The Making of Bangkok City Trooper
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The Making of Bangkok City Trooper
City (Development) Trooper in Yaowarat (Chinatown)
Apart from being the place for appetizing street food and the sleepless merchant district, Yaowarat Chinatown is rich in Chinese culture which has been passed along throughout the ages within the area. Being both a large-scale economic area and tourist attraction with a high-density population, this area has been used for many various purposes. SATARANA, a civil society network whose focus is on the city and community resilience, aims to promote the urban design that best fits the limited conditions of the city.
Aum Wipawee Kittitian, SATARANA’s representative, revealed the collaboration of the Bangkok City Trooper projects with the Bangkok Design Week 2023. She is responsible for the academic program in collaboration with 25 education departments from 12 universities that are inspired and interested in creative urban development. The word ‘Trooper’ means ‘Students Trooper’, and now accounts for almost 500 members, who volunteered to explore and ‘hack’ the Yaowarat district together.
Start From “What the City Needs”
“We did research in the local area first by talking to locals and specialists to see what the city really needs, what should be fixed or improved. Then we categorized issues that could possibly be made better by creative design and talked to each educational department to match their expertise and interest. Not only the faculty of design or architecture who get to join but also those that have never collaborated with Bangkok Design Week before such as the faculty of science, engineering, liberal arts, and archeology also. We think our current urban issues could be beneficial to the education context. Urban areas could be a potential space for students to experiment with their work. We don’t have instagrammable grand pavilions but most of our works are small, yet created for what the city really needs.”
“When talking about Yaowarat in general, most people would think of ‘Chinatown’ or ‘street food’. But, according to our research, there is so much more about Chinese cultures in Yaowarat throughout the ages that people might not know about. For example, there were six abandoned movie theaters along the road which means the movie industry was once popular here. It was big! Imagine, 6 theaters on the very same road! The other neglected culture was the Chinese Opera. The Younger generation might find it unrelatable because of the language but the plots and the plays themselves are very entertaining. There might be a language gap lost in subtitle translation. If we make Chinese Opera more accessible, the beauty of this art will be preserved.”
“During our survey through nooks and corners of Yaowarat, we have found many unoccupied spaces. Some are expensive land that owners have not decided to invest anything on yet. Our team contacted those owners and asked if we can project an outdoor movie theater to utilize the abandoned spaces. This sets as an inspiration that we can create new opportunities out of the existing land use.”
Ideas Ignited By The New Generation
“During our collaboration with the new generation, it is obvious that our ideas could soon be obsolete. The innovation and the digitalization of their work are very fascinating as the faculty’s curriculum has evolved a lot over the years. For example, a project from the Faculty of Industrial Education and Technology King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi students recreated an old movie theater on an online platform by using the Metaverse. That is something we could never imagine creating before. Another interesting one is an eco-friendly incense stick. We have always been discussing how incense smoke causes pollution in the Yaowarat area where there are many shrines. The Faculty of Engineering and Industrial Technology, Silpakorn University is aware of this issue and sees the opportunity to minimize the effect of the religious incense smoke on the environment.”
Small Change, Big Move
Small Change, Big Move is one of the beliefs that SATARANA holds at its core. Some small projects could potentially contribute to a concrete transformation for the community and are a prototype that could be implemented right on. For instance, the Yaowarat Navigator was designed by the College of Social Communication Innovation, Srinakharinwirot University. The idea was that even though people use Google Maps to explore Yaowarat, they usually get lost still because there are barely any street signs within the area. Street signs are developed into a project and then installed as a permanent program in the Yaowarat area, even long after the Bangkok Design Week ended. The ‘Benches For All’, designed by the school of Architecture, Art, and Design KMITL University, are also furniture that would be permanently installed in the Luenrit community.
“SATARANA works as a facilitator that connects everyone into the city area” Aum explained her role in the project. “We try our best. We put up street signs so people don’t get lost. We renovated the bus stop to make the routes more clear. We have lanes for those who travel solo to the design week. We try to fix the traffic so Yaowarat can be a more accessible area for the people. Little by little, we are filling in the functions into the vacant spaces and facilitating the city.” So far, Bangkok City Trooper has been implementing the design into their urban development experiment, which can be assessed and implemented effectively on the real city scale.
Our vision of “Urban ‘NICE’ zation” is to see people of all identities get access to public spaces. Those public spaces would have to be able to support and facilitate their lifestyles and needs within the city. Decent Design is not about gaining praise from some but is about being accessible and functional for all.
Bangkok Design Week 2023
4 – 12 FEB 2023