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A skyscraper designed to make a rotten river run clean

By Emanuele Comi for CNN
  • Four Indonesian architects designed a skyscraper to purify Jakarta's polluted Ciliwung River
  • Slums and businesses use the river as a dumping ground
  • The "purification skyscraper" would house system that cleans the river
  • Concept won second place in architecture journal eVolo's competition

(CNN) -- Imagine a skyscraper that -- instead of hosting offices -- houses a system that purifies the water of a polluted river, employs the people living in surrounding slums and gives them a home in which to live.

That's the revolutionary idea behind an architectural concept that aims to solve the problems generated by the polluted Ciliwung River in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.

The largest of 13 rivers which run through Jakarta, the Ciliwung flows through 72 subdistricts of the city.

Along its river banks lie a ramshackle collection of illegal slums and around 400 businesses, according to a recent report by the Jakarta Capital City Provincial Government.

The residents have long used the river as a dumping ground for household waste, so much so that the river is now classified as "heavily polluted."

But four Indonesian architects -- Rezza Rahdian, Erwin Setiawan, Ayu Diah Shanti and Leonardus Chrisnantyo -- have a vision for cleaning up the river.

They submitted their idea for a so-called "purification skyscraper" to U.S.-based architecture and design journal eVolo's skyscraper competition and won second place.

First place went to three Malaysian design students who devised a prison city in the sky where inmates would live freely in a community with agricultural fields to supply the city below.

Diah Shanti, one of the architects involved in the Ciliwung project, said: "The idea of [a] purification skyscraper came up when we thought of an environmental machine concept."

The "machine" would work through different lines.

A filter would first separate the rubbish and organic waste from the river's brown water. Dangerous contaminants would then be eliminated and minerals added.

At the end of the process, clean water would be available for the people and distributed to the land nearby through a system of pipes.

To become reality, the concept, called the Ciliwung Recovery Program, needs support from the government and local investors -- and a lot of luck.

"Obviously it will take a lot of help and good cooperation to make such idea become real," Shanti said.