Page 1



On Transformation and Urbanism Giovanna Astolfo & Camillo Boano Editors


Cities, Design & Transformation

MSc Building and Urban Design in Development The Bartlett Development Planning Unit Univesity College London

BANGKOK. On Transformation and Urbanism

Editors: Camillo Boano and Giovanna Astolfo The design and layout of this book was led by Camila Cociña. Photographic images are attributed to Camila Cociña, except for those in pages 54-67 (by Kisnaphol Wattanawanyoo) and 88-101 (by Francesco Pasta). All work is attributed to students of the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development (BUDD). Printing and binding was handled by SLS printing Service. The right of the editors to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and the authors of their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with the section 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Design and Patent Act 1988. Copyright of a Development Planning Unit publication lies with the author and there are no restrictions on it being published elsewhere in any version or form. © 2016 The Bartlett Development Planning Unit The Bartlett Development Planning Unit conducts world leading research and postgraduate teaching that help to build the capacity of national governments, local authorities, NGOs, aid agencies and businesses working towards socially just and sustainable development in the global south. DPU is part of The Bartlett: UCL’s global faculty of the built environment. www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London Email: dpu@ucl.ac.uk Facebook: www.facebook.com/dpuucl Twitter: www.twitter.com/dpu_ucl Twitter: www.twitter.com/DPU_BUDD ISBN Paperback Version 978-0-9955279-0-4 ISBN Digital Version 978-0-9955279-1-1 Printed in London, United Kingdom First edition, July 2016, 80 copies

dpu Development Planning Unit

The Bartlett



On Transformation and Urbanism Giovanna Astolfo & Camillo Boano Editors


Cities, Design & Transformation

MSc Building and Urban Design in Development The Bartlett Development Planning Unit Univesity College London

Table of content

06 | Acknowledgements 09 | Foreword Professor Julio D Dåvila 13 | Preface Camillo Boano and Giovanna Astolfo CHAPTER 1. Mapping & to Siwilai 21 | Mapping & to Siwilai: On the spatial discourse in Siam Samar Maqusi CHAPTER 2. On Bangkok 37 | Unpacking Bangkok Urbanism Giovanna Astolfo 55 | Bangkok’s mobile street vending: A visual ethnography Kisnaphol Wattanawanyoo 69 | In conversation with Somsook Boonyabancha: Housing is a power equation Luisa Carrera Izurieta

89 | Reflecting on the practice of community architects. The case of old Nangloeng Francesco Pasta CHAPTER 3. On Design Research 105 | Thinking Design Research: An unfinished story Camillo Boano and Ricardo MartĂŠn-CĂĄceres 130 | Glossary: Defining concepts 137 | Five years of Design Research Strategies Afterwords 157 | Presupposition of equality and active justice in Bangkok Camillo Boano 169 | Strategic action planning for social transformation: UDP-BUDD synergies in the field Professor Caren Levy and Barbara Liepitz 174 | Acronyms 176 | BUDD Fieldtrip and Studio participants 2011-2015 178 | Editors & contributors

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism


The present book is a collective product, owing much to the effort, enthusiasm and knowledge of staff, students and alumni, who all contributed to it during its preparation and realisation. We would like to thank all the authors. A great thanks to the current DPU Director Prof Julio D Dávila for the support; to Julian Walker as TAS Director for securing seed money for the development of the book; to DPU Professional Services Staff, Yukiko Fujimoto and Nkenji Okpara, for facilitating administrative duties related to this project; and to Kay Pallaris, the current BUDD Graduate Teaching Assistant. This book would not have been possible without the work of The Bartlett Post-Graduate Teaching Assistants (PGTA) Samar Maqusi, who drafted the first outline of the book after a review of the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development (BUDD) students work; and Camila Cociña, who beautifully designed the layout of the present book, which constitutes the first volume of a new BUDD book series around “Cities, Design and Transformation” to reflect on and share knowledge and experiences that emerged from the programme and its research projects in partnership with colleagues, institutions and communities globally. The editors wish to share the deepest appreciation to the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) and Community



Architects Network (CAN) partners in Bangkok, and particularly to Somsook Boonyabancha for her inspiration and support; to all friends of CAN: Chawanad Luansang, Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, Maurice Leonhard, Supitcha Tovivich, Ann Marome, and Supreya Noot, among others. To all the BUDD staff that, in the years 2010-15 have coordinated and organised the fieldtrips and the studio, fundamentally contributing to the co-production of knowledge on Bangkok, particularly to: William Hunter, Caroline Newton, Giorgio Talocci, Anna Schulenburg, Andrew Wade, Giulia Carabelli, and Emily Kelling; to all BUDD students that put their energy, passion and determination in exploring uncharted territories. A deep appreciation goes also to Urban Development Planning (UDP) staff and students who were integral part of the fieldtrips in 2011-2013, especially Prof Caren Levy, Barbara Liepitz, Ruth McLeod, Vanesa Castรกn Broto and Cassidy Johnson.


Foreword Professor Julio D DĂĄvila Director The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL

This book is an excellent example of the contribution that, for over six decades, the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) has been making to the understanding of urban processes in the Global South. The DPU has been training generations of post-graduate students in London and elsewhere on a range of subjects that are central to the development of countries and the lives of ordinary people. Its roots can be traced to a training programme on tropical architecture in London’s Architectural Association in the early 1950s. The initial emphasis on building physics and climatic design gradually gave way to the need to find new approaches to planning and social development in a context of rapid urbanisation. By the early 1970s, under the Direction of Professor Otto Koenigsberger, former Chief Architect to the Indian State of Mysore and Director of Housing of the first independent Government of India, the DPU acquired its current name and moved to University College London (UCL), then the oldest and largest college of the University of London. Since then the DPU has continued to grow and evolve in response to the needs of governments, city administrations, civil society organisations and the international community represented in countries of the Global South. Edited by Dr Camillo Boano and Dr Giovanna Astolfo, the book seamlessly marries the expert knowledge of urban


BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

professionals with what the distinguished urban thinker and former DPU staff member John Turner calls ‘in-pert’ knowledge: the profound understanding of social, economic, spatial and political context that only local residents and committed local practitioners have. For a post-graduate department attracting staff and students from all over the world to a high-ranking university in a wealthy nation, this combination becomes central in seeking to give relevance and long-lasting impact to our teaching and research. The book follows on from a recent succession of richly illustrated books and shorter publications, outcomes of DPU’s commitment to placing action at the centre of teaching and research. Like a previous book on Dharavi, the largest informal settlement in Mumbai (India), the result of a similar engagement of successive cohorts of students with a local reality, this collection of essays and illustrations are an excellent example of DPU’s pedagogical philosophy combining a sophisticated theoretical understanding of the city, its society and its institutions, with practical applications in a ‘real-life’ situation. It is the product of five successive years of student fieldwork led by DPU academic staff with participation of students from the MSc in Building and Urban Design in Development, directed by Camillo, and from the MSc in Urban Development Planning, under the direction of Prof Caren Levy and Dr Barbara Lipietz. The different chapters reflect DPU’s philosophy of closely engaging with a range of local actors to provide a bridge to local realities, and to ensure that local populations, in this case the urban poor, make use of the professional tools and insights offered by students, academics and hugely influential thinkers and practitioners such as Somsook Boonyabancha, whose philosophy and long experience of putting people at

10 |


the centre of housing policy and practice in Asia is elegantly outlined in an interview. This book is a remarkable example of co-production of knowledge jointly between poor communities, local leaders, experienced academics, and young professionals keen to make a meaningful contribution towards a more socially just world.

| 11


Camillo Boano and Giovanna Astolfo

This book is the culmination of five years of research between 2011-2015, undertaken by students and staff as part of the Building and Urban Design in Development Master’s Programme (thereafter MSc BUDD programme) at the Development Planning Unit (DPU) of University College London (UCL). As with all compilations, it is both an archive and a manifesto. As an archive, it comprises of different reflections, projects and action-research outputs developed by staff and students working in partnership with Community Organisations Development Institute (CODI, a government-based organisation under Thailand’s Ministry of Social Development and Human Security), Asian Coalition of Housing Rights (ACHR) and Community Architects Network (CAN) who, through the Baan Mankong (‘secure housing‘ in Thai) Collective Housing programme, work with poor communities to find long-term solutions to problems of land and housing. Over the five years Bangkok became a live action-research casestudy, in both the field and studio work settings; students were asked to critically explore and unpack local concerns and contestations experienced by different communities in Bangkok over its rapidly changing urban landscape and the consequent challenges of exclusionary processes this brought about. The outputs presented in this volume are a truly collaborative effort resulting in

| 13

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

co-produced knowledge, material and ideas from both communities who agreed to participate in the action-research process, local community architects, as well as international students themselves, all bringing their own interdisciplinary and experienced perspectives. Students embarked on an approach to design research that is fundamentally rooted in social-spatial justice, and while being immersed within these low-income communities, their aim was to collectively develop strategic proposals to help them demand and achieve more just outcomes. In 2011 and 2012, a further collaboration with DPU’s MSc Urban Development Planning (UDP) allowed for a truly transdisciplinary intellectual exchange, critical reflections and learning between the practice of ‘urban planning’ and that of ‘urban design’. This compilation should be seen as a manifesto that ‘manifests’ and makes evident the provocations, projections and possibilities around the central notion of ‘transformative potentials’. Furthermore, this book seeks to highlight the ‘de-centred learning’ pedagogical approach that DPU as a whole promote. De-centred learning implies that meaning-making theory and practice are constructed via the encounter between one’s background knowledge and another’s experience. When applied to how we ‘learn cities’, and in this case Bangkok, such interaction enables learning through a co-exploration of the city and through an engagement in real claim-making processes embedded in on-going efforts to bring about social, spatial and environmental justice. The book starts by defining and reflecting, with a chapter by Samar Maqusi, on the concept of Mapping, as a cartographic mechanism that simultaneously operated on a spatial, political and social level in building Thailand as a nation. Giovanna

14 |


Astolfo gives an overview historic account of Bangkok’s urbanism - as the context within which students’ work developed. In order to offer another perspective over Bangkok urbanism, the book proceed with an ethnographic visual essay by Kisnaphol Wattanawanyoo on the everyday life and urban assemblages of street vending in the capital. An interview with Somsook Boonyabancha, the leading inspirational figure of housing rights in South East Asia, once director of CODI and now Secretary General of ACHR, reiterates and further explores the genealogy and ethos of CODI. In the transcription by Luisa Carrera, Somsook’s message resonates as a direct call to think differently about the way we imagine and produce cities today. Her voice is a cry for people in advancing social and environmental justice and inclusive development. Much of the success of CODI in Bangkok can be attributed to the humble work of community architects. The contested notions of community and architecture and how these manifest in the Nangloeng community of Bangkok are further problematised by Francesco Pasta in the concluding essay of the second chapter. The third and final chapter by Ricardo Marten Caceres and Camillo Boano, reflects on the methodological and practical positioning of Design Research in Urban Design (DRUD) as a pedagogical framework. The short account delves into concepts and debates, setting out the stages used to drive studio and theoretical practice beyond that of a pure academic exercise, into one that is a constant complex and dynamic investigation of governmental practices, policy-making and design critique. This is followed by a glimpse into this pedagogical process is provided through a collection of the material produced by the students during the five years of design research strategies. The concluding piece by Camillo Boano draws

| 15

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

from Jacques Rancière’s reflections on aesthetics and politics, setting them against the case of Baan Mankong housing and community upgrading practice. Rancière’s conception of dissensus and his notion of active equality that are profoundly socio-spatial in nature, were an inspirational starting point to reflect and learn from the people-driven design process in the city of Bangkok. Finally, Caren Levy and Barbara Liepitz’s contribution builds on the transdisciplinary and collective approach developed between UDP and BUDD during the years 2010-12, reflecting on the pedagogical dimension and the focus on transformative potentials. Being both a compilation and a manifesto, this book is to be read as a spatial catalogue which operates as an urban tool for anyone interested in learning about the city of Bangkok, meandering along a spatial timeline that highlights the transformations experienced by the city as it went through social, cultural, economic and political metamorphosis. Being aware of the multiplicities of its unfolding urban realities, the book allows us to navigate Bangkok through multiple scales, exposing its challenges and potentials; juxtaposed with the analytical representations of ‘what is’ are also the visual speculative proposals of what ‘could be’. This book is by no means claiming to be an all-conclusive account of Bangkok’s spatial reality, yet it highlights the materialised socio-spatial scenarios resulting from the continuous process of making and remaking the city, where design, as an expanded field, plays a crucial role. image 1.

Bangkok: Location of the sites where BUDD/CAN/ACHR worked between 2010 and 2015.

16 |










| 17


Mapping & to Siwilai

Mapping & to Siwilai: On the spatial discourse in Siam Samar Maqusi

An Introduction


Please refer to, Thongchai: Siam Mapped: A Winichakul History of the Geo-Body of a Nation, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, HI, pp. 113–139

The city of Bangkok is introduced here through the concept of Mapping & Siwilai –inspired by Thongchai Winichakul’s Siam Mapped: A Winichakul History of the Geo-Body of a Nation, one of the leading Thai scholars today– which Thailand, and more specifically Bangkok underwent in the late 19th century as a process of not merely documenting cartographic qualities of Thailand, but more importantly one of spacemaking and socio-cultural formation towards a modern Siam. This was conceived within the framework of Siwilai –the act of modernising and civilising Siam as space and people. The process of Siwilai imagined and applied through the practice of Mapping –a cartographic tool which delineates borders, defines and divides space and people, as well as reforms local geographies1– brought about a radical change to Bangkok’s geography and cultural behaviour in the form of re-structuring the spatial characteristics of the city along with its inhabitants through calculated applications of processes designed to reshape the physicality of Siam and ensure that the ever-growing urbanity of its major attractor –Bangkok– is amiable to a very much present global change. As the world was undergoing massive scales of colonisation by the West at that time, Siam itself was prone to being absorbed and re-structured

| 21

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

as one of many colonies being established. Realising the real threat of losing territorial independence, Siam underwent ‘self-reorganisation’ and cultural adaptation; to best meet ‘standards of living’ set by the West and used as a measure and justification for colonisation, thus, for Siam it was crucial that it is not seen as un-modern, or un-civilized. Furthermore, to avoid and control people’s unrest or potential rejection of Siwilai, Thai monarchs and elite –representing the political class in Siam at that time– opted to communicate the act of Siwilai as the only way out of colonisation, and the redemption for their Geo-body2. The process of Siwilai – led exclusively by the monarchs and elite – quickly translated into a process of selfcolonisation, without the acknowledgement or participation of its indigenous inhabitants and cultures. This book chapter, speculative in nature, will use Siwilai and mapping as metaphors and perspectives to both introduce Bangkok as well as the studio work done by the BUDD students. It especially reflects on how space, culture, spiritual beliefs, people and habits underwent a rapid process of re-definition and re-appropriation to best meet Siwilai forms and standards. Today Bangkok is a massive geobody housing sediments of spatial and cultural metamorphosis. These sediments stand as physical testimonies of the accrued top-down practices of spatial formation and development, and more critically, the segregation and marginalisation of people as decision-makers and enablers within their city and space. A form of Mapping, as understood and employed in the history and context of Bangkok, was undertaken by the students to un-earth the processes of space and people making. The work involved a rigorous analysis and understanding of Bangkok’s context to expound the city as a socio-spatial entity, as well as, unpacking the city to delineate and further illustrate the various elements that take part in making Bangkok what it is today. By engaging in a method of de-Mapping, marginalised

22 |



Mapping & to Siwilai

spaces and people are re-surfaced on the geo-body map of Bangkok, claiming both space and actual lines on Bangkok’s map. As in Bangkok’s case, the map is more visible than the real space on the ground. Employing this design research method, the studio acted as connecting bridge(s) between space and people, to provide the needed space for collective dialogue and consideration between the actors, and demonstrate the importance of shared decision-making when addressing the spatial destiny of Bangkok’s inhabited areas to ensure a sustainable process based on democratic participation amongst the different stakeholders who share a concern and responsibility towards their living environments. Once the collective dialogue was established, shared visions were constructed as potential solutions or drivers to imagined implementable interventions for a ‘just’ city, and a ‘just’ metropolitan community.

On Mapping. Mapping defined Bangkok is a city where spectacle and reality collide on an everyday scale. Referred to as “the city of angels”, “Big Mango”, “Venice of the East”, “Sin City of Asia”, “Land of Smiles”. The city underscores a history of Mapping as geo-body beginning in the late 19th century, which saw an invasive re-organisation of space in aspiration to modernise the country, at a time when the West was demarcating the modern standards. Mapping, though a very familiar term in urban studies, literally embodies much more serious meaning and spacio-political practice in the case of Siam –Bangkok. “Cartography did not simply reveal the geography of Siam, but through expedition and survey was a crucial endeavour in producing the modern geo-body of Siam; that is, a sense of what Siam was and could become. The maps produced anticipated a spatial reality and imagined community, rather than depicting one.” (Winichakul, 2011:407)

| 23

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

The practice of Mapping in Siam was relational to and reciprocal of the strong desire of the monarchs and elite to gain the acceptance and approval of the “’civilised‘ Western powers and their set socio-spatial norms. Whether this was in response to curb colonisation threats, or merely a true admiration of the newly advanced Western world is negotiable, but the fact remains, the imported cartographic practice –Mapping- in the late 19th century, was appropriated to rapidly re-define the geobody of Siam to best meet those “norms”, forcing Siam to undergo an extensive spatial process of expansion-contraction, inclusion-exclusion and construction-destruction. This process produced contested realities on the ground involving abandoned historical and cultural spaces and indigenous practices, resulting in marginalised and segregated communities disconnected from the urban network, and which continue to engage in existential negotiations to this day. “the very production of space, which is inherently a conflictual process, not only manifests various forms of injustice, but actually produces and reproduces them (thereby maintaining established social relations of domination and oppression).” (Dikec, 2001)

Mapping as geo-body simultaneously shaped and categorised space and people in Bangkok. This was clearly demonstrated from the onset by assigning the task of acquiring the technical means of creating and shaping maps for Siam to men from the Royal bodyguard (Thongchai, 2011) which was institutionalised by creating the Royal Survey Department in 1885. What this meant is that visions imagined for Siam were based on royal visions, ensuring royal interests, and protecting royal properties. The resulted boundary maps were in full coordination and cooperation with Western powers, namely French and British. Many scholars argue that the institutionalisation and nationalisation of Mapping in Siam in

24 |

Mapping & to Siwilai

1885 was not only a measure to “anticipate” newly civilized spatial territories, but to exert and ensure administration and protection of territory for those in control, thus Mapping reflected both development and military spatial visions. “In other words, the modern discourse of mapping was the ultimate conqueror.” (Winichakul, 2011:410)

By demonstrating the concept and historical operation of Mapping in Siam-Bangkok, somehow the students were able to imagine new ‘maps’ new possible cartographies (see following chapters 2 and 3) of Bangkok as a city, and as people. The student groups launched into a spatial learning experience aimed at identifying the resultant contested realities from Mapping practices, and at the same time, engaged in a collective spatial dialogue with the various stakeholders, while ensuring the participation of the most marginalised, to be able to envision new scenarios -utilising Mapping methods of space and people- that can tackle the wounds and gaps in Bangkok’s current geo-body, and offer new possibilities based on re-imagining the existing infrastructures and lines of power that makeup Bangkok.

