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ISLAMIC AWARD FOR ARCHITECTURE GOES TO INDONESIAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

Updated: September 29, 1992 05:00 PM GMT
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The Aga Khan Foundation for Architecture, an international Islamic social foundation, has named an Indonesian Catholic priest as one of the nine winners of the 1992 Aga Khan Awards for Architecture.

Diocesan Father Yusuf Bilyarta Mangunwijaya, 63, of Semarang archdiocese in Central Java, is honored for his pioneering work in redesigning the riverside slum area of "Kali Code" in Yogyakarta, 400 kilometers southeast of Jakarta, and turning it into a healthy urban environment.

"The award has a special meaning to me because it is presented by an Islamic social foundation," Father Mangunwijaya told The Jakarta Post shortly after the awardees were announced in mid-September.

The jury in charge of selecting the nine winners from 259 candidates noted in its announcement that Father Mangunwijaya deserves the award for his achievement in endowing a marginalized population "with dignity and self-respect by redesigning a derelict space into a healthy urban environment."

Kali Code village was notorious among Yogyakartans as a den of thieves and robbers amidst piles of garbage.

Thanks to the bold vision of the architect priest, Kali Code rose to popularity nationwide. It is mentioned often in various seminars and workshops on human settlements in urban areas.

Minister of Population and Environment Emil Salim has referred to Kali Code as an ideal model of an urban village along a riverside.

Assisted by village chief Willibrordus Prasetya, 47, a Catholic, and student volunteers, the priest started redesigning the village in 1983. He persuaded the villagers the improvements would save them from the danger of heavy floods. The project was completed in 1985.

Using local materials, especially bamboo, Father Mangunwijaya and his volunteers helped the dwellers build houses on high poles, creating a large open space under the homes that was used as a community center.

To be fully involved with the community, Mangunwijaya himself moved to the area to live in a small bamboo house.

The village, previously a slum with houses made of discarded cartons, began to attract social activists, environmentalists, journalists, students, activists and others concerned with community development problems.

Visitors would wonder how a Catholic priest could make these marginalized people, known for their "dirty works" and criminal records, turn friendly and cooperative. Many say the biggest success of the project is the drastic change in the attitudes of the residents of Kali Code.

As part of International Human Rights Day in 1986, Jakarta´s Legal Aid Foundation recognized Father Mangunwijaya and Prasetya for meritorious service in dignifying the people of the riverbank village.

When Father Mangunwijaya left Kali Code for a new project in Gunung Kidul district south of Yogyakarta city, the Kali Code community was threatened by the municipal government that planned to demolish the area and change it into a riverside green-belt to conserve the river.

Father Mangunwijaya protested and threatened to go on a hunger strike should the government go ahead with the plan.

His protest in defense of Kali Code community drew nationwide sympathy. A Muslim clergyman came from Malang, East Java, to express his support and promised to attend the priest while he was on the hunger strike.

Pressure from various groups and individuals including cabinet ministers and generals helped the Kali Code community survive.

Father Mangunwijaya and eight people from Turkey, Syria, India, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Jordan received the cash awards totaling US$500,000 in a ceremony on Sept. 19 in Samarkand, capital of Uzbekistan.

The priest, a graduate of the School of Architecture in Aachen, Germany, had received the 1991 architecture award from the Indonesian Architect Association for his design of Our Lady´s Shrine of Sendang-Sono in Central Java.

END

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