeast Asia region. It can also be a very useful reference for planners
conducting projects in Jakarta. In sum, I fully agree with Silver that
“[planning in Jakarta] is a history worth understanding and worth telling” (p.


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