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Planter Box House: A Narrow Lot Home with Edible Landscapes and Raw Concrete Façades

Planter Box House: A Narrow Lot Home with Edible Landscapes and Raw Concrete Façades

/ Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia /

/ Story: Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Ameen Deen /

Edible landscapes provide amazing benefits. But what if you don’t have space for them? Raised garden beds and planter boxes come in handy to deal with the challenges of living in a small space. This narrow lot home in Kuala Lumpur is a living proof of creative design and the advantage it brings to garden plants fit to be eaten. Done right, they thrive everywhere, building façades included.

Form panels made of bamboo strips leave their imprints on poured concrete surfaces and unadorned planter boxes on the building façade.

Boasting beautiful edible gardens and lush fruit trees, the modern home in KL affords 340 square meters of living and functional spaces. The overall effect is impressive notwithstanding its austere simplicity characterized by the rawness of concrete surfaces. But that’s precisely the quality that radiates curb appeal.

There’s more to it than meets the eye. The secrets to creating indoor thermal comfort and sustainable living environments lie in those planter boxes that adorn building façades at the front and back. Plus, the rooftop deck has even more room for raised garden beds filled with herbs, vegetables and fruit trees growing luxuriantly.

A drawing illustrates the positioning of living, functional and gardening spaces on all three levels of the house plan. / Courtesy of Ameen Deen
A side-elevation view of the house plan in cross section shows front and rear façades bedecked with deep planter boxes starting from ground level all the way to vegetable gardening spaces on the rooftop. / Courtesy of Ameen Deen

Named the Planter Box House, it’s the brainchild of Formzero, a homegrown architectural practice renowned for advocating sustainability and design best suited to the geographical features and the Tropical climate prevailing in this part of the Malaysian peninsula.

That being said, it’s designed to be power efficient, thanks to passive building strategies that include deep planter boxes on the balconies where lush trees and edible plants grow. Together they work in tandem to keep the sun and heat out, thereby regulating indoor temperatures by allowing just the right amounts of daylight and fresh outdoor air into the home.

From a distance, the planter boxes crafted of poured concrete have a rawness feel to them that blends seamlessly with trees in the vertical garden landscape. The building exteriors are made to appear untidy and unrefined by design.

Take a closer look, and you discover more than 40 types of edible plants. For safety, big trees are securely anchored in deep planter boxes. Needless to say, they fill passers-by with curiosity as to whether it’s some kind of a fruit orchard tucked in the middle of an urban neighborhood.

A drone’s eye view shows planter boxes filled with fruit trees overlooking edible plants in the front yard garden directly beneath them.

For lack of a better word, it’s a home in a class of itself, one made attractive by a forest of lush foliage and the upper branching of trees that set it apart from everything out there. The poured concrete surfaces lack sophistication as a result of bamboo strips being used to make concrete form boards.

For the architects who designed it, the house represents a fusion between heritage unique to this part of Kuala Lumpur and a new design concept that attempts to redefine Tropical residential architecture from a modern perspective.

A concrete form board made of bamboo strips leaves its imprint showcasing ridges and grooves on the surface in its austere simplicity.

Take a look inside and, surprise! The solid, unsophisticated exteriors belie the fact that the house plan is quite open and airy creating a sense of space, thanks to windows and doorways glazed using clear glass with generous wall openings strategically placed for good ventilation all year round.

Downstairs sitting room enclosed by a clear glass wall affords a view the front yard filled with thriving fruit trees.

The ground floor contains a kitchen and dining room lying furthest to the back of the house. A set of light and bright stairs crafted of steel separates them from a sitting parlor with comfortable furniture located upfront. The kitchen and dining room combo takes pride of place under a high ceiling that rises 6 meters from ground level.

It’s a spacious, well-lighted place, thanks to clear glass walls that stand tall from the floor to the ceiling. On the opposite side of the stairway, the sitting parlor affords a view of the front yard garden adorned with edible plants and trailing woody-stemmed vines handing down from concrete exteriors.