Forms of Mapping | Chao Phraya: the khlongs In her article which presents a holistic consideration of Bangkok’s water-based culture, Mateo-Babiano concludes that the presence of the informal sector and everyday religious spaces within urban spaces are the main aspects that contribute to Bangkok’s overall character and identity (Mateo-Babiano, 2012). Like many cities worldwide, who owe their existence and success to the rivers they grew around, Bangkok is no exception in that respect. The Chao Phraya river truly decided the form and destiny of Bangkok, as a capital city. Bangkok, began forming

| 25

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

as a capital during King Taksin’s rule (between 1767-1782). At that time, the capital was called Thonbouri and was located on the Western bank of the river. It was until King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, who succeeded Taksin, that the capitol moved to the eastern side of the river. Today, Bangkok expands 1,569km2 along the 372 km Chao Phraya river. The river, and its khlongs (canals) are what decided the geographical and life form of Bangkok, through providing the main elements of habitat in the form of rice paddies and canalbased settlements. It also pinned Bangkok on the global trade map, acting as a trade route. Those khlongs which emanated from the river, were a life-source to people, as they provided access to other parts of the land (acting as bridges), which allowed Bangkok to expand in scale and importance. The khlongs were also a vital source of food and habitat to the community, which would not have been able to flourish without. The khlongs forming a massive water-network configured Bangkok as land and way-of-life, acting as political infrastructure, which facilitated the manifestation of the geo-body of Bangkok as Mapped and planned by the monarchs and elite of Siam. Due to the organic nature of water and canals, the canals somehow took on a life of their own. Floating habitat formed along the canals, a more indigenous, ecological urbanity was being formed providing a large-scale network and connectivity to the city at large. The Chao Phraya river, and its Khlongs also defined the cosmopolitan nature of the city through allowing the diverse ways of living and adaptation, and the introduction of other cultures in the city through trading with Arabs, Indians and Chinese communities. The khlongs were not only considered the main arteries of movement but also a social space before Westernisation

26 |

Mapping & to Siwilai

changed the movement patterns and modes of inhabitants. (Mateo-Babiano, 2012)

Writing ethnographies: defining the other-within


See also: Baker, C. Phongpaichit, P. (2014) A History of Thailand, Cambridge University Press: 64.

Mapping as a cartographic practice in Siam was not restricted to space. In fact, to achieve the spatial reconfiguration, a social and cultural categorisation, and later reconfiguration had to occur first. To justify the process and manifestation of Siwilai, un-civilized and backward had to be demonstrated not only as space, but as people –indigenous people– along with their appearances and practices. Winichakul describes clearly the ethnographic cartography which took place in the late 19th century, through travel-notes and writing produced by the elite as they roamed Siam and its vicinity, in search of the “other”, the “strange”3. The first people described, were the chaopa, the indigenous people of the bordering areas of Siam. The ethnographic records categorized these communities in collective terms, as jungle people, relentlessly presented as strange physical descriptions, ways-of-living and social mannerisms. They were portrayed as barbaric, continuously situated as “them” in conjunction with the “us” (meaning the elite)providing for a speedy racial categorisation which transcends colour and ethnicity, and focuses on constructing the image of ’Them‘ was as un-civilised within the parameters of Siwilai. The second ’people‘ described, were referred to as chaobannok who were the communities of the rural areas, though still categorised as “other”, they were seen as less barbaric and more of multi-ethnic, or different culture. The chaobannok are people who cultivated and produced, and thus presented as an economic asset to the Thai elite. “Both chaopa and chaobannok were the categories of the Others of the more Siwilai elite. The chaopa were the

| 27

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

uncivilized; the chaobannok were the loyal, backward subjects. The gazers were the educated elite in the city, the people and space of Siwilai and chareon.” (Winichakul, 2000:536)

As will be elaborated in the next chapters, these practices of categorization and re-organization of space and people maintain physical residue in today’s Bangkok. They have morphed to take on a contemporary socio-spatial form of informal settlement and living form, yet they nonetheless, retain the very same political language of categorizing the other, the uncivilized, the un-globalized for Bangkok’s new global image.

On Siwilai. To Siwilai defined To Siwilai, was an act of spatial and cultural modernization started in the mid 19th century to keep up with the established spatial trend of Western civilization so as to avoid colonization (Baker and Phongpaichit, 2014), vis-a-vis preserve a monarchy (Winichakul, 2000; Baker, 2014). It is a word that is transliterated from English, and remains one of the words in its transliterated form. The word Siwilai as a practice was so pervasive in Siam that it is used as an adjective, a noun and a verb. The act of Siwilai was reinforced by the travel literature which itself went through a transformation during the mid 19th century. At this point, traveling and writing about other places and people were both pleasure and accumulation of knowledge (Winichakul, 2000). But the activity of travel writing remained within the practice of the elite, rendering their descriptions as mobilised to describe the “other” –outside of Siam– as the desired different, which then progressed to describe the “other” –within Siam– as the strange different. It is important to keep in mind that in describing the ethnographic travels and writings of the others

28 |

Mapping & to Siwilai

within, Winichakul makes clear that the ‘other’ referred to strange (as in habits and habitual), and strangeness (as in appearances) on a collective scale. These developed impressions were always juxtaposed to the impressions of Siwilai. This clearly meant to pronounce a departure from what will be considered the past, to what is now Siwilai. In trying to avoid the potential of becoming a colonised entity, and rather than capturing the opportunity of engaging in a collective cultural-isation of Siam with the people of Siam, Bangkok was being materialised and constructed as a Siwilai city by its intellectuals and elite through a viscous process of re-appropriation and localisation of their “formed” ideas and practices of Siwilai (Winichakul, 2000). Therefore, even though the monarchs and elite of Siam in many aspects rushed to learn about Siwilai in efforts to keep up with the time and age, and effectively curtail efforts to be colonized, the fact remains that they simultaneously engaged in civilizing space as well as culture, in invasive and sometimes aggressive ways which involved substituting authenticity with universal (European) commonality. “Black teeth had been a mark of beauty in Siam until Siwilai needed them white.” (Winichakul, 2000:538)

Forms of Siwilai Abandoning traiphum - a modern geography The Buddhist spiritual cosmology, adopted as such, was to be challenged during the mid 19th century as Siam was experiencing the rapid adoption and implementation of Siwilai (modernisation based on Western standards). Traiphum as a geo-astrological map –it described the earth as a flat path between two mountain ranges, which included the cosmos within that path- was to be challenged by European and American missionaries, and soon

| 29

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

later abandoned by King Rama IV, on the account that Buddhism should be addressed in matters of spiritual truth, while sciences account for matters of natural worldly matter. Thus a new ‘modern’ geography was set to be embraced in Siam. Once a new form of geography was adopted, which literally changed the topographical beliefs of the Thai community, way-of-life and religious expressions and representation within Bangkok’s space was to change as well, based on new cartographic imaginations, determinations, and manifestations spearheaded by the monarchs, and their elite affiliates. Bangkok took on a different look on the map. This paradigm shift provided the clean slate in which a new Siam and a modern Bangkok was taking shape.

To Siwilai - cartographic practices A term used as an adjective, a noun and a verb in Thailand, was a decisive concept which would change the figuration of space and people. Adopted in the mid 19th century, to Siwilai carried out the operation of making the new Bangkok, and the new people of Bangkok by deploying the concept of Siwilai in social, economic, political and spatial practices. Deployed all over Thailand by the cartographic practices learned from the Western friends, Bangkok slowly dried out its khlongs in favour of asphalt, its boats in favour of cars, and its floating habitat in favour of urban development. This was all taking place during the mid 19th to mid 20th century, and was heavily based on requests by European residents to provide land-based access, (Mateo-Babiano, 2012). Now, Bangkok which housed a habitat gravitated towards its water artery, saw the habitat expanding outwards, away from the Chao Phraya. This would pave the road to scale-up Bangkok to a cosmopolitan scale.

30 |

Mapping & to Siwilai

Harrison and Jackson highlight the ambiguity of the term in their book The Ambiguous Allure of the West: Traces of the Colonial in Thailand, by explaining: “the final two syllables of the term, -wilai, are spelt in the same way as a Thai term meaning “beautiful”, so giving Siwilai positive aesthetic resonances. An alternative rendering of wilai, used to spell an exact homophone with the radically different meaning of “destruction” or “ruination”, was avoided.” (Harrison and Jackson, 2010:200)

In many senses, Siwilai can be seen as a blessing and an urban curse. While Thailand, and Bangkok thrived economically in the process of Siwilai, it simultaneously experienced a harsh rapid urbanisation, which left many fragile communities –who were sustained by Bangkok’s original organic form and way-oflife - unable to keep up with the expanding asphalt and dryingout of their khlongs, forcing them to survive on informal waysof-life, rendering them vulnerable and marginalised within the cosmopolitan, densely urban context of Bangkok. Today, these informal settlements are what preserve the historical, indigenous ways of Siam, and are in constant, serious threat of eradication, only to be replaced with the common, global forms of spatial development and urbanization. “Sumet Jumsai, a leading architect in Thailand, reiterated, through his research on amphibious architecture and symbolism in Southeast Asia, the importance of common cultural memories among people, specifically in relation to Bang- kok’s intricate connection with a water-based lifestyle (Sumet, 1988). He has suggested a return to water-based solutions for a canal-based settlement such as Bangkok, by restoring the waterfront, digging additional canals, and establishing floating communities on areas of the gulf of Thailand, which are necessary to address the ever expanding and choking metropolis (The Nation, 1991).” (Mateo-Babiano, 2012)

| 31

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

In Conclusion Bangkok - a jewel spectacle, a tourist haven, a ‘city of angels’- is also a real city for many inhabitants who are forced to negotiate their everyday urbanity within its massive metropolis of lavish glass towers, super highways, water canals, floating boats which glitter at night like golden crescents, and everything in between. It is this ‘in between’ that the people of Bangkok have been shaping their lives and city for centuries while confronting the rapid changes their city undergoes due to this global standing as an attraction for leisure and discovery. It is this complex formation of urbanity which truly makes Bangkok the critical urban space where locals continuously define and re-define their spatial identity, and urbanists define and re-define their contentions. The city is so colourful, combining flavours and aromas, enticing visual senses and alluring tourists as it offers everything a city could be. Yet, Bangkok is also home to hundreds of informal settlements (many times referred to as slums) along its canals and within its inner fabric. As a visitor to the city, it is difficult to distinguish between Bangkok as the spectacle and Bangkok as the frustrated city, one in which hundreds of thousands of inhabitants struggle on a daily basis to mitigate existential needs, mainly housing. Through an intensive inquiry into Bangkok’s housing problems and urban criticality, the work of the MSc BUDD studio is presented and re-imagined through the lens of the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI), and more specifically the Collective Housing Program, Baan Mankong, guided by the philosophy of Mapping –one of space-making and socio-cultural formation towards a modern Siam, with the aim of reaching what Thai monarchs and elite

32 |

Mapping & to Siwilai

coined in the 19th century as Siwilai –act of modernising and civilising Siam as space and people.

References Boonyabancha, S., (2003). A Decade of Change: from the Urban Community Development Office to the Community Organization Development Institute in Thailand, Human Settlements Working Paper Series Poverty Reduction in Urban Areas, 12, IIED. Baker, C. Phongpaichit, P., (2014). A History of Thailand, Cambridge University Press. Dikec, M. (2012). Justice and the spatial imagination. Environment and Planning, A(33), pp. 1785-1805. Harrison, R. and Jackson, P. (2010). The Ambiguous Allure of the West: Traces of the Colonial in Thailand, Hong Kong University Press Mateo-Babiano, I. B., (2012). Public life in Bangkok’s urban spaces, Habitat International, 36(4); pp 452-461. Mitlin, D., Satterthwaite, D., (2013). Urban poverty in the global South: scale and nature, London, Routledge. Satterthwaite, D., (2002). Reducing Urban Poverty: Some Lessons From Experience, Poverty Reduction in Urban Areas Series Working Paper, 11, IIED, London. Warren, W., (2002). Bangkok, London, Reaktion. Winichakul, T., (2011). Mapping: A New Technology of Space; GeoBody, from Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation, Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chapter 5. Winichakul, T., (2000). The Quest for Siwilai : A Geographical Discourse of Civilizational Thinking in the Late Nineteenth and Early TwentiethCentury Siam, The Journal of Asian Studies, 59(3); pp 528-549.

| 33

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

34 |


On Bangkok

| 35

Unpacking Bangkok Urbanism

Giovanna Astolfo

Bangkok earned its title as capital during king Taksin’s rule due to its location near the mouth of the Chao Phraya river (Baker & Phongpaichit, 2005; Terwiel, 2005; Fong, 2012). Its ubiquitous presence has meant the river served more than just an access route; it provided habitual and social spaces that strongly intersected with the public realm. Over time, a system of water networks (khlongs) was expanded and waterborne traffic dominated the city. The spatial organisation changed when the construction of the road network was superimposed over the antique world of the khlongs to ultimately supplant it, though never completely (Sidthithanyakit, 1999; Wongtes, 2001; Noparatnaraporn & King, 2007).


“No matter what geographical scale is considered, the role of Bangkok and its surrounding area within the national economy is evident. In 1995, the per capita income of the metropolitan area of Bangkok was about four times as much as the national average and the share of Bangkok in national GDP was approximately 40 percent”. (Kittiprapas, 1999).

Bangkok grew from 13 km2 in 1900 to a metropolitan area of more than 330 km2 (Krongkaew, 1996). Today more than half of Thailand’s urban population lives in Bangkok which makes it a ‘primate city’, a type of city that is exponentially larger than the country’s other cities and more influential1. Bangkok represents the culmination of national life, the undisputed economic engine of Thailand and the third largest urban region in South-East Asia (Webster & Maneepong, 2009; Fong, 2012). Despite being a primate city, Bangkok’s influential role manifests in economic terms, not in terms of political

| 37

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

power2. As the Government is often elected with votes from the rural population (Usavagovitwong, 2012; Patpongpibul, 2012), the city has relatively little power to shape the destiny of its urban environment (Webster & Maneepong, 2009; Webster, 2000; Kittiprapas, 1999). Consequentially, urban planning has never been a priority in the Government’s agenda. Until the early 1990s, Bangkok did not have an official city plan in operation (Krongkaew, 1996; Khamman, 2011). Aptly labelled as the ‘unintended city’ (Satterthwaite, 2008), Bangkok developed as a fragmented geography of waterways among the various, seemingly isolated projects involving infrastructure, industrial, commercial, housing developments that were not necessarily integrated coherently within a wider context of the metropolis. Bangkok today is often referred to as ‘a city that never sleeps’, with streets full of vendors, walls flashing with colours and super-highways giving the impression of great connectivity. In between such stark opulence lie pockets of poverty produced by uneven growth, rapid urbanisation and chronic lack of housing. In the early 1920s, Bangkok started attracting a high concentration of economic activities; along with the factories, a variety of military, institutional, educational and cultural headquarters were built within the city (Ayal, 1992; Fong, 2012; Kittiprapas, 1999). Starting from the 1950s, the city opened its markets to international trade and investment, consolidating its role as import–export hub (Brown, 1994; Hewison, 1989; Warr, 2004). Economic growth resulted in an increase in land prices, making it difficult for the lowest income groups to find affordable land and housing in the city centre. Furthermore, the increased demand for strategically located land for industrial and commercial purposes, resulted in poor communities being evicted from land that they occupied in or near the city centres and were

38 |


”At least 25% of Bangkok’s residents cannot vote (..) migrants to Bangkok are counted as residents of the province from which they migrated and thus not allowed to vote in Bangkok (...). The result is that Bangkok’s residents do not have the power to choose national governments through electoral processes, nor do they benefit proportionately from the fiscal revenues that they generate, but through their urban networks, physical proximity to power and sophistication, they have often removed national governments from power by organising campaigns of dissent and taking to the streets. In Thailand it is said that the rural people put governments in power, while the people of Bangkok remove governments from power”. (Webster & Maneepong, 2009)

Unpacking Bangkok Urbanism

image 1.

Jing Li. BUDD.2014. Individual Design Portfolio. The Studio Phases: an overview.

image 2.

Lucia Maffei. BUDD. 2014. Individual Design Portfolio. Studio phases.

| 39

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

image 3.

Pedro Pablo Mora. BUDD.2014. Individual Design Portfolio. Studio phases.

40 |

Unpacking Bangkok Urbanism

being relocated, formally or informally, to land on the city fringes (Satterthwaite, 2008). While Bangkok was officially growing and its economy rising, poor people were excluded from this prosperity.


The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) defines a slum settlement as an overcrowded, dilapidated and densely-built community, with a minimum of 15 housing units per 1600 m2 (Pornchockchai, 2003). According to Archer (2012), “estimates of Thailand’s urban slum population vary, from 2,061,000 persons, consisting of 26% of the country’s urban population (UN HABITAT, 2008), to 5.13 million people (CODI, 2004).”

