The Power of Waterfront as Public Space: Lessons from Losari, Makassar

Tri Sutomo

Department of Urban and Regional Development, Faculty of Engineering, Hasanuddin University

1. Introduction

Makassar city is the fifth largest city in Indonesia. Sitting in a very strategic position in terms of geography - on the center of Indonesia - this city plays as a hub for air flight and sea transportation; it makes most airlines and commercial ships stop in this city. Referring to National Spatial Planning 2005-2025, Makassar was declared as the development center for eastern part of Indonesia. As a result, during the last two decades this 177.55 km2 city grows rapidly, inhabited by almost 1.7 million people, and became the fifth highest populous city in Indonesia .

Naturally, Makassar city faces Makassar Straits which has 31 km long of shorelines from the north to the south. This setting makes the city has very nice waterfront with beautiful sunset, known as Losari. After revitalization in 2008, hundreds of citizens and also visitors from outside Makassar visited and utilized the lure of waterfront everyday both in morning or evening times. The same time many buildings changed the function. At this sense, this research aims to investigate the role of Losari waterfront as public open space in generating the urban development.

To explore Losari waterfront as public open space in generating the urban development, this research was focused on the activities before, during, and after revitalization of Losari; it was detailed in three research questions:

(1) How does Losari as public open space allow and accommodate the activities of citizens? (2) Does the revitalization of Losari that became a public space influence economic activities in adjacent area? (3) Realizing the uniqueness of Losari waterfront, to what extent should the further development of Losari be planned  based on the perception of visitors?

To focus the research, the area of study was limited and indicated in Figure 1. This area was delineated by Makassar Straits in the west, Haji Bau Street in the south, streets of Somba Opu-Madukelleng in the east, and Riburane street in the north side. The Losari waterfront has 4.3 ha and 932 m long.

Losari Waterfront takes very strategic position in the city. It is not only faces the waterfront, but also sites on the heart of the city. It is crossed by the main road names Losari Penghibur Street which the bus rapid transport (BRT) and micro public transport (pete-pete) pass by. This setting makes this area accessible by citizens.


2. Review on related research

The term of urban development has broad in meaning. It is not only about physical issues but also refers to nonphysical ones, including the change of activities due to the change of tangible issues. At this research, urban development was viewed from its impact on human activities.

Revitalization of public space has attracted few researchers to investigate the Losari phenomenon. Ali et al (2014) in his research regarding revitalization of Losari concluded that the revitalization period 2005-2008 influenced on the change of  building function. Some new commercial activities appeared,  but seen from the side of bare foot vendor, it didn’t affect significantly on their income. Dirgabrina (2012) also investigated the land use change during post-revitalization in Losari. She concluded that in the area which faces directly to the waterfront the land use has changed significantly.

Hasna (2012) and Santiago (2015) concerned with artwork design and landscape in public space. They suggested that artwork enables to improve the quality of public space and create a friendly environment. This article also revealed that a  public space should meet four requirements i.e. sociability, uses and activities, comfort and image, and access and linkage.

Sunaryo (2004) and (2008) argues that spatial setting change the activities. Similarly, Worpole and Knox (2015) reveal that  public space plays an important role in social life and communities. Furthermore they reveal that a successful public space is not only the role of architect and urban planners, but also the role of people: place makes people, more than people make places.

Mertokusumo (2015) reveals that sharing the private  property for public space will benefit to the quality of urban space. The public space is a melting pot of many people from various cultural, economics, and social background, and should  provide appropriate atmosphere and attraction. He discussed examples how to share private property to become pedestrian side walk that in turn public space were invented.

Tonnelat (2010) reveal that successful public space needs  public participation in planning. It was identified that 10 requirement were required to successful public space. Those were image and identity, attraction and destinations, amenities, flexible design seasonal strategy, accessible, the inner square and the outer square, reaching out like an octopus, central management, and diverse funding.

Considering the previous research, this article discussed the role of waterfront as public space in generating urban developments. It focused on the social activities, economic development, and the future planning to improve the quality of waterfront by involving public partnership.


3. Method of Research

Data was compiled by filed observation, and personal in-depth discussion was applied to inquire the information from visitors. To answer the first question, the activities in Losari, data were collected through field observations during the week end. To verify the impact of Losari on economic development, this research done through observing existing business activities within adjacent of Losari, what kind of business  before, during, and after revitalization period. The last research question was answered through doing focused-group discussion (FGD) participated by group of visitors who were being in Losari. Four groups namely family, youth, senior citizens, and sport groups, were participated the FGD, and the focus of discussion was what kind of future planning programs should  be implemented by local government in order to improve the quality of Losari waterfront as public space.


4. Research Finding and Discussion

a. Revitalization of Losari Waterfront in Short History

Since 14th century, Makassar was known as commercial port not only by Asian traders but also by Euripian traders. Ships from foreign countries stopped and anchored to load agriculture commodities, and to be exported to Asian as well as European countries. At the beginning of 16th century, Dutch arrived in Makassar, and then dominated the port, formed army forces and built Rotterdam fort in order to control their business; after the Bongaya war, Dutch established city government of Makassar.