A steel staircase made light and airy by design separates the living room upfront from an open kitchen and dining room lying furthest to the back of the house.
The homeowner enjoys his retirement busy making art in the dining room enchanted by high-ceiling design.
A small piece of ground affords room for vegetable gardening right next to the kitchen and dining room.
A large dining table takes the most prominent position under a high ceiling that rises 6 meters from ground level. The room serving multiple purposes feels light and bright enclosed by a glass wall with swing doors opening to a small backyard.

Climb a flight of stairs, and you come to the second floor that’s in fact a private mezzanine containing a bedroom and a sitting room en suite. From here, the stairway continues on to third floor holding a quiet, secluded reading nook. Worthy of attention is that every part of the home is surrounded by vegetables and herb gardens growing luxuriantly at the in front and back of the building.

Concrete planter boxes and fruit trees provide a privacy screen for the semi-outdoor shower room enclosed by glass walls.

Proceed to the rooftop deck, and a beautiful panorama of the cityscape unfolds before us. Equally fascinating are lush and shadowy gardens developing vigorously covering the full extent of the deck space.

Low-profile barriers on the third-floor balcony afford a beautiful panorama of the cityscape.

Albeit small in size, it’s a living space that speaks volumes for the homeowner’s love of gardening. And it shows in the way raised garden beds and planter boxes are put in every possible place.

In the end, it boils down to ingenious design, the kind that’s fit for the warm and humid Tropical climate prevailing in this part of Malaysia. Plus, it’s a confluence of ideas resulting in crisp cool shade, good ventilation and indoor thermal comfort. Simply fantastic!

Architect: Formzero

Principal Architect: Lee Cherng Yih

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Tanatap Wall Garden: A Restaurant-cum-Café and Bar among Lush Trees and Immaculate White Walls

Tanatap Wall Garden: A Restaurant-cum-Café and Bar among Lush Trees and Immaculate White Walls

/ Central Java, Indonesia /

/ Story: Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Mario Wibowo /

Central Java, Indonesia – Neat and clean walls rise above a reflecting pool and lush lawns brightened up by shimmering lights. They are made attractive by warm-toned whites and smooth curved lines twirling lightly around like poetry in motion. Shaped into alternate ridges and grooves, the concrete surfaces in zingy warm hues slant up to the skyline reminiscent of a graceful dance. It’s an amazing innovation thoughtfully devised to sync with rhythms in the urban landscape that gives it aesthetic appeal.

A welcoming reception area lies adjacent to the reflecting pool designed to blend with the rounded contour at the very top of a white wall separating the restaurant’s interior from the exterior.

The clean, well-lighted trio of restaurant, café and bar is located in Central Java, an Indonesian province that’s home to the famous Borobudur Temple, one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. Named “Tanatap Wall Garden”, it’s a delightful business space in a class of itself, one that advocates for form and function being joined in a way that requires less energy to operate.

The restaurant-cum-café and bar, together with its land that forms a verdant oasis, affords 2,500 square meters of commercial space nestled among beautiful cityscapes. It’s an all-encompassing design that combines commercial real estate with elements of nature in close physical association to the advantage of both.

A charcoal sketch shows the positioning of functional spaces in relation to existing big trees, a relationship to the advantage of both. / Courtesy of RAD+ar
A side elevation view in perspective illustrates the positioning of restaurant, café and bar spaces under lush tree cover. / Courtesy of RAD+ar

The concept delineated above is the brainchild of a high performing team at RAD+ar, an architectural practice based in Jakarta, Indonesia. The team of architects was tasked with transforming what used to be a parking garage into a calm, secluded garden in which to wine and dine; meanwhile preserving the existing natural environment and the property’s significance as part of a central business district.

The result is a piece of architecture showcasing perfectly clean, white walls rising among very big lush trees, a beautiful sight unlike anything out there. Viewed from above, the floor plan consists of three straight lines on the ground moving centrifugally from the center. Along these lines, concrete walls rise to different heights forming gently curved lines at the very top as they traverse among stands of homogeneous trees.

Viewed from above, the restaurant-cum-café and bar merges into beautiful and cool landscapes so that they become an indivisible whole.

Apart from bringing shade and regulating temperatures, the trees growing wild in every direction give the business premises charm, good looks that please the senses and the mind.

It’s design that comes from understanding the warm, humid climate prevailing in Central Java, and the company’s principles advocating for simple and sustainable lifestyles. Together they are the key attributes that make Tanatap Wall Garden one of the most agreeable places to be.

