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The Making of Sense of Nang Loeng

เผยแพร่เมื่อ a year ago

Sense of Nang Loeng

Open-up the District, Open-up the Senses: Understanding Nang Loeng’s Core Essence

Bangkok has been through struggles during the Covid-19 times. Rush Pleansuk, designer and co-founder of Sumphat Gallery, had a chance to visit the community of Nang Loeng and meet with the people and discover the unique charms that cannot be found anywhere else. Nang Loeng is not just about the market with food stalls but it’s full of historical artistry and performance arts, which unfortunately have much worn out. 

“We discovered the wow but sad at the same time.“ Rush talked about the rundown state of Nang Loeng he found. “We discovered (Thai dance) masters of Chatree Dance Theatre (คณะละครชาตรี). The uncle used to play (Thai) instruments in the Fong Naam band with the (musical) master Bruce Gaston. They are the people who are an important representative of Thailand, they are representing Thainess through culture. But now they’re all living in crowded communities without jobs or income for the past three years as an effect of Covid. We still cannot visit the dance master at her home. It’s sad because people talk about their unique Thainess with pride and argue about their cultural prowess in having special characteristics in our dance. But looking back at the ones who are preserving the dance, they are being neglected or not given any opportunities. They were left behind and living in struggles”

Nang Loeng’s Avengers

After discovering the issue, Rush gathered around friends in the design circle and formed a group called Sense of Nang Loeng to express the stories of Nang Loeng in various aspects. This is so visitors of Bangkok Design Week 2023 can experience with all five senses the essence of this historic district that has been in Bangkok for a long time. So they have worked on the ‘Sartorial’ project where they brought Chatree Dance Theatre (คณะละครชาตรี) to perform with a blend of contemporary style and developed the space in the community to allow for local-use as well as for temporary exhibition in the festival. They are also able to collaborate with professional architect Jun Sekino from Junsekino Architect and Design, professor Kwanporn Bunnag, and professor Chanon Wasinghon from Sripatum University to help revitalize the physical space of Nang Loeng to be more pedestrian friendly.

Moreover, they also highlight Nang Loeng’s unique characteristics as a food hub. With professor Ularnpatch Nithiuthai from Ami Nithi Studio, creating impressive food packaging for the Jub Jib Jab Jai tour, professor Suthee Sertsri and professor Daranee Ajharn from Bangkok University, working on the ‘Kin Pleon Len Loeng’ project to bring the original authentic recipes and twist it around to create new interesting dishes to try out, and Suwan Welployngam, the community leader who collaborate with the community group called E-Loeng, bringing all stories of art, community, and the city that translates into various activities like district discovery tours, workshops, community chefs’ food tasting, photograph exhibitions to revitalize the district economy and support community sustainability.

Developing the District is the Main Challenge

“The making process of Sense of Nang Loeng is very challenging because of the complexity of ownership of the space, like the rental space is under the land under the king’s patronage department but land on the outer road is under the district department which is looked after by community leaders, within the buildings, there’s also rental residences and lenders who we also have to coordinate. Not only that but there’s also the crowded living space which is very complex in many aspects. This is a challenge for designers who cannot solely rely on knowledge in one area of expertise but require innovative knowledge of many aspects. The design will not be for the sake of beauty or the designer’s name recognition but this project urges us to use the design thinking process to truly understand and collaborate with the community leader to help develop the area. What’s important is we have a clearly defined purpose, who are we doing this for, are we just displaying our new design work inside the community or are we opening up the opportunity for the people in the community to express themselves, increase their income, and a way to true solutions for the community? This is what the group Sense of Nang Loeng wants to present in Bangkok Design Week”

Therefore, every activity happening in Sense of Nang Loeng is ideated by the challenge to resolve community issues. Not only trying to understand the current issues in the community but “we are looking into the root of the problem from the past and foreseeing the possibilities in the future. The design work process is about looking at the past, present, and future to pick the best solutions from the hundreds we came up with. Finding the best one with the potential to grow, looking at the history and speculating the potential on the space utilization in the future, and lastly looking at the budget to see what is more suitable as well as driving the small movement in the society”

Urban“nice”zation needs culture

“If you go to the Rattanakosin area, you’ll notice that the area has sort of become like Disneyland. The area seems to be missing its cultural roots. It’s not the issue of foreigners coming dressed in traditional costumes to take photos like people in history, but when the place is missing its roots, missing the way of life that relate to the area, just make the place become a theme park (rather than meaningful cultural area)” Rush discussed the issue of the cultural tourist location in Thailand.

“If we want an urban“nice”, I think we need to be a city with cultural aspects. Culture doesn’t necessarily have to be something old and historical but there should be a public space where we can express ourselves, have the freedom to live the way we want to live, be happy, and enjoy activities in public space. Like in France, you see people doing hip-hop dance in the public square and bands playing music, exercising, and staging demonstrations on social issues because the city space is for (public) living life. I hope to be able to hear Thai traditional music playing when walking around the Phra Nakhon area, foreigners sitting around watching the performance, and people in the area eating out with their children playing about, having their happy place extended outside of their households. The city should not be a place where we just pass by when we get up to work in the morning, the city should be a space for expressions and interactions between people passing by each other. The city should be a place where we can express our happiness in public space. So culture can be conveyed in the way of living and activities, where people in the community come together to create happiness in the area. To me, this is urban“nice”zation, this is the reason why culture is important. If a city lacks culture, it makes no difference whether it is factory-made or simply a tourist machine that only distorts the money tourists pocket.

Next step for Nang Loeng Among Changes

“After the festival ends, our works will be moved to a public park in the community, we want it to become a space for the community. The renovated old buildings during the festival will be passed on, we presented the idea of Chef Table inviting guests to taste the special menu at Baan Nang Loeng, adding value to the historical menus through a twist into new menus, and Food tasting activities ‘Jub Jib Jab Jai’ food touring in the market, these activities can be carry on by Nang Loeng community as a community project to attract more tourists to discover this hidden district. If there’s effective promotional support this could become another source of income that spread to everyone in the community of Nang Loeng”

“Each district in Bangkok has its own unique and special charms. I hope that after the project ends, people will know more about Nang Loeng. We want to revive the impressive image of Nang Loeng with houses of Thai traditional music and theater from the past because this is the district characteristic that makes it special. As Bangkok Governor Chatchart Sitthiphan has expressed his opinion that ‘he wants to support making distinct characteristic of each district in Bangkok’, which I think that our activities demonstrate the support of Bangkok’s policy” 

Bangkok Design Week 2023



4 – 12 FEB 2023