Rapid economic growth turned Bangkok into a magnet for migrant workers from rural Thailand and beyond. Thousands were flowing into the city, and were very soon, if not before arriving, already securing jobs, even if these were temporary (Ayal, 1992: 358). This was thanks to the presence of effective, strong informal networks that continue to play an instrumental role in securing resources within Bangkok’s urban areas. The 1997 financial crisis seriously damaged the Thai economy; unemployment hit 1.75 million people (Behrman, 2001) causing an unprecedented shift from the formal to the informal work sectors. While migrants to Bangkok who had lost their jobs returned to the provinces, many decided to remain in the capital city to find temporary informal jobs, (Walsh & Maneepong, 2012) often low-paying and non-effective in improving their quality of life (Fong, 2012). Not being able to afford market-dominated housing, they ended up squatting on private or governmentowned land. This resulted in the number of slum settlements3 increasing rapidly in both absolute and percentage terms; in 1960s, 50 slum settlements were identified; this number grew to 1208 in the 2000s (Viratkapan & Perera, 2006; Pornchockchai, 2003). Evictions increased accordingly, following urbanisation pressures and land re-development. In the year 1985-86 alone, 5000 households were evicted (Angel & Pornchockchai, 1989; Surarith, 1990). According to several studies conducted by National Housing Authority (NHA) in the 1970s and 80s (Angel & Benjamin, 1977; Angel & Pornchockchai, 1989; Sheng, 1989) the vast majority of informal settlements were dispersed within central areas, while illegal settlements were predominantly found along Bangkok’s khlongs as strips of underused public land thus

| 41

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

creating a socio-spatial ‘pocketisation’ of slums (Hunter, 2011). Much of the responsibility lies in the lack of housing policy that has completely missed the links between planning and poor communities. Affordable housing has never been high on the political

agenda in Thailand. Despite the number of slum dwellers in Bangkok increasing, the government did not act on the need of affordable housing, instead favoured laissez-faire, private sector-led housing development to address and reconcile housing demand (Sheng, 2002). Despite the growing shortage of decent and affordable housing in Bangkok being evident since the 1940s, none of the programmes advocated by international agencies were implemented (Giles, 2001; Chiu, 1984). It was not before 1972 that the government initiated policies to provide decent shelter to low income people (Chiu, 1984; Prachuabmoh, 2005). The National Housing Authority (NHA) was established in 1973 and soon became one of the largest land-holders in the city. It first implemented public housing which mostly included apartment buildings for those displaced by urban renewal. While this gained much media attention, it remained highly unpopular (Archer, 2012). Later NHA experimented with self-help and on-site upgrading schemes. While upgrading was evidently cost-effective compared to relocation and widely supported by international agencies, the Thai government has always been rather reluctant to implement it (Giles, 2003; Yap & De Wandeler, 2010) and as a result, few numbers of dwellings were built under this scheme. In the 1980s, self-help projects were finally abandoned and the Thai government once again moved towards a marketoriented strategy for housing provision. However, over time it recognised the need for institutional change to diversify its approach to housing provision across the broader spectrum of socio-economic conditions.

42 |

Unpacking Bangkok Urbanism

image 4.

Jing Li. BUDD.2014. Individual Design Portfolio. Actor’s mapping and site mapping. Based on group work.

| 43

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

image 5.

Giovanna Astolfo. BUDD 2014. Individual Design Portfolio. Site mapping. Based on group work

image 6.

Anindita Hermansyah (group work). BUDD 2015. Phase 2. Socio-spatial profiling.

44 |

Unpacking Bangkok Urbanism

In 1992, the Urban Community Development Office (UCDO) was set up by the Thai government to address housing provision for the urban poor. By taking a demand-led approach and a process of decentralisation, UCDO managed to bridge the gap between the state and poor communities creating the long missing link between planning and the needs of the urban poor (Boonyabancha, 2003; CODI, 2004; Satterthwaite, 2004; Archer, 2012). Despite being an inter-governmental programme under the National Housing Authority (NHA), it had a certain administrative and organisational autonomy and its approach was closer to that of an independent NGO. In 2000, the Government proposed the merger of the UCDO with the Rural Development Fund to become the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI).

More than housing. CODI and the Baan Mankong programme Building on the success of the UCDO, CODI was established by virtue of the Royal Decree to become a new public organisation under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. During 2003, CODI made a proposal to the Thai government for the implementation of the Baan Mankong programme (‘secure housing’ in Thai) to address land and housing problems of some 2,000 communities in 200 cities. CODI channelled government funds in the form of infrastructure subsidies and soft loans directly to the poor communities who were part of the Baan Mankong programme to purchase land or negotiate long-term leases and upgrade the housing stock as necessary (Boonyabancha, 1999; Satterthwaite, 2004; Archer, 2012). “Baan Mankong Programme doesn’t look only at housing or physical planning, but looks at ways to rebuild communities and rebuild their social and economic foundation, while

| 45

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

their physical environment is improved. It is a new qualitative level of community-led housing development at city and country scale” (Boonyabancha, 2004).

The programme’s ultimate aims went beyond the mere provision of shelter; its purpose was also to build stronger communities capable of jointly negotiating and leveraging demands, networking and building citywide partnerships with other stakeholders, including the Crown Property Bureau, private citizens, the King, private developers, local authority officials and other communities (Boonyabancha, 2005; Boonyabancha, 2009; Patpongpibul, 2012). The Baan Mankong programme is grounded into four main principles: people-driven approach, collective finance, capacity building and scaling-up. A summary of these principles follows: People-driven approach. The programme supported inclusive

processes controlled by the urban poor themselves. Thanks to a flexible institutional approach, communities (and their community networks) were put at the centre of the development process and were enabled to plan and manage solutions to their land and housing problems. “Let the people be the driver” remained a crucial slogan of the programme (Boonyabancha, 2012). Poor communities worked in close collaboration with their local governments, professionals, universities and NGOs to survey and then plan an upgrading process which attempts to improve all the communities in that city. “CODI encourages community members and relevant government agencies to work together to find a solution. If the community can prove that they have resided on and owned the land prior to it becoming public land or a national park, they are entitled to a land deed. If they are unable to achieve this, they negotiate a long-term lease or use without payment” (CODI, 2016). A key component of the CODI programme was the Community

46 |

Unpacking Bangkok Urbanism

image 7.

Bente Madson, Miro, Cristian Robertson De Ferrari, Baku Hayashi. BUDD 2015. Phase 1.Mapping. Historical relationship between national politics and housing policy in Bangkok.

| 47

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

image 8.

Bangkok. Picture from BUDD field trip report, 2011: Depocketisation

image 9.

Bangkok’s canal. Picture by Camillo Boano

48 |

Unpacking Bangkok Urbanism


””CODI’s role is to build the strength of community organisations. The ’Baan Mankong Project‘ is a tool which can help to achieve this goal, and the ’Community Architect’s Network‘ has been crucial in this work. Each step of the architectural design process can be used to encourage the participation of community members, leading to community strengthening”.. ACHR newsletter, Community Architects in Asia. Design by, with, for people, p.20.

Architects’ Network (CAN)4 who facilitated the housing design processes, while providing an anti-mainstream architectural voice in south-East Asia. (Hunter, 2011). Collective finance. The programme encouraged the use of

flexible financial models to support housing upgrading and resettlement. Doing away with traditional finance models, such as fixed mortgage plans, the programme offered new financial streams, including low interest loans and credit. Instead of loans and credits being made to individuals, they were made to saving groups. The programme began by providing small amounts of funding to organised community groups in order to address issues of land acquisition and tenure and to mitigate threats of large-scale evictions. Any community groups are eligible for a loan, provided that they had financial managerial capacity. The financial process was instrumental to strengthening community capacity and responsibility (Boonyabancha, 2009) and proved a useful mechanism to help link people together and mobilise community action (Archer, 2012). The process proved that, although poor communities may be financially weak, they are socially rich and can offer the needed indigenous knowledge and cultural practice that Bangkok as a metropolis seems to have lost in the process of rapid economic and urban growth. Capacity building. What is different about CODI as a

programme and enabler, is that it does not only provide the loans needed for community groups to afford land purchase or house upgrading, it also builds the capacity to do so by disseminating knowledge and technical skills via ideals of ‘information exchange’ and ‘learning by doing’. Scaling-up. The program was initially rolled out to isolated

community groups. Its success however, spread by word of

| 49

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

mouth and slowly more community groups around Bangkok become part of the initiative. This demand called for a shift in how the program operated. In order to ensure that the increased demand was met without jeopardising the success and quality of the program, a scheme of scaling-up was designed to allow community group networks to form and grow across the city and beyond into the rural areas. It became a city-wide process, with surveying, networking, learning by participating in multiscalar networks and building agency. To conclude, Baan Mankong managed to achieve what previous housing policies had failed to deliver (Archer, 2012; Boonyabancha, 2009; Boonyabancha et al, 2012). It played a crucial role in mediating the impacts of globalisation on declining citizenship and uneven urban development. It was more than just a programme to acquire secure housing; it was rather about the power of the people being a part of the collective, exercising freely their rights, namely the right to appropriate space in the city and to challenge the power structures and control over space allocation in the city. The process of enabling citizens to be proactive and empowered in their own development was fundamental to laying the foundation for transformative change. Today, Bangkok is a city of contradictions, tensions and extremes: poor livelihoods are juxtaposed with rapid commercialisation and industrialisation, bringing new forms of wealth and migrants to the city. Extreme poverty exists side-by-side with global consumerism with poor communities continuing to overcome the challenges of this context mobilising themselves to achieve the more equitable forms of development to which they are entitled.

50 |

Unpacking Bangkok Urbanism

References Angel, S., Pornchokchai, S., (1989). Bangkok slum lands. Policy implications of recent findings. Cities 6(2): 136-146. Archer, D., (2012). Finance as the key to unlocking community potential: savings, funds and the ACCA programme. Environment and Urbanization. 24(2): 423-440. Ayal, E. B., (1992). Thailand’s development: the role of Bangkok. Pacific Affairs 65(3): 353–367. Boonyabancha, S., (2009). Land for housing the poor by the poor: experiences from the Baan Mankong nationwide slum upgrading programme in Thailand. Environment and Urbanization 21(2): 309-330. Boonyabancha, S., (2009). Community development fund in Thailand. A tool for poverty education and affordable housing. UNHABITAT. Boonyabancha, S., Carcellar, N., Kerr, T., (2012). How poor communities are paving their own pathways to freedom. Environment and Urbanization 24(2): 441-462. Boonyabancha, S., (1999). The urban community environmental activities project and its environment fund in Thailand. Environment and Urbanization 1999 11(1): 101-115. Boonyabancha, S., (2005). Baan Mankong: going to scale with “slum” and squatter upgrading in Thailand. Environment and Urbanization 17(1): 21-46. Chiu, H., (1984). Four Decades of Housing Policy in Thailand. Habitat International 8(2): 31-42. Chutapruttikorn, R., (2009). Squatter Life in Transition: an Evaluation of Participatory Housing Design. FORUM Ejournal 9: 13-30. Dovey, K., (2001). Memory, Democracy and Urban Space: Bangkok’s ‘Path to Democracy’. Journal of Urban Design 6(3): 265-282. Fong, J., (2012). Political Vulnerabilities of a Primate City: The May 2010 Red Shirts Uprising in Bangkok, Thailand. Journal of Asian and African Studies: 1-16.

| 51

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Forsyth, T., (2010). Thailand’s Red Shirt Protests: Popular Movement or Dangerous Street Theatre? Social Movement Studies 9(4): 461-467. Giles, C., (2001). The autonomy of Thai housing policy, 1945–1996. Habitat International 27(2): 227–244. Hunter, W., (2011). Decoding Bangkok’s Pocket-Urbanization: Social Housing Provision and the Role of Community Architects. Archinect. available at http:// archinect.com/features/article/25485248/decoding-bangkok-s-pocketurbanization-social-housing-provision-and-the-role-of-communityarchitects (accessed on: 20/06/2016). Kittiprapas, S., (1999). Role of Bangkok and Its Periphery in the AsiaPacific Region: Toward Globalization Economy and Sustainable Development. TDRI Quarterly Review 14(3):18-24. Krongkaew, M., (1996). The case of Bangkok and Thailand, Emerging World Cities in Pacific Asia (UNU, 1996) Krongkaew M (2002). Thailand’s agrarian myth and its proponents. Journal of Asian and African Studies 37(2): 128–146. Pornchokchai, S., (2003). Global Report on Human Settlements 2003. City Report: Bangkok Prachuabmoh, K., (2005). Setting the Context: Thailand. Housing Finance International, : 40-45. Satterthwaite, D., (2008). Understanding Asian cities: a synthesis of the findings from eight city case studies. Global Urban Development 4(2): 1-24. Surarith, S., (1990). Women’s struggle for Housing Rights in Thailand. Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers De La Femme 11(2): 15-16. Usavagovitwong, (2012). Successful Approaches to National Slum Upgrading and Prevention, Thailand, Housing Study Unit Center for Integrated Socio-Spatial Research. working paper series, Working Paper Series, 7, June 2012. Webster, D., Maneepong, C., (2009). Bangkok. City 13(1): 80-86

52 |

Unpacking Bangkok urbanism Walsh, J., Maneepong, C., (2012). After the 1997 financial crisis in Bangkok: the behaviour and implications of a new cohort of street vendors. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 33: 255–269. Yap, S. K., (2002). Housing, the state and the market in Thailand: Enabling and enriching the private sector. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment 17: 33–47. Yap, S. K., De Wandeler, K., (2009). Self-help housing in Bangkok. Habitat International 34(3): 332-341 Yap, S. K., (1989). Some low-income housing delivery subsystems in Bangkok, Thailand, Environment and Urbanization 1(2): 27-37. Yap, S. K., (2010). Good Urban Governance in Southeast Asia, Environment and Urbanization Asia 1: 131-147.

| 53

Bangkok’s mobile street vending: A visual ethnography Kisnaphol Wattanawanyoo


All images of this chapter (pp 54-67) are attributed to Kisnaphol Wattanawanyoo

Mobile street vending in Bangkok, a scene quite typical of many other South-East Asian cities, can be seen as a form of urban informality. Found in various parts of Bangkok, it fills the gaps not provided by formal urban services. Street vending does not only provide a wide range of street food, goods and all kinds of services at reasonable prices, it also adds a unique character to the city’s streetscape, creating a bustling and lively urban ambience. With its long existence, even before Bangkok was formed, street vending together with other urban informalities, coexisted with the formal practices, influencing one another in shaping everyday urban spaces. Still surviving today, street vending has adapted to modern urban society. Over the past few decades, there has been a significant rise in numbers. Despite their contribution to city-making, mobile street vendors are being perceived as disorderly by the State, local authorities and urban elites and hence do not receive much political recognition. Often one can observe the heightened tension and conflict over the use of streets, sidewalks and public spaces. The set of photographs, taken between 2014-16 and presented in this chapter, form a visual narrative of Bangkok’s mobile street vending and their typologies. In order to investigate these practices, various transport modes were used such as walking, riding along with or driving after the vendors as they meandered through

| 55

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Bangkok’s busy streets into smaller sois (alleyways) of the inner neighbourhoods and peripheral communities. By following some of these vendors, a basic understanding of their spatial practices in terms of their operations and trading activities was explored. These various forms of mobile vending not only express an ambition to maximise economic opportunity but also demonstrate the creative variances in diurnal-nocturnal appropriation of interstitial, fragmented urban spaces by ordinary people. In fulfilling the daily needs and necessities of food and services, they play a crucial role in shaping and producing everyday life especially for those inhabitants who are in remote areas and far away from market services, or for those who find it inconvenient to move around. These vendors bring the market to the customers’ doorsteps instead. In their everyday practice, they transform any mundane spaces into a temporary market place and an ephemeral social gathering. Their presence initiates a form of interaction among the people who live/work within that area. In some cases, you can find different social classes drawn together, a scene rarely observed outside of such temporary market spaces nowadays. Their spatial practice is simple and subtle. Vendors move along a designated planned daily route, which can symbolically be seen to keep the city functioning through their mobility and rhythm. In terms of their operation, a set of informal rules and agreements among themselves seems to be in place, forming a kind of selfmanaged and organised system. They are rhizomatic in nature and highly adaptive, thus adding to the profoundly dynamic urban complexity of the city. It is important not to forget the contribution of these existing local forms of mobile practices to Bangkok’s urbanism; practices that are constantly and creatively making the city from below. Important still, albeit challenging, to incorporate them into Bangkok’s future urban planning processes; but it should be done sensitively, to avoid these practices losing their creative and enterprising spirit.

56 |

Bangkok’s mobile street vending

| 57

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Co-existence and appropriation of space-time

58 |

Bangkok’s mobile street vending

| 59

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Persistence and insurgence

60 |

Bangkok’s mobile street vending

| 61

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Bangkok’s atlas of mobile street vending Today, Bangkok’s mobile street vending is both motorised and non-motorised. Six typologies seem to exist, based on the sophistication of transport technology in use; these are: 1| Hab-re (a hawker on foot, carrying a light bamboo pole and baskets filled with their products). 2| Rod-khen (push cart). 3| Bicycle and tricycle (non-motorised peddler). 4| Motorcycle (includes the one with container/storage and the one with extra hanging display). 5| Motorcycle (with modified container/storage) and tricycle (motorised one with modified container/ storage). 6| Rod-re (pick-up truck with the modified rear storage and covered-roof to display food, produce and goods). The hab-re (hawker) is the only type that still maintains the traditional form of street vending like that of the past. Rod-khen (push cart) is one of the most popular types with great variations in cart design that could support various forms of trading activity and investment. The first two types are more ambulatory in nature and thus could cover nearby distance and proximity. Whereas bicycle and motorcycle could cover a longer distance. The rod-re is the most advanced form of mobile vending with a greater potential as it covers longer distance.

62 |

Bangkok’s mobile street vending

| 63

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Reconfiguration of the traditional market Rod-re is the most advanced form of mobile street vending. This practice contributes to the transformation of the traditional market into a new configuration, one that is more mobile and dispersed. In Thai language, the prefix rod means any type of vehicle which can be both motorised and nonmotorised. In this particular case, it refers to the modified pick-up truck storing food and goods. The suffix re is the adjective describing the act of moving or wandering around in any place. Rod-re is thus used to also describe, in more general terms, this particular form of mobile market. With the pick-up truck having limited storage and display space, the vendors have to be selective on the types of goods and products they sell, which eventually shaped the practice of rod-re into three variations, which are: 1| rod-kub-khao (selling fresh food, meat and vegetables) 2| rod-phak phon-lamai (selling fruits and vegetables) 3| rod-khong-cham or rod-cho-huay (selling wide range of groceries, clothing, fashionable and gift items, as well as other products) The first two are often wrongly perceived by the public as the same, however, while they look alike and often provide similar products, rod-kub-khao stocks fresh meats, whereas rod-phak phon-lamai does not. There is also another common feature associated with these two types implied by the nickname rod-phoom-phuang. The word phoom-phuang means ‘in bundle; and hence rod-phoom-phuang in this context refers to the outstanding display of ready-made packages of vegetables and other products in small bundles,

64 |

Bangkok’s mobile street vending

| 65

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

hanging on both sides of the truck. Most people consider both rod-kub-khao and rod-phoom-phuang as one and the same and often use both names interchangeably. Most of the vendors themselves prefer to be called rod-kub-khao rather than rod-phoom-phuang (as the latter could also refer to the motorcycle type of food vending) - or just rod-re in short. The third type of variation rod-khong-cham or rod-cho-huay, is a kind of grocery shop which also provides clothing and fashionable items, along with other consumerist products. Besides the three variations in their product provision and their display features, the three types of mobile market also have different target groups of customer as well.

66 |

Why people live in the slums? Because they don’t have power! Housing is a power equation!