For a good first impression, the welcoming entryway is adorned with green spaces that create positive moments in people’s lives. It’s connected to a pathway system leading to cool and restful places amid the beautiful backyard landscape.

Old trees and new walls become inextricable parts of the design advocating for sustainability.

On the way, an 800-square-meter reflecting pool provides a focal point in the scenery, bringing joy, pleasure and contentment in nature’s peaceful embrace. Interestingly enough, tiers of seats similar to a sports arena are added to the mix in a way that’s proper in the circumstances.

A reflecting pool under tree cover provides a focal point in the landscape. It works in tandem with other passive design strategies creating thermal comfort for both indoors and outdoors.
A lounge area offers wide seating space and flexibility seamlessly integrated into the building’s architectural styles.

In addition to being a rendezvous for good food and drinks, Tanatap Wall Garden offers an enormous richness of nature-inspired outdoor rooms for those who love spending time indulging in music and live stage performances.

Keeping to its original concept, an amphitheater is put in for customers who appreciate dramatic works as a genre of literature and expression of ideas encouraging participation in the discourses of society. All of these features are neatly integrated in one cohesive design aesthetic.

Tiers of seats similar to a sports area lie under a pedestrian bridge connecting different parts of the building. By design, it’s a work of art that keeps creative energy flowing.

In short, it’s a metamorphosis of purpose that results in neat and clean white walls transforming into a stunning commercial space, in this particular case, a trio of restaurant, café and bar set amidst a verdant oasis.

From inside looking out, a part of the white wall with ridges and grooves in it is visible through the doorway at the furthest end.
The restaurant has a lovely garden under tree cover for those who prefer to wine and dine alfresco.

Drop by Tanatap Wall Garden for a drink or two next time you sojourn in Central Java. It’s an opportunity to experience the beauty of architecture and nature coming together in one indivisible design.

Architect: RAD+ar

Principal Architect: Antonius Richard

Sculpture Artist: Wisnu Ajitama

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Binh Duong House: A Home and Restaurant Combo Nestling Warmly in Nature

Binh Duong House: A Home and Restaurant Combo Nestling Warmly in Nature

/ Binh Duong, Vietnam /

/ Story: Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Courtesy of k59 atelier /

Here’s a home of a dual nature that takes pride of place amidst natural surroundings. It consists of a house and a restaurant thoughtfully devised to merge into the verdant countryside in Binh Duong, a province north of Ho Chi Minh City.

To ensure privacy, the house is tucked back in a quiet nook at the rear away from the family’s small restaurant business.

The single family residence with plenty of room for a business appears light and airy to say the least. It’s warmly nestled among the trees in Thuan An, a small town famous for its abundant fruit orchards that are the pride and joy of southern Vietnam. Named Binh Duong House, it seems like the perfect escape amidst breathtaking woodlands and lush scenery of the rural area.

Time changes everything. As the farming town grows and gradually becomes more urban in character, a yearning hope to reconnect with nature grows ever strong. With it come new roads and new buildings, enough to make some people change their minds. This landowner originally had planned on building a row house, a popular architectural style ubiquitous across Vietnam. But after much debate, he decided otherwise.

The result is an interesting combination of a residence and a place of business environed by nature at the woodland’s edge. It’s the brainchild of a capable team of designers at “k59 atelier”, a homegrown architectural firm based in Ho Chi Minh City.

They were tasked with creating a design tailored to the specific needs of the property owner – a home and business space integration that fits right in nature. And they gave him exactly that.

The new home-and-restaurant combo is cool and comfortable, canopied by overhanging trees and understories of lush greenery thriving luxuriently. “Binh Duong House” offers 234 square meters of usable space. It consists of a single-detached home at the rear and a restaurant building abutting the street upfront.

A drawing illustrates the ground floor plan divided into three parts with rooms disposed around or next to the center courtyard. / Courtesy of k59 atelier
A drawing of the second floor shows the ancestor altar room at the center of the house plan in relation to trees providing shade and improving air quality. / Courtesy of k59 atelier
Roof Floor Plan / Courtesy of k59 atelier

What remains unchanged after construction has been completed is the delightful atmosphere of a home under tree cover. Together the upper branching of trees and shrubbery beneath the canopy go to work reducing the amount of sun and wind hitting the buildings.