Dirgabrina (2012) described that in 1946, D.M. van Switten, Mayor of Makassar (1945-1946) built 900 m of retaining wall to protect the coastlines and Penghibur Street at Makassar Straits from destructive abrasion. By the times, the retaining wall was a nice place for people to sit and to enjoy sunset. Site at Penghibur Street, the main street in the city of Makassar, Losari was very easy to access, makes hundred visitors easy to come daily. Since 1980, Losari was the interesting public area of Makassar. The number of visitors increased significantly, and at the same time Pedagang Kaki Lima (PKL = bare foot vendors) also came to serve the visitors with many kinds of foods and drinks. Losari became a comfortable place for relaxation. Unfortunately, due to the less control in term of cleanliness and disorder parking, the environment of :osari  became worsen. Hundreds PKL blocked the view toward the sunset with massive nonpermanent tents made the coastal area  become dirty and unpleasant area (Figure 2).

Realizing this issue, the Mayor initiated an idea how to improve the quality of Losari. In 1994, an opened design competition was held, participated by some architects. The winner proposed to improve the area of Losari by revitalizing waterfront. The design offered to do a wide coastal reclamation in order to earn spacious public place and to replace the PKLs and other informal sectors away.

Starting in 1998, the revitalization work was began by doing sheet piles construction and land reclamation. Because of very limited budget, the works was done in many phases, part  by part. After taking long period of coastal reclamation and construction, in 2002 the first plaza, named Pantai Losari, was completely built. Next was Bugis-Makassar in 2007 and Mandar-Toraja 2008 were built. The name of the plazas represents ethnics groups which do exist in South Sulawesi.

The waterfront plazas perform much uniqueness. The Pantai Losari plaza, the first spacious plaza, was completely  built in 2002. It was completed with benches, big planting  boxes, two sculptures of Adipura trophies, and a jetty for  boating. Bugis-Makassar plaza was the next plaza which has  been completely built in 2004. It was furnished by sculptures of becak, paraga, Pinisi traditional boat , and pepe-pepe dance. In the northern side, Toraja Mandar plaza was built in 2008. It  presented white buffalo (a magic animal of Toraja custom), miniature of Toraja architecture, a dancing lady with Toraja tribe dress, and a woman with traditional woven equipment. In 2012 the Amirul Mukminin mosque, a floating mosque, and 20 sculptures South Sulawesi warriors  –  who fight against Dutch Colonial - were built. These are object of religious and educative arena.


b. Profile of Respondents

During the weekends, 133 respondents were selected accidentally. To explore their reason of visit Losari, each respondent were encouraged to mention three reasons. Following is the characteristics of the respondents:

The data of respondents indicate that in number more women than men visited Losari. Most of visitors (58.65%) reside far away from Losari, means although they reside in distances, they eager to visit Losari. The interesting data is reason and  purpose to visit Losari were to get fresh air (22.55%) spacious  place (15.78%) and family gathering (18.79%); this means that the lack of urban open space and uncomfortable environment make the citizens visit losari. Losari provides spacious space, fresh sea breeze air, and accessible from many destinations. These facts meet with the reveal of Hasna (2012), Sunaryo (2004; 2008), Worpole and Knox (2015).


c. Losari Waterfront as Public Space

During week end, field observation was done to observe and identify the activities in Losari. Every Sunday morning 5.00-10.00 AM on Losari Street, a car free is held. Thousands PKLs come to sell goods while thousand vivitors come to stay and enjoy the Losari. Table 2 describes the activities in Losari.

Previous table indicates that Losari waterfront as a public space is able to provide many possible activities, from boating to social campaign. Hasna (2012), Sunaryo (2004;2008), Worpole and Knox (2015) reveal that a public space should be accessible, has spacious arena, and provide many facilities to accommodate various activities for people. It means that Losari waterfront currently is a powerful public space in Makassar.


d. Impact of Losari Waterfront on Comersial Activities

Data of commercial and business activities related to waterfront as public space was earned by observing the existing objects. There were 259 units observed . They consist of hotel, souvenir shops, karaoke, travel agents, gold and silver shops, restaurant/café, PKLs. Each unit was asked what kind business or economic activities before, during, and after revitalization period. The term of before revitalization period refer to the years up to 2002; during the revitalization means 2002-20012; recent refer the period after revitalization.