” Somsook Boonyabancha

In conversation with

Somsook Boonyabancha: Housing is a power equation Luisa Carrera Izurieta


The work developed by Somsook Boonyabancha in the last 30 years has inspired a series of reflections about slum upgrading and housing development for the urban poor in Thailand and worldwide. During this time, Somsook’s work has stressed the importance of people participation in the processes of development by promoting the use of ‘people-driven’ approaches instead of the traditional ‘developer-led’ approach. In order to accomplish this, her actions in both governmental and non-governmental institutions are based on mechanisms to support people-driven initiatives such as saving groups, land-sharing projects and community networks at a citywide scale. From 2001 to 2010 Somsook was the director of the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI). Currently she is the Secretary General of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR), an international coalition of organisations working on housing development for the urban poor. Moreover, she is leading the Asian Coalition for Community Action (ACCA), a regional programme created by ACHR to bring city-wide

| 69

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

development change in 160 Asian cities. In recent years, the Development Planning Unit (DPU) has developed a strong link with Somsook and ACHR, working in partnership with developing collaborative field expeditions as part of the masters programmes and as part of the DPU/ACHR Junior Professionals Programme. An edited version of an interview with Somsook Boonyabancha is included, carried out at DPU in November 2015. It offers an insider’s perspective of the transformation process observed in Bangkok during the last three decades. Organised in three sections, it describes the work of ACHR in Thailand, the multiple scales of their actions and the role of the different stakeholders acting in this context.

70 |

I think change can happen with the interaction of a lot of elements. For instance housing; when you talk about housing is physical, social, financial, legal… it is political!

” Somsook Boonyabancha

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

I. People as active subjects Transformation in the context of Thailand could be understood as the result of a long negotiation process that resulted in the radical change of power structures. This change was only possible through a shift of people’s engagement in the process: from ‘objects’, waiting for government action, to ‘active subjects’. The first part of this conversation offers a general narrative of the work of ACHR in Thailand and a reflection focused on the action of CODI as a supporting bottom-up initiative. Moreover, a retrospective analysis of Somsook’s personal experience working with CODI and the urban poor of Thailand provides a clear understanding of the evolution of the people-driven approach and the different challenges this process brings about but also its influence in the process of city transformation. The notion of power structures is discussed by examining the powerful role that communities - as organised actors of the city – can play alongside that of architects and governmental institutions in development projects.

72 |

In conversation with Somsook Boonyabancha

“Let people be the solution” was a meaningful slogan for CODI’s work since the very beginning. Where does it come from? How has it evolved?

“As development professionals we are trained to manage development funds based on a ‘supply approach’; this means we only focus on the final goal, the target and the processes in a linear way. This is a major problem because we tend to see people as a target and try to give them what we think they need to solve their problems. In the work of ACHR and CODI we understood that it is important to see people as subjects and not as objects. Visits to other countries inspired us and gave us new ideas such as the saving groups. There we saw people acting as subjects, moving things by themselves and linking with other people. In this way we made a significant shift from a ‘supply approach’ to a ‘people-driven’ approach focus, on how the people think, live and do things. 1.

Eduardo Jorge Anzorena is a Jesuit priest that collaborates with ACHR and Slum Dwellers International in the search for solutions to the housing crisis among the urban poor in Asia.

It is also important to say that in Asia we have father Jorge Anzorena1 who has been a big influence for our work because his attention is always focused on the people. He is very interested in understanding how they do things and how to work with them. In my case, I have always looked at the people as subjects. When I was in the National Housing Authority, working in slum upgrading, I was very active and eager to change things. Looking at the processes of upgrading I learnt that the contractors are not interested in slum upgrading because it is not profitable. Moreover, the people are never happy with the work of the contractors because they know they can do a better job. The truth that we learned from this is that the people can do it and that the whole development system is not right all the time.

| 73

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

During that period, the National Housing Authority was not interested in evictions, so we tried to find a way to organise the residents and find a solution together. I was one of the persons who worked with the people to make land-sharing in Thailand possible. It was a process based on existing citizens that got together in a new plan of housing development. After we completed some land-sharing projects, I felt like we could solve the problem. I became more active but when you are more active you are also more problematic for the system. I worked for the Crown Property Bureau where I found important connections in order to build-up CODI. We worked together to create the Poverty Alleviation Fund in Thailand, also known as Community Development Fund2 (CDF). We had some problems trying to design the community development fund but finally CODI, at that time called UCDO3, started to work in 1992 as a highly unconventional system within a conventional institution. The saving groups are the mechanism to make this system work. In this process, people start the saving groups, decide what to do with their own money and are responsible of their financial system�. As you said there are some tools and knowledge that you might bring as an architect that are very different from those offered by other professionals. Can you speak about your experience as a CODI director from a personal perspective and as an architect and a planner?

“I think being an architect is very important! My architect friends do not count me as an architect any longer because architects always think about the formal change and I always want to understand how all this leads to a process

74 |


The Community Development Fund supports poor communities in organising saving groups to improve their capacity of managing their funds for community development activities.


CODI. CODI - The Baan Mankong Collective Housing. n.d. Accessed at: http://www.codi. or.th/housing/aboutCODI.html [accessed March 25, 2016].

In conversation with Somsook Boonyabancha

of major change. In the social process, I think being an architect helps a lot in terms of trying to see the overall picture, understand how things interact, how they move forward and what are the possible solutions we can offer. As architects we have a more abstract thought and we have the planning concept in our mind all the time. We can use the design capability that is something that other people in the social sciences do not have. I think change can happen with the interaction of a lot of elements. For instance housing; when you talk about housing its physical, social, financial, legal‌ it is political! It is necessary to talk about all these elements to make change using a collective system. In the collective system all the elements have a permanent interaction and the actors cannot be isolated. Architects can use their knowledge in the people-driven process to see the overall picture and interpret the strength of each element. A people-driven approach generates change at different levels; the people, the communities, the society. This is the only way to change the city!� How has the situation of poor communities in Bangkok changed with the growth of CODI? How has CODI managed in practice this different approach to development?

“The system of housing and CODI are based on the idea that people can generate change; they can get together and become a force of change. CODI in this case provides the tools, the mechanism, and the protection because it is a governmental organisation and this legitimates all the processes. In other Asian countries you see the federations and organisations working on important

| 75

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

…as a single community you cannot negotiate much but as a network you can always get what you want. Networks have a strong political negotiation power!

” 76 |

Somsook Boonyabancha

In conversation with Somsook Boonyabancha

projects but they do not have the legal protection and the institutional backup to do what they are doing. In Thailand we have CODI that is an umbrella in this people process. This process is creative, confident and can link other organisations that are not CODI. In fact, it is their own process but CODI is the institution that allows it to happen and provides legitimacy�. I was wondering if CODI, that has been working for a long time in this process, sees other strategies emerging and what is your sense of how CODI manages to create this other culture of development?

“I think CODI people have certain limitations but the approach of looking at the overall picture in the development of communities is more holistic and has to be driven by the communities themselves. Right in the canal community and in several Baan Mankong4 projects in which the community leaders are strong, they have built a system of community that embraces everybody. Youth, elderly and infants.Everybody has been embraced by the strength of the community. It depends on how strong communities are and how much sensitivity and creativity they have to create spaces for different needs and groups of people. The second level is how to unlock and open more possibilities for that group to work together. They need to have some activity together, invent something together and link as a group. Communities are important because society needs a smaller unit to embrace the people together. They are like the immune system that protects or supports each individual. The key issue is how to decide the form that the communities must adopt in a changing

| 77

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

and modern society. I do not mean community like in the past in which the senior made every single decision, it’s not like that! I mean a set of people that stay together like a family, like a larger family, I think that is important!”

II. From taking to giving Transformation is a multi-scalar process that involves several actors. In this section of the interview Somsook describes how the connection between individuals generates collective power, knowledge and potential for change. Additionally, the conversation raises some reflections around real democracy and the effectiveness of participatory processes in transformative practices. As a final point, Somsook offers her opinion about the action of community networks, their political power to generate city-wide development projects and the role of the stakeholders in the different scales of transformation. How do you understand transformation in the context of Bangkok but also in other cities? How has transformation been seen as a driving force in your work and how do you understand the challenges of city-wide transformation and planning at different scales?

“The importance is that community will allow each individual to be strong. When you get together, you have a platform that helps you to be strong enough to challenge for the change to benefit yourself and your community. You have to get together to strengthen as a group but not only one community, if many communities get together as a network, that network can ‘play with the scale’. In

78 |

In conversation with Somsook Boonyabancha

Bangkok, the network of the district is fundamental because every individual gets together shaping some kind of organisation but this single organisation is not enough to get what you want. You need to link to other organised structures that are also mobilised for negotiation. You create a critical mass, making a visible people system that generates in the society a discussion around participation. How to participate? Others will make up a system of participation unless you already have a visible group of people from all these communities which are linked together and can speak for themselves. As a result, in many cases the communities have information, a system of finance, clear goals and proposals in their hands. Suddenly all these invisible communities become visible and have strength. The connection at a city scale, gives a sense of structure to the whole process. If individuals come alone in the process they will keep demanding but if they are connected with their friends and families they can put together a plan. They will be able to compare different problems and create new possibilities to solve them. The whole idea is to shift from the taking more mode to giving more. To think: what can we do together? How can we solve this problem? Suddenly everybody will see each other and it will become a collective problem and people will work together and challenge the system together instead of thinking individually. So from taking to giving! Talking about city scale, the community work will be more reasonable. People will be planning more, learning more and they will understand the structural things. The network allows this set of development to happen by comparing and understanding the different kind of

| 79

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

problems that emerge in different communities in the structure of a given city. A person, a family, a community and a network in itself is a transformation; a transformation of the perception and understanding of this whole group in the city and more importantly, a transformation of the political system in the city. This means that as a single community, you cannot negotiate much but as a network you can always get what you want. Networks have a strong political negotiation power! Now people are getting together and they have a lot of dynamism to move forward and reach what they want; now they want your cooperation. This is the politics of change that starts from the people in a system that is ineffective. By doing this they are building a new partnership with the city and new political relationships are happening. This is a political transformation that has shifted the power to the poor and now they have more space in making this change happen. This is all down to the system of networks and nobody can stop you with the network. So you have to learn how to play the game! Development in the world is looking to the technical issue but we touch too little the political relationship and this is why people are poor. Why people live in the slums? Because they don’t have power! Housing is a power equation! If you don’t have the power to get more money, you don’t have the power to negotiate, you don’t have any power; you have to live in a slum or be homeless. I do not want to be too highly political but you have to understand that all the development process has to start by changing these relationships and adjusting them all the time. We have to shift the power relations between the actors involved. We have to consider that the power-making decision is concentrated among few people and that we are creating a process with

80 |

BANGKOK BANGKOK| |On OnTransformation Transformationand andUrbanism Urbanism

people that are completely out of this; they are victims of it. You need to factor in scale to do that! It cannot be made by a single community!” When we were in Thailand we saw that this transformation and this linking of different scales is much more possible and powerful in provincial cities where the land market is not as strong as it is in Bangkok. What are the difficulties you face in Bangkok?

“Bangkok is more about individual projects unfortunately. It should be more about city-wide and district-wide projects but since it is so big that you lose the picture of the linkages. Small cities have definitely more opportunity to make change but in Bangkok it can also be done”. Networks have a key role in the process of development and changing the power relations in the city. What do you think is the greatest challenge to developing these networks with communities?

“The people themselves, these people have been growing up in a top-down society, so when you link them up, the leaders tend to be top-down because that is what they learnt from the society. The second reason would be that the supporting agency is very sectorial because larger change is always a more difficult task to get. In the Baan Mankong programme, I always proposed to establish a real democratic system because having a system with 5 or 6 leaders in a committee making decisions is still very topdown. Why don’t we decide on a community system based on equal bases? How can we make a more idealistic system? Little by little; exploring and experimenting!”

82 82| |

In conversation with Somsook Boonyabancha

III. A platform for people


Rights, Asian Coalition for Housing (2013). [online] Available at:. http://www.achr.net/ countries.php. [Accessed March 25, 2016].


The Bartlett Development Planning Unit. DPU Kick-starts Junior Professionals Programme with ACHR in Southeast Asia [online]. 29 January 2013. Accessed at: https://www. bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/news/ internshipsasia [Accessed March 23, 2016]

The more we are, the stronger will be our action. In the same way local networks are more effective than individuals, the action of international networks has more impact than the one in one single country. Regional networks offer support to the urban poor in Asia not only for their actions as political subjects but also as a platform for co-producing and exchanging knowledge. In this third part, the interview explores the influence that the work of ACHR has on other Asian countries and the idea of transformation at a regional scale5. Finally, as part of the international reflection, this section analyses the work that the DPU students in the MSc Urban Development Planning and Building and Urban Design in Development and the DPU/ACHR Junior Professionals Programme6 have been developing in recent years in the cities where ACHR operates and what their role is in the current and future process of city transformation. Could you tell us more about how the work of the organisation has grown internationally? How do the networks that you are describing link up from the person, the family, the community and finally the international network? How do these networks become regional or international?

“Actually, I was the secretary of the ACHR since 1988 and the UCDO become CODI in the year 2000 so we started getting together more than 10 years ago. This getting together is very important because it is how we learn. In the 1990s we started the ACCA programme that currently works in 200 cities and helps to support the citywide upgrading processes in the right direction. ACHR is a regional platform where knowledge flows based on

| 83

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

regular visits between different Asian countries in which different groups of people share how their knowledge merged and changed. It works as a large university and you believe in this knowledge because it comes from the people that are seriously doing things on the ground. I think this is one of the reasons why Asian countries are moving quite well in terms of people processes but we get stuck in the governmental system. Governments in Asia have become more centralised and are looking for the market growth. Asia is growing and China has lead market growing in a direction very similar to the western model. The governments in Asia have not found the way to reach development based on our roots. We have to redesign our growth system. With the ACCA program we were trying to get funding to continue with this movement but it is not easy to connect with the World Bank and the UN. This year we are trying to develop a plan to understand how community development funding is happening and defining what poverty is in different contexts. Sometimes I feel frustrated because I think we can generate a greater change not only with ACHR but with the world. We can change this slum situation but people just choose not to do it. Why not go for a better solution? I have suggested that in the ‘Habitat III’ for instance, we could target to solve this problem and guide all the systems towards this direction but nobody cares about that.� Maybe that connects with the work that the DPU has been doing with both the ACHR internships and the fieldwork of the masters programmes. One hopes this will inspire professionals who will be much more

84 |


Poverty is growing and we have not moved from the immediate things into a structural change. We have to make education for the development planners rooted in the reality.

� Somsook Boonyabancha

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

interested in undertaking development work that promotes this approach.

“I saw that, I saw many students for this cause. Especially those who went to the Philippines, they really changed. This is clearly encouraging because it shows that it is possible to have this kind of professionals who are sensitive and realistic to what the issue of change and development is supposed to be. Development is supposed to be a truth to make change. In a Buddhist way of trying to explain it, I could say that it is the truth to you. By seeing poverty and understanding this truth you can know how change is possible with the people. I see this change in the DPU group of people. They seem to have the inspiration, the energy to help and to do more along this direction. This is more and more encouraging! It is important for DPU students because they have the sophistication. Planning and design in development needs a little of this sophistication. You may have lot of activism but to link together within a system of change you need a little sophistication to act through that. It is important to link the ground processes with the activism, the institution and the global change. I think this is what DPU students can offer, these different layers of things, and how to put them together to design a system of change; how to actually understand and create a channel to connect what they are doing to a larger change. Poverty is growing and we have not moved from the immediate things into a structural change. We have to make education for the development planners rooted in the reality. This means not having ‘experts’ based on doctoral degrees but professionals that know what is happening on the ground”.

86 |

In conversation with Somsook Boonyabancha

References ACHR (2013). Asian Coalition for Housing Rights. [Online] Available at: http://www.achr.net/index.php [Accessed 25 March 2016]. Boano, C. & Kelling, E. (2013). Towards an Architecture of Dissensus: Participatory Urbanism in South-East Asia. Footprint, Delf Architecture Theory Journal , pp.41 -56. Available at: http://footprint. tudelft.nl/index.php/footprint/article/view/769. CODI (n.d.). CODI - The Baan Mankong Collective Housing. [Online] Available at: http://www.codi.or.th/housing/aboutCODI.html [Accessed 25 March 2016]. Development Planning Unit (2012). Financing grassroots development at scale by Somsook Boonyabancha. [Online] Available at: https:// www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/events/20112012 [Accessed 25 March 2016]. International Institute for Environment and Development, (n.d.). Alternative Routes to Urban Density. [Online] Available at: http:// www.urbandensity.org/interview-somsook-boonyabancha-0 [Accessed 25 March 2016]. The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (2013). DPU Kick-starts Junior Professionals Programme with ACHR in Southeast Asia [online]. 29 January 2013. Accessed at: https://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/ news/internshipsasia [Accessed March 23, 2016] UN-Habitat (2009). Community Development Fund in Thailand: A Tool for Poverty Reduction and Affordable Housing. Nairobi: UN-Habitat.

| 87

Reflecting on the practice of community architects. The case of old Nangloeng Francesco Pasta

With an emphasis on the collective and the open character of the design process, community architecture as a practice has been challenging the methodological tenets and disciplinary boundaries of architecture. It is shifting the focus from a merely physical output towards a remaking of socio-political relations, knowledge production and knowledge sharing, as well as to people’s capacity and self-organisation. Community architecture is, in short, about reformulating the interaction between the terms that make up the concept: community and architecture. When practicing community architecture we are positioning ourselves, as ‘kind-of-architects’, alongside a social construct we refer to as ‘community’. Such a concept is subject to various interpretations. As community architects we may find ourselves engaging with overlapping entities, at times in friction, that share a common physical space and are all, in one way or another, the community. The community at the base of CODI’s operation is a simplified, bounded construct, a cooperative with registered members. In the case of relocation – when only those willing to join the group go on to form the ‘community’ – this simplification is socially institutionalised and physically constructed. The Baan Mankong housing programme has effectively improved living

| 89

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

conditions for thousands of families. It is important to notice however, that prioritising just one definition of ‘community’ as an operational tool for upgrading is not a neutral device. The reality of ‘communities‘ in which architects may work within is far more complex. These blurred notions and boundaries around how one defines ‘community’ is observed in an ancient, stratified and heterogeneous locality such as Nangloeng. Nangloeng is a community in central Bangkok where I have been working for some time as part of the community architecture group Openspace.1 This brief account aims to provide some cues for reflection on the actual meanings of ’community‘ on the ground and the role community architects can play in bridging across such meanings.