On the ground, well connected garden pathways and drainage systems are carefully planned to carry off rainwater, thereby preventing floods and keeping the biological community safe in the long term.

Walk in the door and you find the residential wing divided into three parts. The ground floor holds a spacious living room, a dining room in the middle and a bedroom in a quiet area overlooking the yard.

Like many traditional Vietnamese homes, the second floor contains a shrine that’s a way to honor and give reverence to family ancestors. It lies flanked by bedrooms on either side that constitutes the third part of the house plan.

The ground floor holds a bright and breezy sitting room with a view of the surrounding natural and built environments.

The house exterior is full of life and energy, thanks to a center courtyard illuminated by natural daylight shining through tree leaves, creating subtle shadows on a pleasant secluded garden. Both buildings are roofed over with clay tiles fired the old-fashioned way by industries indigenous to this hideaway region of Vietnam.

On the ground, the outdoor patio floor is covered with interlocking pavers showcasing the shape, texture and color unique to local heritage. There is attention to detail in the way the doors and windows are installed.

All of them face in the right directions so as to reap the full health benefits from the natural surroundings. Plus, furniture has a rawness feel to it that blurs the boundaries between indoors and outdoors.

Furniture has a rawness feel to it that blends seamlessly with the fired clay tile floor in matte artisan brown.
Downstairs, the bedroom with a garden view opens to take in fresh outdoor air, while the center courtyard brings a positive impact on people’s lives.

What makes the home stand out from the rest is the high pitched roof that offers more effective drainage during heavy rains. It’s covered in overlapping rows of tiles sloped down to meet the front facade at the far end. At the risk of stating the obvious, the monsoon season can bring heavy rains that can do damage to homes in a Tropical climate.

The house’s side elevation shows a high pitched roof designed for increased privacy and more effective drainage during heavy rains.

Because cultural heritage matters, the upstairs ancestral room takes the most prominent position under the apex of the roof so as to give it a sense of space, plenty of natural daylight and aesthetic appeal.

From the ancestor altar room, the roof slants down to meet the front façade at the far end. The shrine takes the most prominent position in the house, a spot under the apex of the roof, also known as the ridge beam.

Advocating for sustainability, the design team at k59 atelier put in a waste water treatment plant on the property as a way to protect a small river skirting the north and east sides of the land. The plant has an underground tank that collects and processes waste water before releasing it to the environment. There’s also another underground tank used for storing rain water.

The growth of urban sprawl has become one of the inevitabilities of life in this part of Vietnam. Binh Duong House serves as an example of human ingenuity in residential design. At the end of the day, it’s about encouraging everyone to do his fair share in restoring the natural environment to health.

A cross section drawing in perspective shows the trees and branches, their root systems and the lush canopy protecting the home built into nature. / Courtesy of k59 atelier
An isometric diagram illustrates the coming together of different component parts to form a cohesive whole. / Courtesy of k59 atelier

It’s a product of collaboration between the architects who designed it and the family that lives in it, a home warmly cocooned among the trees and green foliage. Plus, it offers plenty of space for a family business. Awesome!

Architect: k59 atelier

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Greenery Curtain House: Simple, Pleasant and Snugly Cocooned in Nature’s Embrace

Greenery Curtain House: Simple, Pleasant and Snugly Cocooned in Nature’s Embrace

/ Quang Ninh, Vietnam /

/ Story: Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Duc Nguyen /

Speaking of nature-focused design, here’s a house in Vietnam showcasing a delightful combination between exposed brick walls in light orange and the curtains of lush greenery. The façade that looks new and unusual in an interesting way gives the home its character.

The home feels cozy and inviting thanks to the perfect color palette of brickwork in the wall adorned with the curtains of lush greenery.

Wrapped inside the curtains of lush hanging vines, the house in Mao Khe, a town in Quang Ninh Province, speaks volumes about the homeowners’ desire for peace and quiet on their property.

A team of designers from the architectural firm HGAA came in handy to translate cherished aspirations into a home offering an ample 400 square meters of usable space. More than anything else, it’s salubrious just like nature intended, a peaceful place in which to relax and unwind away from the hectic work routine they left behind.

