The Making of Urban Ally & Humans of Flower Market
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Urban Ally & Humans of Flower Market
The mission of the academia that drives the learning process through the district development of Phra Nakhon and Pak Khlong Talat
One of the important forces that drive the activities in Bangkok Design Week is educators from various institutions who brought their experiences and information from research to create district development activities. They are also the mainstay who brought in their new waves of students to join to work on the projects with BKKDW. This article piece will take you to get to know Dr. Phee – Pheereeya Boonchaiyapruek, Deputy Director of Urban Ally, Project Manager of ‘Mitr-Bumrung-Mueang’, and Assistant Professor Dr. Nong – Supitcha Tovivich from Faculty of Architecture, Silpakorn Univeristy who oversee the ‘Pak Klong Pop-Up | Bangkok Flower Market Festival 2023’ project to understand the city to the core essence more.
‘Mitr-Bumrung-Mueang’ (Ally takes care of the City) with 25 activities
‘Mitr-Bumrung-Mueang’ is the project by Urban Ally or Centre for Urbanism+Design Initiatives of the Faculty of Architecture at Silpakorn University, which created 25 main activities in Bangkok Design Week 2023 at three main venues along the Bumrunmueang Road and surrounding communities which are Silpakorn University (Wang The Phra), Hall of Sculpture (Department of Finearts) City Square, and the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority Maen Si. The activities have gathered tens of creatives and teams who came together to develop the city.
One of the highlights that many won’t miss out on checking is the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority Maen Si venue, where they opened up for people in and out of the district to admire the classic architectural structures of 20-year-long abandoned water tanks. There are also interesting projects by the Creators in Residence, 8 groups of both local and foreign designers who resided in the Phra Nakhon district to collaborate with the historic community and create art projects as well as other interesting activities overseen by the Urban Ally team.
‘Pak Khlong Pop-Up’ Flower Festival, inspired by community living.
For Assistant Professor Dr. Supitcha Tovivich, she has brought about information and experience from her ongoing field research around Pak Khlong Talat to (re)present and highlight the charms of the largest and oldest flower market in Thailand for this special occasion. The important aim is to present a clearer identity of the district, through a variety of activities such as a photography exhibition, pop-up exhibition exhibiting flower-inspired works, AR technology used as colorful interactive media, and Pub Jub Bua exhibition where everyone can have fun and fold your lotus. And after indulging in all the exhibitions and sightseeing, you can pick up some beautiful flowers back to decorate your home.
The Balance between Identity Preservation and City Development
Apart from the fun activities created to attract people to learn more about the historic district, we also want to hear expert opinions on the City Gentrification phenomenon. The phenomenon used to explain the changes in the old district by instilling new lifestyles from a group of people with monetary and creative assets called the Creative Class. This is a phenomenon that happens in cities around the world including Bangkok’s Phra Nakhon district and is also the challenge for Bangkok Design Week to find the balance between Identity Preservation and City Development.
“We want to see this (phenomenon) to have a positive and negative side” answered Dr. Phee further explained that “the positive side gives a push to change. Gentrification can be a positive thing when there’s still diversity in the district, and the old and new people are living together. People didn’t parade in investments and completely change something too much at once. But the change happens gradually, new people slowly infiltrate and get along with the neighbors which produce changes that blend better with each other. If the change is rapid in a short time, it has a negative impact for sure. In the view of the City developer, I think Phra Nakhon has enough people to spread out so changes won’t get cluttered in one road area where the identity disappears. Also, the district is flexible for the change because they’re familiar with tourists and have always faced many changes.”
Asst.Prof Nong voices another angle that is also interesting “Firstly the people within the district should get the benefit along with the outsider, in terms of improving society, emotion, economy, or physical location. The people in the district should feel proud to be the people of Pak Khlong Talat. These days people are seeing our district to be quite dynamic. Second, district development needs people on the inside to add new things. And third, we should really make the district a strong sense of place, there were foreigners who came all the way and arrive at Pak Khlong Talat but still ask the vendor ‘Where is the flower market?’ Because they can’t find the flower market. This has become a challenge for us to bring out a more lively identity of the district. So we have recruited new waves to help think of ways to make Pak Khlong Talat lively and inspirational. These factors are something that can support and sustain city development in many aspects.
The role of professors and city developers
When asked about how the role of lecturer and urban development work complement each other? Asst. Prof. Nong immediately replied, “it helps each other out so much. Thanks to the Faculty of Architecture, Silpakorn, who is very open, allows lecturers to bring in Live projects or Living projects that become a part of the teaching that includes (all level students) bachelor to Ph.D. This allows us to get fresh ideas and thinking with efficient working processes. The fact that we conducted the field research in the name of educational institutions meant that we don’t require benefits from the Pak Khlong Talat district, which makes for more straightforward communication (and coordination). And we always make sure that designers are doing their field research for the community. We’re not angels from the sky. We use the same skills and experiences for them just like our regular clients. Which is the skills where we use creativity and solution generate thinking – skills that provide benefits to both ourselves and others. As we are students of design, so we try to revitalize the districts with our existing knowledge. It will be even more fun when there are more skilled people from various different fields jumping in to help develop the district here.”
Dr. Phee added to the topic, “As a researcher, I use academic techniques or tools to analyze the possibilities of the city, but I also enjoy walking about in the city to observe its happenings. So when I work on both the research and community design, I come out to experience working with the community, creating programs and activities for the city, expanding our networks, and searching for ways. All these become my experiences in creative works that can relate to my teachings and better my perspectives. And even bringing out my students to participate and work together, is considered as outside class learning that combines experience on the field with knowledge from class and expands their knowledge horizon further.”
Although Bangkok Design Week 2023 has ended, Dr. Phee and Asst. Prof. Nong’s city development mission is still going without rest. Keep an eye out for Urban Ally and Humans of Flower Market’s next projects, to see what fun and exciting things they have in store.
Bangkok Design Week 2023
4 – 12 FEB 2023