Contested Territories

Home / Programme / Bachelor of Science (ASD) / Courses / 20.111 Sustainable Design Option Studio 2 / Contested Territories


Felix Raspall (SUTD) & Sebastian Linsin (FCL)

Ironically, environmental protection and species conservation efforts require the cautious
transformation of the very same natural environment they intend to preserve. In order to
withstand the economic and social pressure applied by their surroundings, these contested
territories need to grant space for caretakers, researchers, rangers, and eventually also
visitors. The aim of the proposed studio is to explore new integrated sustainable strategies
for the design of these critical infrastructure.

The site is located one hour drive away from the city center of Medan, the capital of North
Sumatra and fourth largest Indonesian city with more than 4 M inhabitants within its
metropolitan area. The so-called ‘Orangutan Haven’ is the solution for saved orangutans
that cannot be released in the wild due to health or disability reasons. The project involves
the construction of a number of man-made moated islands which will give the animals
high quality natural environment whilst at the same time being contained in a manageable
setting in which all of their daily needs can still be catered for.

The Orangutan Haven will not only provide a sanctuary and improve the welfare of unreleasable
animals, but also fulfil a vital role as a unique educational resource. It is therefore
planned to allow managed access to the site for the public, such that both today’s decision
makers, and those of tomorrow, will be able to far better understand why orangutans end
up in human hands, what the consequences of this are for orangutans and humans alike,
and what is involved in conserving the species and its habitat in the present day. Currently, the construction of the islands is in progress. In order to have access to local and sustainable resources, bamboo is cultivated on site. Planned are various public educational and service facilities, such as a visitor center, a green school, an eco-farming center, a restaurant, and a cafe.

The sponsoring NGOs — the Swiss PanEco and the Indonesian YEL — invited us to develop, together with Singaporean students, a design for a ‘forest school’. The design project has to consider the specific social conditions, the availability of material resources, talent and technical skills as well as the climatic, ecological and economic conditions. Additionally, questions of contemporary didactical concepts and their spatial implementation will inform the students’ design approaches. Together with experts’ input and feedback provided by the FCL network and local practitioners we will develop a reasonable and customized strategy how a building can be implemented. The client will consider the realization of the student projects.

The studio will be structured in three phases: In the first phase, the students will
individually analyze outstanding bamboo structures to gain deeper understanding on the specific cities of the material (joints, connections, surfaces, spatial potentials, etc.).
The second phase consists of a fi eld trip to the site and a visit to the natural habitat of the Sumatran orangutans in the Leuser National Park (Bukit Lawang). In the final phase the
students will develop a design project in groups of two, coached weekly by the instructors.
Th is collaborative project intents to further the institutional relationship between the
Future Cities Laboratory, the ETH Zurich, and SUTD.