Named “Greenery Curtain House”, it’s strikingly different from everything else in the area in terms of architectural style. The town in which this house located is home to mining industries that over time have left lasting impacts on the environment.

So work is in progress to restore the town’s greenery spaces to good health. Like a good neighbor, this home is doing its part by integrating the elements such as trees and shrubbery, colors, and textures reminiscent of nature.

The house has two levels of living and functional spaces thoughtfully devised to fit into a U-shaped floor plan enclosed by the curtains of hanging vines. The vertical gardens go to work keeping the home in shade, while water ponds in the yard help reduce heat keeping the surrounding area cool.

Rooms are disposed around the center courtyard with a water pond enclosed by healthy trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.
Curtains of lush greenery and water garden plants provide a little peace and quiet for the home embraced by nature.
The orange of exposed brick walls paired with the green of hanging vines energizes the home and creates a lively atmosphere.
Downstairs floor plan / Courtesy of HGAA
Upstairs floor plan / Courtesy of HGAA

On the outside, the building showcases a contrast between the curtains of fresh greenery and naked brick walls in light orange and coarse texture. There is a rawness feel to it that, in a way, communicates a desire to reconnect with nature.

The first floor holds neat and orderly living spaces on the right side of the house plan, while the left side is intentionally left wide open, providing easy access to other parts of the home. At the center lies an open-concept kitchen adjacent to the dining room.

A kitchen island is a practical addition to the home’s open-concept floor plan.

It’s conveniently connected to the living room with the view of a peaceful front yard landscape. Like nature intended, healthy trees and shrubbery thriving luxuriantly in the yard absorb pollutants and deflect noise, making the home quieter and more peaceful.

Climb a flight of stairs, and you find a quiet, more secluded living area divided into two parts with a reading nook occupying the in-between space. The first part on the left side holds an altar for the traditional veneration of family ancestry.

Windows installed in the rooftop and exterior walls illuminate a reading nook on the second floor.

The second part on the right opens to a sky garden used for growing herbs and vegetables for family use. Nearby, the upper branching and spreading part of a tree shoots through the large opening in the floorboard, turning the area into a well-lighted, cool and calming retreat.

Outdoor room on the second floor, besides connecting with nature, provides plenty of ample space for vegetable gardening at home.

All things considered, it’s an intriguing combination between nature and a lifestyle chosen by the homeowners. As the name suggests, the house is built of simple materials available in the locality.

What makes it stand out from the rest is the curtains of greenery, thriving shade trees, lush yards and water ponds that go to work alongside one another to keep the house cool and comfortable all year round. Plus, there is beauty in simplicity that enables the home to blend well with urban landscapes and primary industries in the area.

Architect: HGAA

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Tebet Eco Park: Ecosystem Restorations Breathe New Life into Jakarta’s Urban Parkland

Tebet Eco Park: Ecosystem Restorations Breathe New Life into Jakarta’s Urban Parkland

/ Jakarta, Indonesia /

/ Story: Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: SIURA Studio /

Environmental degradation has had a wide-ranging impact on people’s lives and the general health of flora and fauna. But the natural world is far more resilient that we realize. Let’s take a look at the design of Tebet Eco Park in Jakarta that’s exemplary of efforts at repairing damage and the upkeep of the biological community, forestland and water sources.

Like everything else, it’s been through good times and bad times to get where it is today – a city park lovingly restored to its former glory.

The fields and streams, and wetland environments are full of life and energy while lush vegetation abounds, thriving luxuriantly under scattered groups of trees.

The secret to all of this lies in creative landscape design that bodes well for the future of the complex network of interacting organisms, and beautiful esplanades lined with greenery. It’s a rendezvous where humanity and nature come together in peaceful harmony.

The years of neglect are gone now, no more flooding or being isolated from the rest of the world. And, thanks to care and attention, the park’s ecosystems are saved from destruction by human activities.

The enclosure 73,000 square meters in extent has experienced the new birth as a result of ongoing efforts at preserving the city’s green spaces and preventing wasteful use of resources.

At the same time, recreation areas and playgrounds connected by a system of esplanades were added to the mix resulting in diversity in parkland ecosystems that augurs well for a good rapport with nature.