One Nangloeng, many Nangloeng Nangloeng is an ancient locality situated between two canals that flow around Bangkok’s Old Town. The community who lives here is based on a shared history, identity and heritage which are also recognised and valued by outsiders. Nangloeng market, renowned for its food, is packed full every day at lunchtime with locals, public officials, tourists and passers-by. The neighbouring Sala Charoem Thani, a magnificent wooden building, was Bangkok’s first cinema; it is now employed as a warehouse, in decay. Houses around the Wat Kae temple host some of the last remaining schools of Lakhon Chatri, the traditional southern Thai dance and theatre, where elderly experts pass their knowledge on to young generations. The neighbourhood is also famous as the birthplace of Thailand’s most popular cinema star, Mitr Chaibancha, who died in a helicopter crash on a film shooting and now rests in Wat Kae. There’s a general feeling of better days gone by, but Nangloeng is still thriving and proud.

90 |


Founded in 2007 by Kasama Yamtree, Openspace is an open ground for inter-disciplinary collaborations. Based in Bangkok, Openspace work with communities through participatory processes.

Reflecting on the practice of community architects

Nangloeng is a varied community in terms of occupation, income level and land tenure. There are thus many physical and social fault lines running within the community; fault lines between cultures, class characteristics, histories and lifestyles; between the ’people around the market‘, who live north of Phaniang road and the ’people around the temple‘, on the south; between the ’slum‘ people who settled on temple land in the past 40 years with no contract and the ’historical‘ households, settled on the Crown’s land since King Rama IV (1851-68) and paying rent to the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) itself; between those who live on the busy Lanluang road and own a street-side merchandise shop and the poorer families in the inner alleys. Most of the land in the Old Town belongs to the King and is administered by the CPB. This is the case in Nangloeng as well, where people, although living there for generations, don’t own the land but rent it at a low price. The land surrounding Wat Kae belongs to the temple and has been partly encroached, more recently, by generally poorer people who are not paying rent. This area is referred to as ‘the slum’ by other residents of Nangloeng. Administratively, what has been called Nangloeng is actually divided into four communities: Suppamit 1, Suppamit 2, Wat Kae Nangloeng, and Chakrapaditpong. The adiministrative boundary covers a broader geographical area compared to what residents tend to see as Nangloeng. This division affects the way different areas of Nangloeng interface with actors such as District and CPB. For instance, people in Wat Kae Nangloeng community have a better relationship with the CPB, because the functionary representing this community gets along well with people. Individuals make institutions, and relations among stakeholders often

| 91

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

depend greatly on personal characters and attitudes; it’s a simple yet quite striking fact. The delicate political (im) balance in Thailand also needs to be considered: the CPB acts on behalf of the Royal Family and its entourage, but there are still many supporters of the ousted government many people in Nangloeng and across in 2014 by a royalist military coup. When it comes to the Baan Mankong programme and its savings groups system, only some households located between the Wat Kae and the Lanluang road are organised and registered as a community cooperative who intend to upgrade the infrastructures and walkways. Given the many facets of Nangloeng, where multiple communities inhabit the area along with the different and often conflicting meanings of ‘community’, it is important to ask how we, as community architects, position ourselves?

Openspace approach The community architecture practice, Openspace, has been developing a rare long-term relationship with Nangloeng communities, since 2011, on two ongoing projects operating at two different scales: a community centre (the Dancing House) and a masterplan. Small Scale: the Dancing House. Nangloeng has been

renowned for more than a century as a community of arts, in particular dance and theatre. In the 1950s and 1960s the Dancing House, an old wooden structure just off Lanluang road, was a family house, a ballroom dancing school and a local hub famous for its all-night-long parties ‘where stars would always show up’. Later on, as Nangloeng grew into

92 |

Reflecting on the practice of community architects

an impoverished neighbourhood, it fell into disrepair and is today encroached on three sides by makeshift structures. Since 2011, Openspace has been working with locals to convert the structure into a community centre and museum. So far, the house has been made structurally safe and the ground floor beams partly replaced, a new roof has been built, the ground floor walls have been rebuilt and the outer spaces reshaped. The project is still ongoing as it depends in part on receipt of yearly funds provided by Redbull’s Corporate Social Responsibility Project, but is also part of the process being followed to ensure its transformation back into a community centre is firmly embedded and established, which takes time. The design workshops was attended by grandparents who still recollect the ’golden age‘ era of the Dancing House and their grandchildren who input their own ideas, desires and aspirations imagining new uses for a new community space. The house owners, a middle-class family that moved out of Nangloeng but still feel a strong sense of belonging to its identity and history, allowed communal use of the house and also contributed to the design – even if at times it was in contrast with other community members. The whole project does not focus merely on the creative re-adaptation of an old building to a new use, but it also explores the potential of participatory design as a practice to reinterpret a shared history and contribute to community-building in the process. By digging out old memories and stories and recasting them into a contemporary design form, the Dancing House aims to become a place that embodies Nangloeng’s ever-evolving identity, and a means of transmission of knowledge and history across generations.

| 93

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

image 1.

Dancing House Design Workshop

94 |

Reflecting on the practice of community architects

image 2.

The design employs a mixture of recycled materials from the old structure and new elements, reinterpreting the traditional architecture of the house.

| 95

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

image 3.

Throughout the process, Openspace organised activities and workshops in the space, to involve the people and bring them together back to the house to make it feel like a community space even though construction is not yet complete.

96 |

Reflecting on the practice of community architects

Large Scale: Nangloeng masterplan. Things are set to change

in Nangloeng, as a new metro (Metropolitan Rapid Transit, MRT) line will pass through and a new station will be built right on the community edge. Not only will some buildings be demolished and families evicted, but land prices will soar as a consequence, paving the way for real estate speculation. If we look at Bangkok’s masterplan, Nangloeng appears as red, meaning ’intensive commercial development‘, and as people in Nangloeng are not entitled to own the land they live on, the MRT could turn into a threat for them. Many people, however, are not concerned about the new MRT development. They think that as long as their houses are not affected by the construction, then there is no need to worry about the economic pressures and land speculation. Meanwhile a community group is negotiating with the landowner (CPB) and the developer. Opensace has been supporting them in developing a community-led masterplan for transit-oriented development that would better integrate the station within the community, not only physically (by accommodating the evicted families within the neighbourhood and designing the space around the station) – but also from the social and economic point of view, because a new metro station can also represent a great asset. There are two priorities: establishing a collaborative relationship with the institutional actors involved, to open up space for negotiation; and creating a critical mass of people within Nangloeng who are willing to debate and speak up together. The process has not been without its challenges; often those acting in the capacity of the ‘community architect’ (in this case university students assuming this role to help with the open

| 97

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

design process), did not fully reflect the majority of people’s needs and aspirations. Still, the ideas they presented to CPB raised awareness of the possibilities and inadvertently created the opportunity to show the institutions that Nangloeng people are not opposing development of the area altogether, but claim a stake in it. Another unintended consequence resulted in a number of community members boycotting further meetings, as an act of protest against the new masterplan. The impasse lasted for months. Afterwards, the community developed a tourist map, including memories and traditions worth sharing with outsiders: ancient buildings, historical shops, traditional food, old customs and legends. The goal was not only to collect elements of interest, but also to meet residents that would never show up at meetings, thereby broadening our network. At the same time, it was a device to observe and understand the physical space of Nangloeng without mapping it explicitly. The process culminated in a map painting workshop near Wat Kae, with officials from the CPB and District office. In a very recent meeting (on March 1st 2016) the CPB agreed to proceed with two pilot community-driven masterplans for the areas surrounding the MRT station and the Dancing House.

Conclusion: the space where we act Though at different scales, the two projects are interrelated. The trust built over years between people and Openspace members around the reinstatement of the Dancing House formed a solid basis of social capital from which to scale-up the community’s further involvement towards the preparation

98 |

Reflecting on the practice of community architects

image 4.

The process took months and implied a lot of walking, talking and writing with dozens of people across Nangloeng.

image 5.

The tourist map was painted on a wall and each site explained by community members.

| 99

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

of a comprehensive wider masterplan. The uncommon length of this working relationship and the importance of such trust should not be undervalued. For both projects the approach was similar in using the design process to mobilize different groups of people and institutional actors. What I experienced during my brief engagement in Nangloeng is that the reality of people’s interrelations is not simply the representation of a bounded, operational interpretation of community. This is not an obstacle in itself, but rather the foundation of community architecture practice: it is in the space between different ideas that community architects act, contributing to an additional construct of community, one that allows positive change to set-off.

100 |

Reflecting on the practice of community architects

| 101

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

102 |


On Design Research

| 103

Thinking Design Research: An unfinished story Camillo Boano and Ricardo MartĂŠn-CĂĄceres



This piece emerges from the reflections - collective and unfinished - that happen since 2007 in the BUDD MSc with all colleagues involved in its management, organization and research with different roles and responsibilities. Some of these reflections were published in C. Boano, W. Hunter, & C. Newton, eds. Contested Urbanism in Dharavi. Writings and projects for the resilient city. London: Development Planning Unit; Boano, C., 2014. Architecture of engagement, informal urbanism and design ethics. Atlantis Magazine, 24(4); Boano C., Talocci, G., (2016) Potentiality, potentials and design research: notes for a subversive ethos, in G. Talocci, C. Boano eds, Dpu SummerLab 2015 pamhpet, London: Development Planning Unit, p. 3-5.

Articulating design research is complex and, at points, seemingly arbitrary. For us however, such indetermination, particularly in urban contexts, is where its potential lies. The wealth of possible entry points, narratives and epistemologies is permanent, yet their articulation as a unitary, homogenous body of thinking is far from achievable and admittedly pointless. Instead, with this limitation as a starting point, we aim to reflect on those meanings of design research that are neither static nor structural, but are instead shifting bodies of conceptual approaches in need of constant evolution, a reevaluation of ideas and knowledge as entry points and their ulterior adjustment as output. What follows is a continuation of previous reflections developed elsewhere1, based on our experiences with action-oriented projects, using a theoretical yet pragmatic approach, attempting to uncover and research the hidden forces that shape urban environments and, in parallel, investigating how the material and everyday conditions shape relationships, imaginations and the people that produce them. Before jumping into research’s own distinctions, we should recall the origin of design itself: disegno was the Italian

| 105

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

word for ‘drawing’ albeit with additional connotations. Drawing became the instrumental foundation of Florentine renaissance arts (painting, sculpture, architecture), the initial layer of artistic planning. Disegno was thus more than drawing, it was an intellectualised approach towards artistic structure, whereby there was an established trajectory of representation, and where said method of careful planning directed the artist to achieve ideal forms. As Hill explains, design came to be the drawing of ideas, and as such allowed the term to be understood as an intellectual practice concerned with immaterial ideas of representation (Hill, 2013). Furthermore, this assumption located design within the realm of knowledge and craftsmanship, becoming a recognised practice of liberal arts and, later in time, a scholarly discipline. As renaissance painter and architect Giorgio Vasari stated “design is nothing but a visual expression and clarification of that concept which one has in the intellect, and which one imagines in the mind” (Hill, 2013). This notion would prevail, with design gradually becoming intrinsic in practices such as architecture and urbanism, evolving into a pedagogical discipline of its own right and a critical calibrator of the production of art, and more concretely, of space. Analytical discussions on the epistemological root of design discipline seem to explore two very distinct patterns: firstly, the permanent dialogue (and academic rupture) between design and science, observing the interdependence of both disciplines as well as their irreparable differences; secondly, the political challenge of exploring design research beyond the concreteness and feasibility of artefacts, exploring the agency of design as a wider and socially active enterprise. The first discussion is perhaps more technical and grounded in semantic nuances. However, it is a topical subject matter and a highly relevant one; the different practices that are claimed

106 |

Thinking Design Research

by design (whether objects, buildings, spaces or cities) are increasingly drawn to technological dependencies, following a trajectory with a strongly positivist focus. As Leatherbarrow and Fraser (Fraser, 2013) remind us, when design is weaved through the lens of research methodologies, there is an opportunity to recalibrate its meaning; not necessarily to force into it an objective narrative, akin to natural sciences, but to show that design and research can be “equally rooted in uncertainty and contingency” (ibid). The second discussion, regarding design research’s agency as an element of transformation is, perhaps, a more controversial perspective that relies on ontologies and political statements. Although there have been numerous pedagogical and practical approaches to it, particularly on the subject of architecture, our aim is to introduce the BUDD’s program own vision, where design research becomes a tool for transformative spatial theory and practice. More importantly, it is a fine calibration that should be an essential driver of design research, whether it engages in what Blythe describes as a ‘dynamic reflection model’ (Blythe & van Schaik, 2013) –where project boundaries are shifted and redefined by the reflection brought by research; or in a more radical, political framework, where design and research become driving agents of change, the ‘design activism’ argued by Fuad Luke (2009). In between those lines, there are myriad intersections and distortions relative to pedagogical and ideological positions which are intrinsic to research and practice, and the formative stages of any academic position. Furthermore, it highlights the role of the researcher as a co-producer of information in an active partnership with territories, communities and institutions, that stretches beyond the numerical and statistical and reaches for the rich subjectivities of the everyday.

| 107

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

These arguments on the very nature of design spell a complex process that operates at several levels. Whereas the discussion above deals with semiotics and the place of origin, the definitions of design and its trajectories can also start from its culmination, from the ‘objects’ themselves. As Findeli (2010) succinctly elaborates, defining design research is the essential starting point to make better design questions, but more importantly, to make design and research parallel activities that interconnect along the routes of exploration. In short: “Design research is a systematic search for and acquisition of knowledge related to general human ecology considered from a designerly way of thinking, i.e. a project-oriented perspective” (Findeli, 2010). On a similar vein, Fallman’s Design Research Triangle (DRT) deconstructs design research into elemental components of interaction: studies, practice and exploration (2008), where in order for design and research to acquire some sort of emancipatory framework they should be understood as foils in a larger mechanism, highlighting their inevitable links towards their practical destinations, in this case industry, academia and society at large. At the forefront of design research and theory is the work of Bruno Latour, particularly the perspectives of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as applied to both the architectural object and the urban conglomerate. As the authors explain, traditional architectural theory has gone so far as understanding the building as a contested space, albeit in a static manner, relying on the constraints of Euclidean representation and forgetting about real-life dimensioning. The challenge, they argue, is to appreciate its permanent transformation across time, where design acquires an active role that doesn’t finish at the building’s completion, but is sustained by its evolution: “Only by enlisting the movements of a building and accounting care-fully for its “tribulations” would one be able to state its existence: it would

108 |

Thinking Design Research

be equal to the building’s extensive list of controversies and performances over time, i.e. it would be equal to what it does, to the way it resists attempts at transformation, allows certain visitors’ actions and impedes others, bugs observers, challenges city authorities, and mobilizes different communities of actors” (Latour & Yaneva, 2008). However, as Shields (2013) reminds us, network theory can ‘flatten’ the complex narratives of space and its relations. Design practice can be messy, improvised, contradictory and, in cases, useless in the traditional sense. Its topological nature calls for layered approaches that give value to the relations between actors and elements, but that give equal importance to the links between them and, more importantly, see these links as evolving and conflictive trajectories that are not fixed, and that may transform over time. Fraser goes further, suggesting there isn’t a fixed path to knowledge, and research should instead labour its own way, through method and practice, relying on discipline, but fundamentally on its “inventiveness and suppleness, which in turn echoes the sheer fluidity social and economic relations across the world” (Fraser 2013, p.246). This recalls the early visions implied in Koolhas in Delirious New York and Eliel Saarinen’s The City, where the dialectics between project/research are permanently at stake, either with a ‘retroactive manifesto’ (Koolhas, 1978) or a ‘two-fold movement’ (Saarinen, 1943). The practitioner was to be more than a designer, instead becoming an almost archaeologist of ideas and revisionism in order to understand how the production of cities and spaces is certainly oriented in the visions of the future, just as it rests on the struggles of the past. The challenge of design theory is to recognise these ‘tribulations’ in the wider urban environment, that of

| 109

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

buildings and the space in between, where the keywords in the framework are controversies and performances. An interesting perspective is offered by Sarah Wigglesworth, who offers a very practical vision on the essence of critical thinking in design. Although her work is strictly architectural (in installations, building), Wigglesworth calls for a review of design anchored in informed critique, setting out five assertions that certainly inform academic engagements. Amongst the variables used to develop critique are context, the fields of practice, recognition, politics and causality. In this last one, it is particularly telling the need to preface critique by being careful on the validity of said criticism. “There is no causal route from critical thinking to critical architecture. Critical thinking is essential do developing a critical architecture, but thinking critically does not guarantee a critical outcome” (Wigglesworth, 2005). The work of Teddy Cruz (2013), for example, goes on step beyond, valuing the nuances of everyday life in design while acknowledging the larger social implications of spatial injustice. Cruz calls for research practice that is fully partial towards activism, where design is transformative as well as a statement or reclamation, valuing informality as an equal source of knowledge: “engaging the specificity of the political within the performativity of the informal,” (Cruz, 2013) and its compendium of practices. Acknowledging the irregularities and unfiltered schematics of design should also part of the paradigm: “Design (architectural and urban) can be seen as a larger cultural enterprise, an impure experience, dealing with the complex nature of people and places. In a wider context, the design practice can be seen as an expanding field rather than being developed in isolation. The production of space is subversive to the process, which enables appropriation, wellbeing, solidarity, inhabitation

110 |

Thinking Design Research

and dwelling. These are not forms� (Boano, 2014). These reflections, albeit inherently limited, can come to terms with the fact that design is essentially about the production of space, not as a fixed and abstract reality, but as something actively and contingently produced. As such, design needs to be understood as an impure and discrepant practice, as a way to address urban challenges from the perspective of excluded groups in contested urban spaces. Each project shows that the potential of design can no longer remain within the realms of intent, form or representation but needs to tie these to its consequences and effects.

