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Get to Know the Creative Districts Ahead of BKKDW2024: Phrom Phong

A neighborhood where designers gather to develop a space that is good for the body and soul, for both residents and visitors alike.

Phrom Phong — a major commercial district in Thailand filled with various luxurious shopping malls interspersed with modern offices, condominiums, and residential areas for affluent locals and expats — is a new district that, at first glance, seems to lack a distinct identity compared to other areas. However, it has increasingly stood out as a new highlight of Bangkok Design Week, blending its existing assets as a hub for quality design studios with the development of daily living and public spaces.

What are the concepts and secret works of the creators in the Phrom Phong District? What new ideas and showcases will we see at this year’s Bangkok Design Week? To discuss these topics, we’re joined by Ms. Suttida “Yam” Tharanatham, a Partner of Landscape Architects 49 (L49) and a representative of this year’s designer community in Phrom Phong.

The Designer Community of Phrom Phong

The ‘identity’ of Phrom Phong is a question that many people often wrestle with. ‘What should be the identity of this important commercial and entertainment district in the capital?’ Ms. Yam and her fellow designers at various studios have always held this question in their hearts. Amidst a sea of possibilities, they eventually concluded that the district’s identity may not need to be something which has endured through the ages. Instead, it lies in the existing everyday life assets, which lie at the core of their existence as ‘Designer Community of Phrom Phong’ — ready to use their talents to improve the quality of life for the people in the district.

“The identity of Phrom Phong will be quite different from other districts. Phrom Phong is not a historic area, but rather, a newly emerging district. We, therefore, strive to push its identity in terms of having a variety of design studios, emphasizing how we — as designers coming together — can play a significant role in bringing about societal change.

“With this year’s theme of ‘Livable Scape,’ we want to connect to identity of our designer district by addressing more area-specific problems and developing this into one of the district’s characteristics. When people think of Phrom Phong, we want them to recognize it as a designer district.”

Creative Spaces for Creativity and Connection

Having established the goal of promoting a ‘designer district’ identity, the next important challenge is to strengthen connections and networks. This involves connecting designers with each other as well as with the district.

Ms. Yam believed that a vital missing element in this process is the availability of public spaces within the district that allow diverse people to relax, meet, and exchange ideas.

“The problem is that currently, we coexist, we pass by each other, we know each other, but we don’t have a gathering space for us to become more acquainted and connected. Therefore, having such a space is important. By connecting with each other, our society becomes stronger, our district becomes stronger, and working together, designing together, is one way of creating stronger connections.

“In terms of work, different studios specialize in different fields. For example, some may specialize in furniture design, others in architecture, so there are many situations where we may not collaborate all that much. We would, therefore, like to have a space that really brings everyone together and improves our living conditions.”

Transforming Unused Spaces on Weekends Into Relaxation Areas for Everyone

Ms. Yam explained that to turn the envisioned exchange space into reality, studying and building upon the existing insights in the district is crucial. One such insight, seen in daily life and possessing the potential for further development into a project, is the unused spaces available on Saturdays and Sundays, known as ‘rest spaces.’

“Since we are a district with many office buildings and warehouses, what happens is that there are quite a few rest spaces over the weekends. During weekdays, these areas are used for parking, but on weekends, they turn into wide, unused concrete spaces. However, many people live in the area throughout the week.

“So we thought, why not improve these unused areas by transforming them into rest spaces for the residents of this district, not just parking spaces for when people come to work? We wanted to create a space where residents can walk their dogs and bring their children to play. One of these areas is located around Warehouse 26.

“We are not only designing for people or pets like dogs and cats, we also want it to be a place where naturally occurring animals like birds and squirrels can coexist. One standout characteristic of Soi 26 is its lush trees, so adding birdhouses and squirrel homes to provide real habitats for these animals would be ideal. As architects who create homes for people, this time, we want to build homes for these small animals too.”

Ms. Yam explains that although they are starting with a single rest space, they hope this initiative will become the catalyst for popularizing the notion that zones which go unused during the weekend should be developed as a part of the community to help improve and strengthen society.

Exploring Homes and Neighborhoods Through Design

For this year’s Bangkok Design Week, Ms. Yam explains that they are putting forth the concept of “Giving Matters, Living Better,” which is about giving back to society to improve living conditions. She lists three main highlights:

“The first point is the outdoor space from the front of A49 to A Square. It’s a short section that’s 100% public. We’ve added birdhouses and squirrel houses and are piloting a station parking area for motorcycle taxis. This initiative has attracted interest from relevant groups and has also improved orderliness in the area. We hope it can be extended to other areas across Bangkok because we don’t want the idea to end with just us.

“The second point is the central section of Warehouse 26, which is currently being used as a shared space. On workdays, it remains roughly the same and serves as a parking area, but on weekends its utility can expand further. Local shops can also use this shared space to sell their products, making the area more lively and friendly while welcoming visitors to the district. It also connects to K Village, which has joined us this year as a partner.

“Lastly, ‘Exploring Homes.’ This may not be a program per se, but it revolves around the fact that our area is a design district. Last year’s survey indicated that many visitors wanted to know where the ideas originated from and why this area was designated for design. Initially, we were disinclined to organize an ‘open house’ event, as we had already done so last year. But many people expressed interest in seeing what a design office looks like, where the work originates from, and whether it’s a serious or casual environment. So, we’ve retained the concept of an open house, allowing outsiders to observe how we work. Some studios will also have smaller exhibitions on display.”

Come and check out the new public space in Phrom Phong District and exchange ideas with the creative minds at Bangkok Design Week 2024.

Get to know Phrom Phong District better through its recommended programs:

49&FRIENDS : Play Matters, Pet Matters 

49&FRIENDS : K Village neighborhood mall 

49&FRIENDS : Social Matters 

Click here to view all programs of Phrom Phong District: 

Bangkok Design Week 2024

Livable Scape

คนยิ่งทำ เมืองยิ่งดี

27 Jan – 4 Feb 2024