Number of all kinds of commercial activities was shown increase significantly. During the revitalization period, number of souvenir shps, hotels, and PKL increased sharply. Similarly, after revitalization period, the number of PKL, minimarket, souvenir shops remains increased. Considering the kinds of commercials, PKL, souvenir shops, they shown increase sharply. In context of relationship, the increasing number show their correlation between waterfront as public space and commercial activities. People who visit end enjoy Losari requires food and drink; that why number of PKL grows sharply, even thought for  middle class. Losari waterfront also attracts domestic and foreign tourist to visit. As an impact, number of hotels and silver are expensive items, and considering the tourist visit, the number of gold and silver shops increased. In conclusion, the existence of Losari waterfront as public space has created many commercial and business activities. Waterfront is really a powerfull factor in term of commercial and business.


e. Exploring Planning Ideas from Visitors

In order to contribute planning ideas for future improvement in Losari based on public opinion, a series of focused-group discussion (FGD) were applied. Four groups, i.e. family gathering, senior citizen, youth community, sport, each done the FGD separately. Each group was participated by 5-7 persons. Researcher as facilitators raised questions o the group, what ideas to improve and to develop Losari Waterfront as public space. Each FGD has taken about 30 minutes to identify their ideas. Table 4 is a list of ideas explored during FGD.

The result shows that each group has it own interest, usually related to the personal characters. Family gathering group has much ideas for planning, vary from children need to Wi-Fi, from landscape to huge structre such as tower to view the beautiful scene of waterfront  or a floating restaurant to serve seafood menu. The senior citizens require ahaded trees and shaded bench as places to sit and to enjoy the pleasant environment. This group also expected Losari has scheduled cultural carnival, and pedestrian foot massage to keep healthiness. The youth group had different interests. They required music performance stage, extreme sport arena, and place for skating board. For the sport group, due to having mass gym every Sunday morning, they require stage, extreme sport arena, and adventure facilities. Although each group has expressed their own ideas to planning, they have some similarities in requirements. Basic infrastructure such as rest room, trash bin, shaded bench and shaded trees were required for them. This meet with Hasna (2012), Sunaryo (2004; 2008), Worpole and Knox (2015) that public space should provide enjoyment for visitors.

The items which were collacted through FGD remain rough ideas from visitor’s points of view. To be implemented programs for planning, they need to be discussed deeply. Budget, priority, level oof importance, and position must be considered seriously. It needs furher study to before determine the fiture planning.


Conclusions and Implications Policy

This research aimed to investigate the power of waterfront as a public space in Losari in accommodating public activities and its impact on commercial activities. Conclusion drawn from discussion are:

1)      The Losari waterfront as public space enables to accommodate amy public activities, vary from individual or group activities, from family gathering inrest to political and social campaign; it is a powerful aspect in terms of social issues

2)      The revitalization of Losari waterfront has been followed by many commercial and business activities within adjacent area. The increasing number of commercials was occurred due the existence of waterfront as public space. The revitalization shown its powerful manner in generating the economic development

3)      Although the revitalization has been completed, and the waterfront public space enables to attract hundreds visitors every day, however this area remain need to improve and develop in the future. Ideas coming from FGD remains in tought formulation shall be the focus to be studied carefully; inviting community is a way to set a planning programs that in turn improve the sense of belonging.

A suggestion also raised to continue further studies, particularly the relationshop between waterfront and the economic development in adjacent area of Losari waterfront. A quantitative approach is required to investigate the influence of waterfront as public space on the micro-economic development.



1)      Ali, M., (2014) Revitalisasi Ruang Publik Tepian Air dan Pengaruhnya terhadap Peningkatan Ekonomi Masyarakat di Pantai Losari Berdasarkan Perubahan Fungsi Bangunan. Prosiding Temu Ilmiah IPLBI 2014, 7-27

2)      Dirgabrina. (2012) Land Use Change in the Post-Reclamation of Losari Beach. Final Project of Regional and Urban Planning Study program, Hasanuddin University. Makassar

3)      Hasna, H.F. et al. (2012) Art in Public Space: Towards Livable and Quality Outdoor Environment. Sustainable Tropical Environment Design Exhibition Journal 4, 226-227

4)      Mertokusumo, W. (online) Reinventing Public Space. Research Gate. Accessed August 15, 2015

5)      Santiago, L; et al. (2015) Green versus Grey: Attitudes Toward Vegetables in a Tropical Metropolitan Square. Environmental and Natural Resources Research, 5(2)

6)      Sunaryo, R.G. (2004) Penataan Ruang publik yang Memadukan Pola Aktifitas dengan Perubahan Fisik Kawasan. Kasus Kawasan Tambakbayan dan Babarsari, Yogyakarta. Seminar dan Lokakarya Nasional Ikatan Arsitek Indonesia.

7)      Sunaryo, R.G. (2008) Perubahan Setting dan Pola Aktifitas di Ruang Terbuka kampus UGM. Seminar SERAP: Humanisme Arsitektur dan Perancangan, Yogyakarta

8)      Syafriny, R. (2012) Ruang Tepi Laut sebagai Destinasi Publik Perkotaan. Media Matrasain, 10 (1)

9)      Tonnelat, S. (2010) Sociology of Public Space. Paris, atlantic Press

10)  Worpole, K; Knox, K. Rowntree, J. (2015) Social Value of Public Space. Rowntree Joseph Foundation. Accessed July, 10, 2015



Power of waterfront, public space, Makassar waterfront



Sutomo, Tri. 2016. The Power of Waterfront as Public Space: Lessons from Losari, Makassar. AURG 2016. Makassar




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