Fields of Design Research in Urban Design The ancient Greek word Agon means struggle, contest, and was used interchangeably in several contexts of Greek life. It is also the root of the classic dramatic characters (and later literature): the protagonist and the antagonist. At the core of Greek cultural conceptions, struggle and conflict were the crux of happenstance and storylines; without struggle there was no drama, and no possible representation of reality. The importance of contest as part of Western cultural values cannot be understated, interpreted either as competition or as direct confrontation. In urban contexts, contest is permanent and multi-dimensional, it is part of the cultural landscape and underscores the societal structures that define urban life –both as protagonist and antagonist. The notion of a Contested Urbanism represents the latency of conflict as well as resolution, where characters (actors, practitioners) face the tensions implicit in a context, while trying to operate and articulate their respective reactions. In that vein, we find necessary to explore the structure behind agon, the tools that can help us guide into a loose template of design practice in scenarios of conflict.

| 111

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

In order to propose an articulated framework of design research we set out to develop a set of stages that, albeit non linear, operate as some sort of procedural sequence where the myriad sensibilities present in the built environment can be analysed, theorised and practiced upon. Furthermore, our objective looks to drive studio and theoretical practice beyond academic exercises, into the complex dynamics of governmental practices, policy-making and design critique. The following are a set of fields of analysis, all related to each other and aiming at a wide network of concepts and ideas that should operate at several scales and adapt depending on the tensions of each urban context. Field 1: Design Research Engagement

The first field deals with the wider schemes of research in design. Any research process follows a route, and its final form can take several turns that make it unique. However, the toolkit tries to streamline the main stages that shape design research, a template for the initial engagement between the researcher and the case in point, be it a site or a theoretical debate. At the same time, we try to foresee the research’s culmination, which in this case shouldn’t be seen as a static conclusion but a tentative reflective point. Thus, when we speak of engagement, we are describing the external dimensions that qualify the stages of research according to the values and principles we aim to develop as sustained strategies, where a common thread of causal approach can elaborate a collective rationale that, simultaneously, respects individual approaches. Field 2: Design Research Challenges

As explained above, the first field of the toolkit dealt with the organisational shell that shapes design research.

112 |

Thinking Design Research

However, we also understand these processes are rarely clean-cut and flawless, and require deeper understanding on the philosophical approaches being considered, the analytical dimensions being applied, and the pedagogical aims being dictated. Design research, in any context deals with tensions, including the research itself; every articulation, every decision that determines a degree of purpose is the product of guiding notions and thematic organisations. Thus, the second field mirrors the stages of engagement explained above, and attaches an additional content layer of challenges. These are variables that validate the critical process, stressing the need for a self-questioning research pedagogy, that is flexible as well as proactive. If the previous stage deals with the structural approach to design research, this one looks to expand its critical capacity. Field 3: Critical issues

A major point of debate is the capacity of design research, and its resulting practice, to locate itself among the narratives that surround it, and this third field tries to tackle that. It is here that we openly call for a distinctive quality on urban design as a research subject, one where the complexity and openness of design is spread out into multi-disciplinary dimensions and where the human element becomes essential to its very conception. In the urban, a project can be politically charged, and thus deal with important sensibilities and biases; a research might make critical assumptions that, while valid, might overstep its boundaries and misrepresent the case in question. These are delicate lines that need to be addressed permanently along the design process, in order to maintain a discursive balance. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that design should be aseptic and sterilised; as has been stressed so far, political engagement and ideological

| 113

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

calibration are of essence when dealing with processes immersed in conflict and social struggles. The urban environment is design practice at its culmination, whether as an active participant or by omission; research in urban design is the arena of ideas and proposals that challenge the status quo and question the order of things. Thus, we will briefly mention a deeper stage that deals with critical issues, the abstract tensions that shape our decision-making but, more importantly, the conceptual biases that might hinder the value of research. It may happen that our research is limited, but without the circumstances that make it so being evident; in this stage we try to come with recurring issues that follow the previous stages organisation. Field 4: A Pedagogical Recalibration in Practice

In relation to the challenges discussed above our vision looks for a renewed sense of practice, where the main pedagogical objectives are to equip researchers with experience or interest in the development of urban areas with a political economy perspective of space, to further enhance the comprehension of the unique needs, abilities, aspirations, and forms of resistance that characterise urban dwellers in various contexts, but specifically in geographies of the Global South. It seems imperative to critically challenge the different morphologies and tensions that shape current complex neoliberal urbanisation at different scales. There is a need to coordinate design research processes that leverage knowledge in order to meet local needs, aspirations and struggles, while engaging with the practice of architecture and urban design, emanating from specific modes of production with inherent structures of social relations, cultures, ideologies, histories and struggles that configure the urban domain.

114 |

Thinking Design Research

Beyond the theoretical and structural grounding explained in the previous sections, the recalibration looks towards a tool-based methodology that serves as a guide for moving through design processes - in the research stages and in extended fieldwork. A glimpse into the challenging notion of praxis and the benefits and limitations of project simulation and fieldwork that serve as a platform to act on and experiment with new methodologies that seek a recalibration of studio pedagogy and practice set up a concluding section on the necessary fostering of more fruitful relationships between education, practice, and the users that are served as a result of our working approach. The multi-scalar approach to case studies and causalities creates a process that, without doubt, pushes research to backtrack as well as fast-forward, manoeuvres brought on by internal or external cause. Micro processes and resurrection of information are inherent in the process and these parts are exactly sequential in that they have the capacity to build on one another. For this reason, we propose a research design trajectory that is more specific towards a contextualized operation in place (a case-study, an ongoing investigation, contingent). For design research in urban contexts to be successful, it is necessary to frame the elements of its practice with further clarity. The table below attempts to organise these fields and their respective stages into an articulated reference framework: the criteria that shapes our vision for design research’s approach and practice. This follows a parallel six-stage cycle that crosscuts research’s dimensions, at least those that we have considered essential: engagement, challenges, critical issues, and the pedagogical recalibration in practice.

| 115

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Design Research Approach Field 1: Engagement

Field 2: Challenges

1. Rationale: It’s the larger

1. Non-linear: The

sphere of ontologies and the basis of particular beliefs shaping the direction of research. Research studies have to be aligned with a theoretical knowledge, even if the purpose is to challenge it, in order to determine the stance and ethical position of the researcher and/or the institutions that support it. Rationale can be reduced as an overall perspective or even a dominant ideology; in our case, we see it as the locational strategy to determine the path of research.

enrichment of critical thinking is helped by maintaining a spirit of openness and, even more, when analytical approaches deconstruct their own trajectories, non-linearity keeps in check the realm of expectations, establishing the possibility of systemic detours and avoiding an oversanitised perspective since the beginning of the research project.

2. Knowledge acquisition:

2. Self-critical: If the

As logical as it may seem, study is an essential part of research, giving students and accomplished researchers not only the basis of knowledge, but also the time to develop its direction. The gathering, discrimination and preparation of sources and information remains a core stage, that which determines the depth and aspiration of the overall research narrative.

acquisition of knowledge is every research’s motor core, the implicit corrective value we implement (through discrimination, opposition, further exploration, etc.) is the fundamental spirit of a critical approach.

116 |

Thinking Design Research

Design Research Practice Field 3: Critical issues

Field 4: A Pedagogical Recalibration in Practice

1. Encroachment: If research

1. No-Design: Stemming

in design should have nonlinear rationale, it should further manage its tendency to encroach discourses and knowledge bases. The act of trespassing can be easily misunderstood; in this case we refer to the appropriations or incursions into knowledge that exists and has been developed.

from inappropriate design implementation, the idea cautions against assumptions and immediately jumping to object-driven design responses while hoping to avoid being complicit of dominant systems (economic, political, professional). This calls for “abandoning� craftsmanship and imaginative skills, forcing one to consider and prioritize the dynamics and processes of collective claims. This could be seen as the ultra-preliminary aspect of a process or a consistent convicted humility.

2. Scale: on adjusting to

2. Research: stresses

context and geographies. The self-critical development of knowledge is always a dimensional process, where we impose limits for the sake of containment. Geographical scales are obviously related to space and measurable areas, but we suggest to also filter them through the contextual lenses of citizenship, territory and the built environment.

that without completely abandoning creativity, imagination, and craftsmanship skills, agents (students) can render the invisible, visible by employing a particular way of thinking, communicating, and reflecting that articulates and explores windows of opportunity. These can expose potential catalyst interventions and collectively-derived design proposals within situations of uncertainty, instability, and uniqueness. [Table continues next page]

| 117

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Design Research Approach Field 1: Engagement

Field 2: Challenges

3. Practice/Action: Although

3. Experimental: The value

field-work is an integral aspect of research, our approach looks to interpret it as an attempt at practice and action. This stage can be expanded as an articulating phase, where the conceptual and the practical begin shaping. The essential component, though, is to develop the skill of engagement, avoiding stasis and taking part in the myriad movements that nurture research activity, be them spatial transformation, social dynamics or abstract interpretations.

of experience is enhanced when it leaps from causality into actual agency, the capability of becoming transformative along its process. At the same time, advocating an experimental quality refers to the value of creativity and imagination as integral to research practice and design.

4. (Re)presentation: Greater

4. Sensorial: Design is visual,

challenges arrive the moment our bank of knowledge is ready for processing and interpreting. The toolkit’s perspective builds on the notion that information is highly volatile and extremely sensitive, and its production should be consciously developed according to an open, situated narrative, where data, texts and visuals are integral to the construction of knowledge, even if it contains biases and alignments.

it possesses soundscapes, it can be recorder, it allows for conversation and alternatives recordings of stories, situations and agendas. Researches must be able to express findings in supporting mediums, adapting to the places of ‘performance’ or discussion and designing the information accordingly.

118 |

Thinking Design Research

Design Research Practice Field 3: Critical issues

Field 4: A Pedagogical Recalibration in Practice

3. Mapping: on who to

3. Critique: calls for the critical

represent, what to represent. Experimental action/practice demands permanent production of knowledge and information. In design, particularly at the urban scale, mapping has become a standard practice. It certainly deals with spatial representations and diagrammatic synthesis, but it also carries heavily loaded paradigms of how and why specific representations are chosen.

deployment of imagination and craftsmanship skills in order to question and understand complexities of contested situations. This highly convicted and reflective positioning offers options of speculating, mobilizing, and demonstrating the potential of informed spatial alternatives that contribute to inclusive transformation.

4. Technology: Technology

4. Simulation: When

can certainly support and bring unrivalled access to projects that may otherwise be muted and unacknowledged; it can also add dynamism and data as the research project is being developed. However, technology has to be used and dimensioned accordingly, avoiding to ascribe it epistemological values that skew and reduce existing cultural dynamics. Similarly, technology should never be a purpose in itself or the driver of the research objective, as it may drain complex theoretical dimensions and turn them into phases or inputs without any critical value.

geographical limitations arise, the simulation is adapted to a degree that still, despite scepticism of being removed physically from the site, elicits a combined state of what could be described as a sort of imaginative analysis and uncontrolled qualitative interpretation. Following the immersing of the mapping phase, the simulation deepens into a socio-spatial analysis hoping to ground the investigation in the perspective of the community and the challenges facing their daily lives (in a way ‘replacing’ the notion of actually being in place). [Table continues next page]

| 119

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Design Research Approach Field 1: Engagement

Field 2: Challenges

5. Interpretation/curation:

5. Ethical/Moral: In our

Where common research schemes end with the conclusion of research, we believe there are two further stages, where the information is observed and integrated into a larger discussion. As part of a recalibration process, it is important to consider the impact of research, not only in terms of its contributions, but also in the ways it may affect or disturb existing narratives. Identifying where research lies according to existing cultural threads should begin uncovering its real purpose and sense of belonging. At the same time, it demands interpretative skills from the researcher, where information is curated as opposed to presented, and where exposition demands the strength of conclusive synthesis.

understanding, all subjects of research in design, partake an ethical and moral position that frames its content; furthermore, this position should be open and evident, as it is as important as the theory and the methods that sustain it. As design is more and more part of activist movements, of policy discussions, of governance as a whole, manifesting an ideological route (without entering in blind partisanship) is of essence in contemporary design research and, more importantly, in the transcendence of the design practitioner as actor, opinionmaker and challenger.

120 |

Thinking Design Research

Design Research Practice Field 3: Critical issues

Field 4: A Pedagogical Recalibration in Practice

5. Hubris: on the distinction

5. Resistance: directly

between boldness and arrogance. As mentioned in the previous stages, research interpretation determines one’s own ethical/moral positioning, as inscribed within a particular academic or pedagogical discourse. The urban context, plethoric with nuances and cultural variations, is a sensitive arena at the edge of myriad dialogues, and there is a fine tension when research interpretations oscillate between daring and hubris.

responds with the intent of reducing unjust domination. Here there exists a condition of possibility in which design becomes a convicted emancipator using craftsmanship and imagination to promote opposition through feasible alternatives. It collectively questions spatial production not as objective provision, but a strategic arena for accommodating the convergence of policy, aspirations, struggles and the future.

[Table continues next page]

| 121

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Design Research Approach Field 1: Engagement

Field 2: Challenges

6. Rationale, revised: By

6. Open-ended: Research

adhering to movement instead of stasis, we have presented an external diagram of stages that shape design research and its evolution in practice. In that same spirit, if we understand this process as a continuous dynamic, it makes sense to consider one last reflecting stage, which is not really a conclusion but an exercise in relevance. By returning to the original concepts and frameworks we have opportunities to trace missed opportunities and practical problems.

should raise difficult questions and should be retrospective the moment it is complete. Paths not taken, missing opinions or clues are integral to these processes, and embracing them is not only of value, but should be pedagogically articulated into further explorations. That is, research should never be seen in isolation, not only for the researcher’s trajectory, but within the academic structure it belongs to, whether an institution, a university or an organisation.

122 |

Thinking Design Research

Design Research Practice Field 3: Critical issues

Field 4: A Pedagogical Recalibration in Practice

6. Politics: on adjusting

6. Re-Design: The

between dogma, activism and/or rhetoric. If we consider that research in design can’t be isolated from policies, production and economic dimensions, then we admit its political inherence. At its core, transformative research should lead to action, whether physical or abstract, and it should aim at permanently challenging the structural parameters that encase the dynamics of contest within the urban realm. However, ascribing political enthusiasm shouldn’t be confused with dogmatic, rhetorical biases; it is much richer to see research as an opportunity to engage in positive activism, one which is politically engaged, thematically flexible and theoretically sound.

reconstruction of design (and its legacy implications) calls for a deeper reorientation between politics and aesthetics, provoking a disruption to the natural order.. As we have argued, such process can take different forms, from a conscious act of not intervening physically in the built environment to the production of spaces that explicitly challenges dominant ideological perspectives, thus hopefully, expanding the notion of architecture by engaging with issues at a level beyond the merely technical, aesthetical and physical.

| 123

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Inhabiting design As the table above suggests, the fields of design research are instruments of engagement and illustrative of a possible approach. The BUDD program, following the DPU’s storied tradition of challenging academic paradigms and social practices, partakes in an evolving pedagogical strategy. Instead of fixing our vision into immovable principles, the described stages of research allow for flexibility and shifts in trajectory, allowing for the logical evolution of thought and ideas, but also acknowledging the critical nature of pedagogical discipline, whereby design research may transform its epistemology over time. Furthermore, beyond the academic/practical framework that defines our current approach, it’s imperative to remember that our research aims to identify the human elements that constitute the richness of design and the impact that the daily transactions –the minutiae of everyday life, have in the permanent transformation of space. Like a series of photo frames, focused research exercises like these series of Bangkok fieldtrips, contribute to build knowledge out of narrow slices of life, exploring the urban environment as an intense ground of analysis. And yet, we understand that the legacy of our research belongs to a certain specificity, to a sample-sized dissection of a much larger and complex apparatus. Our previous work on Contested Urbanism already laid the ideas behind a practical approach to research, highlighting the nuances of urban dynamics. As a follow-up, we have now stepped back and extracted the framework that shapes our vision; yes, design can certainly be a culmination, but when articulated as a process, our prerogative is to develop research strategies that force us to inhabit design’s myriad trajectories, to ride along the narratives that surround it and develop the critical analysis that carefully explores its obscured riches. The fields of research,

124 |

Thinking Design Research

figure 1.

Evolution of the fields of research: the sequence that follows a Design Research Approach (including engagement and challenges)

| 125

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

and their diagrammatical evolution are a representation of said inhabitation, of entering the space of design and single out the processes and relations at play. Figure 1 shows the evolution of the fields of research according to the principles laid out in Table 1: the sequence that follows a Design Research Approach (including engagement and challenges), and the supporting layer of Design Research Practice (including critical issues and pedagogical practice). The four diagrams are basically one larger composition that explains the ideal sequence, in six stages, of a research project; these stages are then affected by the evolution and considerations implicit in context and the challenges of post-study analysis and criticism. The diagrams snthetize our current larger vision for research practice, and should reflect the inner workings of design as a harbinger of transformation in urban contexts where contestation, rights and inequality are constantly at stake. To conclude, and recalling our six-fold mandate for design, all of the above would make less sense if it wasn’t grounded in a set of guiding principles for future design research approaches, anchored in design practice and framed in the context of developing urban areas. Contemporary challenges such as rapid urbanisation and spatial injustices, have to be investigated and tackled by embracing a new and radical mode of design research. Our suggestion embraces a permanent shifting in design education – that is, the way of subverting the paradigms that frame thinking, researching and practising design. Design, we argue, must necessarily be collective, active, embedded, reflexive, relational and trans-disciplinary. These six dimensions foster a constitutive role for urban education in addressing exclusion and inequality, and global disparities in the production of knowledge and space. Our approach is immersed in the ethical and practical tradition of action learning, looking for professionals and practitioners

126 |

Thinking Design Research


Bourdieu, P., (2001) La Philosophie, la science, l’engagement, in D. Eribon, ed., L’infrequentable Michael Foucault. Renouveaux de la pensee critique. Pairs: Epel, p. 190.

to develop socially responsive, critical and transformative research practices to challenge urban poverties, informalities and inequalities. To paraphrase Foucault, the concepts are from the struggles, and must return to the struggles.2

References Aitamurto, T., Holland, D., Hussain, S., (2015). The Open Paradigm in Design Research, Design Issues, 31(4); pp 1–12. Boano, C., (2014). Architecture of engagement, informal urbanism and design ethics, Atlantis Magazine, 24(4); pp 24–28. Boano, C., Hunter, W., (2013). Recalibrating Critical Design Practice: Excursions through Studio Pedagogy, In C. Boano, W. Hunter, & C. Newton, eds. Contested Urbanism in Dharavi. Writings and projects for the resilient city. London: Development Planning Unit, UCL, pp 39–58. Borri, D., Camarda, D., Stufano Melone, M.R., (2015). Modelling the knowledge of urban complexity : The role of ontologies in spatial design tasks. Fallman, D., (2008). The Interaction Design Research Triangle of Design Practice, Design Studies, and Design Exploration, Design Issues, 24(3); pp 4–18. Farrell, R., Hooker, C., (2015). Designing and sciencing: Response to Galle and Kroes, Design Studies, 37; pp 1–11. Available at: http://linkinghub. elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0142694X14000799. Findeli, A., (2010). Searching For Design Research Questions: Some Conceptual Clarifications, Questions, Hypotheses & Conjectures; pp 286–303. Galle, P., Kroes, P., (2014). Science and design: Identical twins? Design Studies, 35(3); pp 201–231. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j. destud.2013.12.002. Hatchuel, A., Weil, B., (2002). C-K theory: Notions and applications of a unified design theory, Proceedings of the Herbert Simon International Conference on « Design Sciences »; pp 1–22.

| 127

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Jonas, W., (2006). Research through DESIGN through research - a problem statement and a conceptual sketch, (1); p 10. Latour, B., Yaneva, A., (2008). “Give Me A Gun And I Will Make All Buildings Move”: An Ant’s View Of Architecture. In R. Geiser, ed. Explorations in Architecture: Teaching, Design, Research. Basel: Birkhäuser; pp 80–89. Long, J.G., (2012). State of the Studio: Revisiting the Potential of Studio Pedagogy in U.S.-Based Planning Programs, Journal of Planning Education and Research, 32(4); pp 431–448. Available at: http://jpe.sagepub.com/cgi/ doi/10.1177/0739456X12457685. LSE Cities (2012). About | Urban Controversies. Available at: http://www. urbancontroversies.com/about/ [Accessed January 18, 2016]. Pedgley, O., (2005). DDR4 (Designing Design Research 4) Event Review and Reflections, Design Issues, 21(3); pp 82–85. Sletto, B., (2012). Insurgent Planning and Its Interlocutors: Studio Pedagogy as Unsanctioned Practice in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Journal of Planning Education and Research, 33(October); pp 228–240. Available at: http://jpe.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.1177/0739456X12467375. Wigglesworth, S., (2005). Critical practice, The Journal of Architecture, 10(3); pp 335–346. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/ abs/10.1080/13602360500162238. Yaneva, A., Heaphy, L., (2012). Urban controversies and the making of the social, Architectural Research Quarterly, 16(01); pp 29–36. Available at: http://www.journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S1359135512000267.