The Tebet Eco Park Restoration Project is the brainchild of SIURA Studio, an urban design and landscape architectural firm based in Singapore.

A drawing of the master plan shows the reintroduction of greenery, a system of esplanades on both sides of the waterway and ecosystem restorations in relation to surrounding residential neighborhoods. / Courtesy of SIURA Studio

The company has enjoyed a strong track record in innovative design that prioritizes the climatic context and ecological implications of a project site. In a nutshell, it’s about integrating sustainable goals in park design so as to answer the basic recreational needs of people in urban areas.

The project began in earnest some 15 months ago. At the time, the area with small streams and wetland habitats was clearly in a state of disrepair caused by periods of low rainfall alternating with deluges of heavy rain that resulted in flash floods.

To make matters worse, flooding also brought contaminated debris into the area, while a new road running through it disrupted an ecological corridor that’s the life line of woodland flora and fauna, eventually resulting in widespread destruction of the physical environment.

That’s exactly where an experienced landscape team at SIURA Studio came into play. They were tasked with breathing new life into the area, eventually returning the urban parkland to a good condition.

This was achieved by adding greenery suitable for this particular ecosystem, at the same time improving the quality of small waterways, wetland habitats and biodiversity in the area. And all of this is done corresponding to land use planning so that society, the environment and the city as a whole can benefit from it.

First and foremost, the two separate areas of the park were combined to form a single entity, while the 714-meter-long waterway that ran through it was rehabilitated to health.

A drone’s eye view of Tebet Eco Park shows a pedestrian overpass painted a shade of red twisting and turning on a spiral course, bringing the people of Jakarta and nature closer together.

Meanwhile, the concrete road was removed and replaced by garden pathways, creating a wetland environment capable of supporting aquatic life. The stream itself was made long and winding by design, a clever hack in the waste water treatment process.

Interesting before-and-after photos of Tebet Eco Park show the reintroduction of aquatic plant species and improvements in wetland habitats.

In this way, saturated conditions on both sides of the stream became conducive to the growth of wetland plants and other organisms, not to mention an increase in biodiversity and improvement in soil quality.

The long and winding stream inside Tebet Eco Park is lined with lush vegetation after concrete embankments had been removed and replaced by aquatic plants growing vigorously.

In a gradual way, the urban parkland that once fell into disrepair was brought back to life. The trees and shrubbery now grow and develop vigorously, thanks to the enthusiasm and work spirit that advocates reduce, reuse and recycle as a means of protecting the environment.

Just to give you an idea, some of the rocks and tree stumps unearthed during the excavating process were converted into reusable building supplies, while others found a new purpose as component parts in outdoor furniture, such as park benches and equipment in children’s playgrounds. In a nutshell, nothing goes to waste.

An aerial view of children’s playgrounds designed to answer the rest and recreation needs of the people of Jakarta.

Tebet Eco Park no doubt has transformed into delightfully warm and inviting recreation grounds for the people of Jakarta. If walking is your thing, perhaps you might like to check out the esplanades on both sides of the stream.

Whether it’s a quiet saunter down the garden pathway lined with greenery or fitness walking that quickens your breathing, Tebet Eco Park is the place to be.

A pavilion used as a shelter lies on the south side of the park.

There’s even an overpass painted a bright shade of red that will take you on a twisting and turning spiral course among the treetops. By the way, walking through a park is different from strolling on the street in front of your home. Physical activity in a green space provides multiple health benefits.

A pedestrian overpass in red intersects a system of esplanades on the surface combining two sides of the parkland into one single entity.

In the big picture, there’s more to a park than just restoring ecosystems to health. It involves taking the initiative to improve the quality of life for people in urban areas.

Citizens and investors can participate in city planning and making recreation grounds easily accessible to people in the community.

The bottom line is public green spaces matter. Although everything changes, the relationship between humanity and nature remains inextricable. A yearning to reconnect with the natural world never dies; it only gets stronger with time.

Because the people of Jakarta want a healthy physical environment for rest and recreation, Tebet Eco Park is there for them – an open public space that’s sustainable, creative and easily accessible to everyone.

Architect: SIURA Studio

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