ExperienceScape: How Urban Ally and DecideKit Brought New Life to Phra Nakhon

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ExperienceScape: How Urban Ally and DecideKit Brought New Life and Possibility to Phra Nakhon

Phra Nakhon district was among the most talked about during this year’s Bangkok Design Week. Since Urban Ally was set up by Silpakorn University’s Faculty of Architecture in 2021, the ‘center for a friendly city’ has been carrying out research and serious surveys as well as working with a variety of partners to design a more livable city and endow historic Phra Nakhon with new experiences. This resulted in a range of development projects as well as the center becoming the resident host for Phra Nakhon district. Urban Ally named their area festival “LIVE Metropolis Maintenance” and carried it out under the theme “Everyday-life Festival,” scattering the neighborhood with 19 activities.


Among all the activities Urban Ally staged across Phra Nakhon, a major highlight was definitely ‘ExperienceScape,’ a project that enlivened the architecture of the old town’s abandoned buildings, bringing them new life and interest. Using new media art and projection mapping, famed Thai motion graphic design company DecideKit curated the experience in collaboration with studios including Kor.Bor.Vor, The Motion House, Yellaban, and Yimsamer as well as international designers from France, Malaysia, and Indonesia.


Changing the Old Town to Spark New Conversations on ‘Public Space’

Pheereeya Boonchaiyapruek Ph. D., Deputy Director of Urban Ally, explained the thought process behind ExperienceScape, saying “We came at this project from two angles, firstly, we thought about how we could bring more charm to an everyday space and how we could extend the use of a public park into the night time, secondly, we wanted people to be able to access spaces like the Maen Sri Water Tower and other government locations so they could serve the public outside of office hours. The festival gave us an opportunity to experiment with using these spaces on a more daily basis.

“The objective of ExperienceScape was to create models and new experiences for Phra Nakhon tied to its history. Urban Ally collected all the available content and selected fitting locations, while DecideKit and Kor.Bor.Vor acted as curators inviting artists to take part. Each activity spoke on the past, present, and future as interpreted by the resident artist.

“The idea of using festivals for urban development opened our eyes to the possibility of altering public spaces for even wider use. The festival gave us an opportunity to try many different ideas in different places, such as Bangkok City Hall, which is usually closed to the public. This event let us stage happenings that started a conversation on utilizing public spaces more.”


Looking Back through History with Art and Technology

Chanpen “Jib” Koolkaew, founder of DecideKit, added from the perspective of a curator who chose new media art and project mapping for the event that “We had another major contributor this year in the form of Kob from Kor.Bor.Vor (Pongpassakorn Kulthirathum) and we chose project mapping teams both from the commercial side and that were in the international competition circuit. Each team had their own character but they were all very skilled. After showcasing their work abroad, we thought they should also be given space here at home. DecideKit worked overseas for years and we always drew a crowd. All our shows were sold out in Japan and in Europe we saw packed houses. We’re sure Thai people also have an interest in this type of art but they just aren’t given the opportunity to see it, that’s why we wanted to come back and hold a show.

“Each artist worked to incorporate the history of their space into their work, to bridge it with the future. At Mahakan Fort, the program by The Motion House was inspired by the colors of the Thai folk theater tradition of Likay after their research uncovered the space was once a Likay stage. Our project with Urban Ally in Trang was similarly based in local stories, which we wanted to present in an accessible, non-abstract way. Maybe someday our works will be more diverse, but we’ve only just begun, so communicating in a straightforward way will help us connect better.”


Lessons from the Past for the Future

When asked how the designers felt the first time they went to see the long-abandoned water towers of Maen Sri, Jib said “Our impression was ‘Let’s do it, this place is so unique, it’s not a church or a building, it’s a really cool symbol.’ We wouldn’t have known there were two tanks there if Dr. Pheereeya hadn’t invited us. After reading about the site’s history, we wanted people to know about it even more because it has such a long past. Even if you were to construct another place like this, it wouldn’t have the same stories or value.

“At the very least, opening up that space created an opportunity for the current generation to reconnect with their roots, to see a value in the past that can be forwarded to the future. Every location in the old town has immense value, it’s just a matter of seeing it and giving it attention. The value of these places can’t be recreated with money, they are the result of time, which money can’t buy. No matter how much funding you have, you can’t construct a place with this much meaning.”

Bangkok Design Week 2024

Livable Scape

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27 Jan – 4 Feb 2024