128 |

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Glossary | Design concepts

Definitions adopted throughout the book are considered empirical definitions, that is, definitions that emerged out of locating the various terms within the context of Bangkok’s urbanity. Emanating from generic scientific definitions, terms adopted have been re-contextualized to reflect the subjectivity of Bangkok experienced as people and space, focusing on the marginalized as people, and the informal settlement sites (slums) as space, while interweaving those two phenomena with the operation of the Baan Mankong Housing Programme. Therefore, these definitions should be taken in juxtaposition with the specific objective of the studio-work. | Land

The term refers not simply to the ground beneath our feet but to the . relationships between people, land owners, and policy in relation to even development and security of tenure. This includes, for example, discussions of water and the ways in which various actors exercise power of the movement of people within the city. | Housing Program

In the case of CODI a housing programme refers to Baan Mankong which, although using housing as a mechanism

130 |

Glossary | Design concepts

towards community empowerment, does not centralise housing as an outcome of the program. | Community

We refer to community as the group of households sharing a physical location and organized as a unified entity. Thailand government defines a territorial unit called “chumchon�, that is an institutional definition for community. Communities within the Baan Mankong programme describe organisations of people within a geographic area into savings groups. These groups are networked in co- ops and greater district-wide or canal-based networks. At times, communities and savings groups have been formed for the sake of participation within the programme. Other times communities were formerly organized. | Poorest of the Poor

The poorest of the poor are people within communities who have not been organised under Baan Mankong because of extreme marginality. For example, the poorest of the poor may be (but are not limited to) people who cannot afford to save money in a savings group, renters, migrants, or people who are too old to commit to a long-term loan. The poorest of the poor are people of exceptional circumstances who are not accounted for in the Baan Mankong program. | Knowledge

Knowledge refers to the capacity built by communities, authorities, and organisations through the Baan Mankong programme and beyond. The sharing of knowledge occurs informally between communities and also in formal channels such as district level meetings, NULICO, university partnerships, etc.

| 131

BANGKOK | On andand Urbanism BANGKOK | OnTransformation Transformation Urbanism

| Organisational Capacity

Organisational capacity refers to new capacities built through the communion of various actors. Organisational capacity built at the community level allows communities to leverage their collective interests at a municipal, regional, or national level through the empowerment of community leaders, community boards and members. | Scaling up

In our humble, and evolving, understanding of the term, it refers to creating meaningful change to a process or for a community. Scaling up, as we understand it, is about increasing capacity and broadening the area of influence. It consists of, but is not limited to, increasing the size of organizational structures through careful network making so people can achieve more. | Systemic Change

Refers to the altering of governance and service delivery systems across a broad spectrum of bureaucracy and hierarchy. | Boundaries

Our appropriation of the word ‘boundary’ refers to a wide range of restrictions, hesitations, and limitations that are confronted while trying to further a process of social change. In our view, boundaries exist when power relations are un- equal resulting in hierarchies of decision-making, but also when socio-economic norms and values restrict the means of achieving common goals. Boundaries, in our opinion, are also a result of a lack of knowledge sharing and awareness.

132 |

Glossary | Design concepts

| Spatial Disengagement

This term refers to the disconnection and segregation of physical space from the social processes of life urban such as commerce and leisure. Spatial disengagement also refers to spatial disconnects on the basis of consumerism trends, wealth, and real estate value. More simply: the phenomenon whereby social exclusion of groups from each other’s activities is physically visible. | Spatial Production

The processes and practices that influence the way the built and physical environment is shaped and used. | Finance

Finance in the context of the Baan Mankong refers to a number of things, but has three main components. Firstly, the system which operates at the formal city wide level including banks, developers, and government to name a few. Secondly finance may refers to money borrowed in order to build a house or community services, i.e. to improve housing conditions like the loans given by CODI and including community funds built from repayments to savings coops. Thirdly, finance may refer to other funds provided by communities, banks, or NGOs such as Community Development Funds or loans from local loan sharks. | Power

Power (though it lends itself to a much larger definition) is the influence of one person over the freedoms and free will of another. Power in Bangkok (especially on the topic of housing the poor) is manifest most visibly in land, finance and the ability of various actors to shape the city to their self-interests.

| 133

BANGKOK | On andand Urbanism BANGKOK | OnTransformation Transformation Urbanism

| Transformation

“Transformation is a catalytic, irreversible process, operational at social, institutional, and spatial levels.” “The concept of transformation a dimension that transcends that of change. That is, ‘transformation’ as we envision it is a process of systemic change. As such, it is a comprehensive process through which the overall structure within which people live is changed.” “Transformation is defined as a collaborative and episodic process of institutional and distributional change towards political, economic, spatial and cultural justice.” “After being exposed to Bangkok we can freely say that it is an evolving, constantly moving organism that undergoes uncontrolled processes of various metamorphosis.” “...Politics is the ‘art of the possible’: authentic politics is, the exact opposite, that is, the art of the “impossible”– it changes the very parameters of what is considered ‘possible’ in the existing constellation” (Zizek, 2000) “A flexible process of activating citizenship through systemic changes in spatial production that enables the long-term restructuring of the political and socio-economic status quo; this restructuring requires recognition of the complexity of the urban poor and catalyses strategic decentralization of decision making.”

* Definitions from field trip reports

134 |

| 135

Five years of Design Research Strategies

This section presents a brief selection of the work developed by the BUDD students between 2010-15 in the context of the Studio and the fieldtrips to Bangkok. Each phase of the Studio (Mapping the territory; Socio-spatial profiling; Interpretative response; Individual design response; Collated strategies) and of the fieldtrip project required the students to produce a series of outcomes. Each outcome had different emphasis, focus and mean of representation. It is hard to capture the richness of the design process and its materialisation ranging from videos, models, performances and presentations. A sample of such richness is presented here to document the design research methodology and to represent different understandings of Bangkok urbanism. The visual content in the next pages includes outcomes from Interpretative responses and Collated strategies developed in the Studio, as well Site analysis, Strategies and scenarios included in the fieldtrip reports. The full version of the report is available at : http://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/programmes/ postgraduate/msc-building-urban-design-in-development

| 137

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Interpretative responses A simulation where students are challenged to observe, listen, interact and process information in order to transform the depicted realities into critically responsive spatial manifestations.

2014-2015 class.

Interpretative responses for different embodiment relationships in three neighbourhoods in Bangkok.

2014-2015 class.

Visualising principles and guidelines based on previous interpretative responses.

138 |

Five years of Design Research Strategies

2014-2015 class.

Interpretative responses for different spatial relationships between private and public.

2013-2014 class.

Interpretative responses for identity building in Bangkok

2013-2014 class.

Interpretative responses for different housing uses in three neighbourhoods in Bangkok

| 139

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Collated strategies Critically assembled strategies that can match the scale of grand planning schemes and represent real and symbolic change.

140 |

Five years of Design Research Strategies

2014-2015 class.

[Left and Right] Collated strategies. Building relationships and Re-framing the city: networked districts and city to re-frame perspectives

| 141

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

2014-2015 class.

Collated strategies. Redefining boundaries: Bangkok Today

142 |

Five years of Design Research Strategies

2013-2014 class.

Collated strategies. Redefining boundaries: Bangkok Tomorrow

| 143

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Site analysis Before the field trip, students are split into groups, each one designing its own criteria for site analysis. While on site, they make use of such lenses to observe and document the complexity of the socio-spatial context.

2010-2011 class.

Representing transformative process in each of the site.

144 |

Five years of Design Research Strategies

2011-2012 class.

Mapping the territorial manifestation of economic, social, cultural and spatial realities in three of the sites in Bangkok.

| 145

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Strategies and vision The strategies are designed in accordance to specific definitions of transformation and following the site findings. Strategies are presented as part of a wider vision for the city.

2010-2011 class.

Summary of strategies and criteria for each site.

2011-2012 class.

[Below] Summary of strategies spelled as opportunities over time.

146 |

Five years of Design Research Strategies

2011-2012 class.

Strategy Synthesis, showing the actor map and flow in relation to the three main strategies proposed.

2010-2011 class.

Strategic Vision, to build a strong network of communities able to negotiate their spaces of participation in a political arena.

| 147

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Envisioning future scenarios The strategies address communities, organisations, housing programmes and the city as a whole. They incorporate design tools to envision possible futures.

Improve access to saving scheme and ability to remain in the collective housing programme

Rethinking the Role of Design(er)

2010-2011 class.

[Left and Right] Vision and strategies summarised in six diagrams.

148 |

Five years of Design Research Strategies

Scaling space and density

Building and Strengthening Proactive Communities of Interest

Shifting Perceptions on Process and Decision-making

Anticipating Decentralisation

| 149

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Design as praxis

Sustaining momentum and collectivity

2011-2012 class.

[Left and Right] Envisioning general strategies and specific actions.

150 |

Five years of Design Research Strategies

Alternative responses to land pressures

Shaping the city beyond Baan Mankong

| 151

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Flooding design responses

2012-2013 class.

[Left and Right] Scenarios showing the cross-cutting issues of proposed strategies.

152 |

Five years of Design Research Strategies


Livelihood design responses

Flooding design responses

| 153

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

154 |


| 155

Presupposition of equality and active justice in Bangkok Camillo Boano


An earlier version of this contribution will be published in “Environmental Justice and Urban Resilience in the Global South” edited by Adriana Allen, Liza Griffin, and Cassidy Johnson, published by Palgrave McMillan. Expected date of publication, 2017; and was based on the work developed in Boano, C. and Kelling, E. (2013). Towards an Architecture of Dissensus: Participatory Urbanism in South-East Asia. Footprint, Vol.7(2) 41-62.

This piece is offering a series of reflections discussing the relationship between aesthetics and politics in the case of Baan Mankong Collective Housing Programme. Aiming particularly to contribute to the discussion on the politics of recognition, the paper draws on Jacques Rancière’s work, in particular his conception of the dissensus and his notion of active equality, as for us they are profoundly socio-spatial in nature. Given Rancière’s provocative reflections on politics (la politique) which exists “whenever the counts of parts and parties of a society is disturbed by the inscription of a part of those who have no parts [and] begin when the equality of anyone […] is inscribed in the liberty of people” (Rancière, 1999:123) we wish to speculate around such a radical definition of active equality that is “presumed in the now” (Davies, 2013:5) connecting to the conventional conception of distributive equality (May 2008), with Rancière’s radical politico-aesthetic thoughts along with the concept of resilience building. For Rancière politics exists only “[…] when the natural order of domination is interrupted by the institution of a part of those who has no part” (Ranciere, 1999:11) and “there is the appearance of a subject, the people […] (ibid 86). As such, the irruption of new political bodies who commit to managing

| 157

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

themselves and their spaces autonomously – continuously struggling to embody and stage equality, instead finding alternative ways of framing resilience. This forms what Ranciere calls “specific scenes of contradictions” (2003:100). Rancière has made democracy at the centre of his political theory and looked at specific modes of politics. For him, politics is never static and pure as it is characterised in terms of division, conflict and polemics that allow the invention of the new, the unauthorised, the disordered and the unexpected. Although discussed more clearly later in the chapter, democracy for Rancière has nothing to do with electoral political arrangements or institutional mode or governance, or even consensual deliberation, but is rather an “interruption of the police order […] that challenges the natural order of bodes in the name of equality and polemically reconfiguring its [aesthetics]” (Rancière, 2004:90). As such, his notion of politics resembles the characteristics of a resilient system where the inevitable existence of uncertainty and change is accepted and the randomness of events in a system is acknowledged or even produced with intervention capable of adapting and shaping change. Referring back to the Aristotelian polis, Rancière used the word police to refer to the established social order where the political problem is drastically reduced to assigning individuals their place/position through the administration of the conflicts between different parties by a government funded on juridical and technical competences. His vision of police can be described as an act of organisation and distribution of bodies/ individuals in space, assigning roles and functions. In that sense, police presuppose at least one inequality: between those who distribute and those who receive the distribution and position in a society. All the terms used to refer to those who have no part in the communal distribution of the sensible - the syntax

158 |

Presupposition of equality and active justice in Bangkok

that Rancière employs to mean the visible and speakable world - refer to “[…] a paradoxical excess that cannot be contained within regulatory categories” (Rockhill, 2014:143). Although Rancière does not discuss distributive theorists of mainstream Anglo-American political philosophy, his definition of policing is an exact depiction of the goals of such philosophy as it is centred on equality and justice as a goal; justice “refers not only to distribution, but also to the institutional conditions necessary for the development and exercise of individual capacities and collective communication and cooperation” (Young, 2014:3). It is not what people do that creates justice, but rather the institutional context that allows them to do it: policing allows and positions the people in a fixed and assigned space of supposed justice. This is not an insignificant inequality. It concerns more than the fact of distribution. The aim of this debate is the reversal strategy that Rancière is staging where instead of putting equality at the end of the process, we put it at the beginning. Suppose that we were to treat equality not as a debt, nor as a matter of obligatory distribution, but rather, as Rancière calls it, a presupposition. Democratic politics concerns the presupposition of equality, not its distribution. Such universal act of putting before to surmise absolute equality, does not amount to a simple distribution of rights within a society but is an “activity rather than a state of being, an intermittent process of actualisation rather than a goal to be attained once for all“ (Rockhill, 2014:144). Rancière’s politics is constituted by dis-agreement/dissensus, by disruptions of the police order through the dispute over the common space of the polis and the common use of language. Or, in his own words “politics is an anarchical process of emancipation that opposes the logic of disagreement to the logic of police” (Rancière, 2004:90). For him subjectivation, with regards to the creation of political subjects, is “the

| 159

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

production through a series of actions of a body and a capacity of enunciation not previously identifiable within a given fields of experience (Rancière, 1999:40). He uses the concept of le partage du sensible to describe the many procedures by which forms of experience are organised and distributed. The sensible is precisely what can be thought, said, felt or perceived (in other words, the perceptible, the visible, the speakable). The partition is the act of dividing to share between legitimate and illegitimate persons and forms of activity “[...] the delimitation of a particular sphere of experience” (Ranciere, 2010:60). Similarly, aesthetics is defined as “a delimitation of spaces and time, of the visible and the invisible, of speech and noise” (Rancière, 2006:3) while politics is seen as never static and pure but instead characterised in terms of division, conflict and polemics that allow the invention of the new, the unauthorised and the disordered. In this light, artistic practices (broadly including design, architecture and space) are forms of visibility that can themselves serve as interruptions of the given partition of the sensible. He uses the concept of le partage du sensible (the partition of the sensible) to describe the many procedures by which forms of experience are organised and distributed. Rancière’s concept on the political egalitarian perspective of environmental justice is crucial in bringing in another element: aesthetics as perception, as feelings, as a sensory experience of reality that for Rancière is as political as a space of appearance. The relevance of Rancière’s theorisation to our argument is that it allows for a material, sensorial and concrete formulation of politics, political participation and enactment that are based on a different vision of equality as a reconfiguration of a space “where parties, parts or lack of parts have been

160 |

Presupposition of equality and active justice in Bangkok

defined […] making visible what had no business being seen and makes heard a discourse where once there was only place for noise” (Ranciere, 1999:30). To bridge this material, sensational, pragmatic gap, Rancière’s most basic assumption, the equality of intelligence where “everyone thinks, everyone speaks […], but the prevailing division of labour and configuration of society ensures that only certain classes of people are authorised to think” (2005: 26). For Rancière, political struggle occurs when the excluded seek to establish their identity, by speaking for themselves and striving to get their voices heard and recognised as legitimate. Such struggle is evident in many marginalised communities struggling for space, resources and nature around the world, who have leveraged collective resources as bargaining power to claim politically legitimate participation in their development and thus reclaiming their clear position in the resiliencejustice continuum. The participants of the Baan Mankong programme and the ACHR upgrade funding program ACCA, mirror Rancière’s idea of equality as they locate the agency of change to the excluded thereby creating a radical break from conventional participatory development practice and the environmental justice debate, both which are distributionfocused and recognition-centred. As such the Baan Mankong programme does seem very central in the debate around design politics (Boano & Kelling, 2013; Boano & Talocci, 2014) and the radical potential of becoming resilient through an act of justice and resistance.

