Urbanization in Indonesia, as elsewhere in Southeast Asia, was low up to the 1970s, prompting some authors to speak of urban involution. Since then a giant mega-city has developed around Jakarta, known as Jabotabek, and other cities like Surabaya, Bandung and Medan have grown to metropolitan proportions. This paper is, however, less concerned with the demographic aspects of urbanization, but with the culture of cities, with urbanism. Lacking a strong tradition of urbanism and having to battle with urban involution, Indonesian urbanism was symbolically constructed through the architecture of significant buildings, monuments and the planning of city space. During the post-independence Sukarno era the dream of Jakarta as the world capital of emerging forces determined the image of the city, while New Order Indonesia under Suharto rediscovered the pre-colonial past. Global modernism is guiding the virtual construction of Indonesian cities into the third millennium. With the end of urban involution "real urbanism" replaced the "virtual urbanism" of the past and Jakarta evolved into a modern capital of a democratizing and decentralising state. Cases from several Indonesian and other Southeast Asian cities are presented as evidence for these assumptions.