Baan Mankong and the Asian Coalition for Community Action Part of the network of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR), Thailand’s Baan Mankong programme aims

| 161

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

to create the space for those people who have previously been excluded from secure housing to take over the lead in the process of their own secure housing provision. Much has been written on the case elsewhere in a wealth of details, (Boano & Kelling, 2013, Boano & Talocci, 2014) and in other part of the book; this next section highlights the key points: Putting the poor at the centre. The upgrading and community

mobilisation process does not follow the rigid procedures of the National Housing Authority, but rather puts forward a way of producing space and knowledge that starts from the people themselves. It encourages community saving groups and collective endeavours and it allows the urban poor groups and other grassroots organisations to become fundamental actors in the production of the whole city. Contrary to conventional strategies that simply deliver physical assets– where housing is treated as a technical rather than a political issue –, the Baan Mankong programme instead generates a social-political change, where collective power is enacted among the historically marginalised people so that they become legitimate development subjects (Boano & Kelling, 2013). The logic of physical change: from object to subject. The

Baan Mankong programme conceives and practices physical change as a vehicle for social change. It has a two-fold function, involving the material improvement of the urban poor as well as fostering confidence in marginalised groups by enhancing and encouraging their use of skills and capacities, individually and collectively. Such visible actions illustrate that alternative possibilities and transformative potentials are possible, encouraging those in similar situations to follow in order to expand the resilience of the whole system. This is an iterative process in which, over time, material improvements reinforce the terms of engagement with different actors and vice versa,

162 |

Presupposition of equality and active justice in Bangkok

building up strength and power of the communities and the networks between them. These actions account of Rancière’s ethics and politics of recognition. Boonyabancha and Mitlin (2012:403) explain that this ambition, working across scales, has “two underlying dimensions: first, the creation of institutions based on relations of reciprocity [within communities]; and second, the strengthening of relations between low-income community organisations such that they can create a synergy with the state”. While the idea of branching out cross-scale is imprinted on the programme – “as new relationships with city governments are established, larger-scale activities are possible” (Boonyabancha & Mitlin, 2012:404) and happens at different scales activating local government resources (in the form of land, services), to push for policy change and wider political recognition. Community architects: a transformative potential. As

part of the Baan Mankong process, ‘community architects’ provide the knowledge needed to make decisions and guide the conversation, thereby opening up possibilities. The Community Architect Network (CAN) was established and funded by the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) in 2010 and is by now operating in 19 countries, networking with governmental and non-governmental organisations, architectural and engineering practices, grassroots organisations and local universities. Community Architects embody a pedagogical form of “practicing dissensus” (Boano, 2014); their approach is to refrain from offering immediate physical transformations and solutions that are not attentive to the many potentials of a place. As such, they are invited to ‘dislearn’ the professional belief that they are the ‘expert’ with superior knowledge and instead humbly learn to appreciate and incorporate local knowledge, which is not always easy or straightforward.

| 163

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

A new Political Aesthetics. The Baan Mankong programme

represents one of the most successful examples of urban upgrading at the scale of the city, making effective use of the available resources and enacting potentials by using the power of the networks to spark off a new mode of urban production. At the same time, it is grounded in the aspirations of the new political collective subjects (communities), manifesting and making visible alternative development pathways through design and architectural practices that appeal to our perception and our sense-making faculties, stimulating contestation over how we live and how our cities develop. A new aesthetics is put forward by the activity of Baan Mankong, one not belonging to the existing order; it is neither an ‘aesthetics of poverty’, nor a nostalgic vernacular one. The physical upgrading of informal houses and sites has a two-fold function for this historically marginalised group: improving the material reality of the urban poor; beyond that, fostering confidence in their skills and capacities, individually and collectively (Boano & Kelling, 2013).

Towards an emancipatory practice As a result of the innovative community finance system and the processes of community mobilisation at the city scale, Baan Mankong makes it possible for urban poor groups to be recognised as legitimate development agents. The specific pathways of production of spaces through community architecture have several potentials. By recomposing contemporary, constructed ways of developing cities, the urban poor are emerging as actors of their own development, making their own history and enacting their own change, They are not just simply invited to participate but become equal actors in the process.. In this way, their inherent resilience is tested and verified allowing them to

164 |

Presupposition of equality and active justice in Bangkok

become a fundamental part of the development of a city; moreover, it is a political act that “perturbs the order of things [...] creating a new political identity that did not exist in the existing order” (Rancière, 1999:30). What clearly emerges in the presupposition of inclusion as central in the Baan Mankong programme is a critique of numerical teleology. It does offers a political space, or a reconfiguration of a space “where parties, parts or lack of parts have been defined […] making visible what had no business being seen, and makes heard a discourse where once there was only place for noise” (Rancière, 1999:30). “Unlocking people’s energy” as expressed by Boonyabancha, is achieved through strategic reconfiguration by taking existing identities and subjects and presupposing their equality. This drastically changes the status quo of individuals and communities, who are no longer simply invited to participate but whose power and agency are redistributed, thereby impeding the simple reproduction of police order that contributed to their marginalisation in the production of cities and urban environments. Jacques Rancière’s reflections offer a reconfiguration of collective struggles and mobilisation, contesting the spatial ordering that assigns everyone and everything its proper place.

References Boano, C. (2014). Architecture of Engagement. Informal urbanism and design ethics. Atlantis magazine, 24(4); pp 24-28. Boano, C. and Talocci, G. (2014). The (in)operative power: architecture and the reclaim of social relevance. STUDIO magazine, (6); pp 24-32. Boano, C. and Kelling, E. (2013). Towards an Architecture of Dissensus: Participatory Urbanism in South-East Asia. Footprint, 7(2); pp 41-62.

| 165

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Boonyabancha, S. (2005). Unlocking People Energy. Our Planet: The magazine of the United Nations Environment Programme, 16(1); pp 22-23. Boonyabancha, S. and Mitlin, D. (2012). Urban poverty reduction: learning by doing in Asia’. Environment and Urbanization, 24(2); pp 403-421. Boonyabancha, S., Carcellar F.N. and Kerr, T. (2012). How poor communities are paving their own pathways to freedom. Environment and Urbanization, 24(2); pp 441-462. Chambers, S. (2010). Jacques Rancière and the problem of pure politics. European Journal of Political Theory, 10(3); pp 303-326. Davies, O. (2013). Rancière Now. Current perspectives on Jaques Rancière. London: Polity. Fraser, N. (1997). Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the ‘Postsocialist’ Condition. New York: Routledge. May, T. (2008). The Political Thought of Jacques Rancière: Creating Equality. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Neocleous, M. (2013). Resisting resilience. Radical Philosophy, 178 (March/ April 2013); pp 2-7. Papeleras, R., Bagotlo, O. and Boonyabancha, S., (2012). A conversation about change-making by communities: some experiences from ACCA. Environment and Urbanization, 24(2); pp 463-480. Rancière, J. (1999). Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Ranciere, J. and Corcoran, S. (2010). Dissensus on Politics and Aesthetics. Continuum: London. Rancière, J. (2001). Ten Theses on Politics. Theory & Event, 5(3); pp 20-32. Rancière, J. (2006). The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. London and New York: Continuum.

166 |

Presupposition of equality and active justice in Bangkok

Rancière, J. (2006a). Hatred of Democracy. London: Verso. Rockhill, G. (ed) (2009). Jacque Rancière: History, Politics, Aesthetics. Duke University Press. Rockhill, G. (2014). Radical History & the Politics of Art. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. Ruez, D. (2013). “Partitioning the Sensible” at Park 51: Rancière, Islamophobia, and Common Politics. Antipode, 45(5); pp 1128–114 Young, I.M. (1990). Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Young, I.M. (2014). Five Faces of Oppression. In: Seth N. Asumah and Mechthild Nagel (eds) Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusive Excellence Transdisciplinary and Global Perspectives. New York: SUNY Press, pp 3-32.

| 167

Strategic action planning for social transformation: UDP-BUDD synergies in the field Professor Caren Levy and Barbara Lipietz Course Co-Directors, MSc Urban Development Planning, DPU

Bringing our MSc Urban Development Planning (UDP) and Building and Urban Design (BUDD) students to Thailand to partner with CODI in our annual field trip from 2010 to 2013, was an exciting extension of a long term DPU relationship with Somsook Boonyabancha, the former Director of CODI. It was also a great privilege. CODI represents one of the most globally innovative government programmes supporting community action to address housing and infrastructure needs, and Somsook Boonyabancha is one of the most strategic urban thinkers of our time. The joint field trips, co-organised with CODI provided an invaluable opportunity to expose MSc students to the transformative power of collective strategic action in practice - an exciting learning experience by all means! A central theme running across the UDP course is the exploration of an urban development planning process that can contribute to the project of creating socially just cities. This is a transformative agenda in most contexts, where 75% of the world’ cities experience wider income inequalities than they did two decades ago (UN Habitat, 2016). Rising inequalities and social exclusion, combined with a deficit in affordable housing and access to good quality essential services (such as water, sanitation, and transport) now characterise a majority of urban and urbanising contexts. Despite the mobilisation of

| 169

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

social movements and the efforts of selected government and international agencies pursuing poverty reduction agendas, powerful forces in the market and the state are complicit in the reproduction of such inequalities. The MSc UDP argues that in the face of this critical challenge confronting contemporary cities, a strategic approach to collective action is required. A fundamental element of such an approach is an ability to assess the room for manoeuvre for change in contested urban contexts (Levy, 2015). Strategic collective action also necessarily involves building synergies across a variety of actors in the city, through the construction of a ‘periodic consensus’ (Levy, 2007), jumping through scales in the quest to build ‘partnerships with equivalence’ (Levy, 2015) at scale. Working in ‘the field’ is an important component of the MSc UDP course, when the key elements of strategic action planning are brought to life and applied in the context of a jointly constructed brief between the DPU and its partner. A powerful learning moment for students, field trips enable a critical dialectic between the active application of theory and knowledge acquired in the classroom, and experiential learning emerging from real-life environments and processes. (Levy and Lipietz, 2015) In the case of our field trip with the BUDD group, the field project, developed in dialogue with CODI, sought to bring together the respective lenses of strategic action planning (UDP) and critical design (BUDD) in the search for transformation at a city wide scale. Specifically, field work was designed to enable multiple and intersecting scales of learning. Accordingly, mixed BUDD and UDP student teams: - worked with local community-led collective action in particular geographical sites within Bangkok and smaller Thai cities, to co-produce knowledge and strategies for action;

170 |

Strategic action planning for social transformation

- engaged with district and city wide platforms set up through an engagement between organised communities and local government to pursue urban and housing improvement at scale; - met with government actors to explore eligibility criteria, finance and regulation related to land and housing development, as promoted by CODI and other government agencies, in support of practices at local, district and city-wide scales. - explored the room for manoeuvre for more socially just housing interventions focused on the sites as well as the city, building on an understanding of structural drivers acting on land, housing and the economy in urbanization and urban processes, supported by the inputs from international and local academics, researchers and policy makers. Through this active learning process, students co-produced actionable knowledge with communities and other actors and translated these into propositions embedded in ongoing community-led process of change at local and city-wide scales. Accordingly, field trips have embodied principles of transdisciplinarity which run through DPU research and postgraduate teaching; by this we mean learning that is active, relational, collective, embedded and reflexive (Allen et al, 2015). As a situated learning experience, embedded in local organisations, our field trips in Thailand have offered the potential for de-centred learning through which “meaningmaking theory and practice are constructed during learners’ journeys between their previous experience and background knowledge and their encounters with the experiences and knowledges of others� (Ibid: 35). In this particular instance, the transdisciplinary nature of learning has been particularly rich, cutting across disciplines within UDP and BUDD, as

| 171

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

well as between the DPU and its students, CODI and other government agencies, and organized communities. Co-production of actionable knowledge, activated through transdisciplinary learning processes in the field have thus enabled students to engage meaningfully with the critical process of challenging the mainstream ‘expertise’ of their respective and multiple disciplines within planning and design. The deconstruction of ‘expert’ knowledge combined with a process of ‘unlearning’ (Boano,2014) is critical in the reconstruction of the kind of co-produced knowledge able to address current and future urban inequalities. It is critical to the formation of future practitioners able and willing to work towards community-led urban transformations (Lipietz and Newton, 2016). Finally, the multi-actor engagement that is the joint-field trip also facilitated a unique process of translocal learning – coming to terms with the tensions between global and local processes and action, but also through the juxtaposition of students from different countries1, different disciplines and different learning cultures (Allen and Levy, 2015), confronted by planning and design practice in a specific place. This is a unique explicit as well as implicit translocal learning process, enabled by expanded relational networks in Thailand. In our view, such an experience is essential to the formation of the future urban practitioner.

References Allen, A., Boano, C., Apsan Frediani, A., Levy, C., Lipietz, B., Walker, J. (2015). Decentering Urban Learning: DPU’s Pedagogical Project. Urban Pamphleteer, 5; pp 35-38. Allen, A. and Levy, C. (2014). Constructing Translocal Learning for Planning Practice, paper presented at Association of African Planning Schools

172 |


In every one year, the DPU counts approximately fifty different nationalities amongst its student body.

Strategic action planning for social transformation

(AAPS) Conference: South-South engagements: new Southern perspectives on urban planning, Cape Town, 17-19 November Boano, C. (2014). Architecture of Engagement. Informal urbanism and design ethics. Atlantis magazine, 24(4); pp 24-28. Levy, C. (2015). Expanding the ‘Room For Manoeuvre’: Community-Led Finance In Mumbai, India, in Lemanski, C. and Marx, C. (eds) The City in Urban Poverty, Palgrave Macmillan Publishers Ch 7; pp.158-182. Levy, C. (2007). Defining Strategic Action Planning led by Civil Society Organisations: The case of CLIFF, India, paper presented at the 8th N-AERUS Conference, London, 6th – 8th September (32 pp.) Levy, C., Lipietz, B. (2015). Strategic urban partnerships for change. Urban Pamphleteer, 5; pp 38-39. Lipietz, B. and Newton, C. (2016). Pedagogy for ‘real change’: The DPU/ACHR partnership’ in Deboulet, A. (ed.) Rethinking Precarious Neighbourhoods, Etudes de l’AFD. UN-Habitat, (2016). Urbanization and Development: Emerging Futures, World Cities Report.

| 173

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism



174 |

Asian Coalition for Community Action Asian Coalition for Housing Rights Bang Bua Community Baan Mankong Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Bangkok metropolitan region MSc Building and Urban Design in Development Community Architects Network Community Based Organisation City Development Committee Community Development Fund Community Organisations Development Institute Crown Property Bureau Danish Cooperation for Environment and Development Development Planning Unit International Institute for Environment and Development Japan International Cooperation Agency Ministry of Social Welfare Ministry of Social Development and Human Security Metropolitan Waterworks Authority Non-Governmental Organisation National Housing Authority Nangloeng Community National Union of Low Income Community Organisations Rama IV Community Urban Community Development Office University College London MSc Urban Development Planning

| 175

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

BUDD Fieldtrip and Studio participants 2011-2015 2011

Al Ghafari Noor Ali Afraa Anantamongkolchai Dhrin Andrade Maira Assanowicz Magdalena Balogun Iretemide Chi Cervera Silvia Cirne Jennifer Di Girolamo Quesney Jose Durousseau Desiree Farag Farida Fatemi Mahya Hajisoltani Sepideh Jabbar Sadiqa


Ahmad Sarah Akagwu Ojama Alen Elsbet Bricchetto Elisabetta Bukhari Budoor Cardoso Martins Diogo Cociña Camila Fuentes Paola González Arango Lina Hanking Lisa


Abdelrazek Rafeef Cai Jiawen Cubides Cedeno Andrea Eisenhart Aubrie Hansen Julia

176 |

Jarvis Serena Koonar Amrita Leaman Amy Letier Pinto Tatiana Macbruce Eric Muzzonigro Azzurra Nady Ivana Nair Parvathi O’neill Mckenzie Razzouk Tareq Robles Caraballo Josue Starc Katja Tan Su Ann Von Der Schulenburg Anna

Mascia Stefano Montgomery Christopher Navarro Eslava María Luz Pasta Francesco Pinzón Cardona Laura Price Elizabeth Rachel Rachel Ritter Bethany Shepherd Ariel Zhu Han

Hua Yu Iversen Signe Koledova Anna Li Shuyun Luo Yang

BUDD Fieldtrip and Studio participants 2011-2015

Mahaffey Nathan Makhayev Anuar Olmos Herrera Cristian


Abdulghani Manaf Abouelhossein Salma Ahumada Garcés José Antona Laura Astolfo Giovanna Bessa Kyra Bongomin Martin Carrera Izurieta Luisa Chang Kai-Ting Chen Yu Conti Riccardo D’addabbo Nicola Dabaj Joana Du Jing Elle Mathias Fois Emanuele Gyftopoulou Stefania Hsieh Yun-Shiuan / Angela Li Chen


Aguirre José Ambrosio Sharon Demaison Estrada Belen Geng Rui Hayahsi Baku Helal Jenna Jha Vishakha Madson Bente Maruyama Saki Mcewan David Mosquera Nathalia Nagi Tasneem

Pallaris Kay Perring Graham Vergara Perucich Francisco

Li Jing Li Jiunuo Lu Nan Maffei Lucia Makar Marianne Mamo Jessica Martinez Santos Eduardo Mayaki Deborah Miranda Morel Luisa Mohamed Mohd Afzan Mora Délano Pedro Paulauskaite Kristina Piccioli Alberto Taximov Askar Theodotou Stephanos Troncoso Stocker Sebastian Velasco Espin Paola Zoelzer Neysan

Navarra Deborah Puhac Ana Robertson De Ferrari Cristián Suryani Sri Wisuthumporn Witee Yang Dong Zeng Hui Zhang Jiaqi Pixley Alexandra Wang Xin Wu Shuang

| 177

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Editors & Contributors

Camillo Boano is an architect, urbanist and educator. He is Senior

Lecturer at The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL, where he directs the MSc in Building and Urban Design in Development. He is also co-director of the UCL Urban Laboratory. Camillo Boano has over 18 years of experiences in research, consultancies and development work in South America, Middle East, Eastern Europe and South East Asia. His research interests revolves around the encounters between critical theory, radical philosophy with urban and architectural design processes where collective agency and politics encounters urban narratives and aesthetics. Giovanna Astolfo is an architect and urban designer. Her

PhD research focused on the re-appropriation of abandoned infrastructural and military areas in middle sized cities in the border region between Italy, Slovenia and Austria. The research triggered the subsequent involvement in a collective design investigation for the reuse of the cold war military apparatus in Northern Italy. More recently her research is focused on borders, their agency and potentiality in everyday practices in urban contexts. Further research interests are related to the ethics of design, especially the social role of architects and the legacy of the community architecture movement. Maria Luisa Carrera is an architect graduated from the Catholic

Pontifical University of Ecuador (PUCE) and holds an MSc in Building and Urban Design in Development from UCL

178 |

Editors & Contributors

Development Planning Unit (DPU). She has worked as an architect leading a studio practice in Ecuador, as well as supporting the planning and implementation of development projects with universities and other stakeholders. Her academic interest is focused on the use of architecture as a political endeavour to deal with urban inequality, the social role architects, the agency of architecture and the recalibration of knowledge production in the Global South. Luisa’s current PhD research explores the corelation between political discourse and the production of space in the Latin American cities and specifically in Ecuador. Camila Cociña is an architect, MSc BUDD, and PhD candidate.

Her practice has been mainly focused on urban studies and housing. She has been teacher at the Universidad Católica de Chile and Teaching Fellow at University College London. She has coordinated and participated in the DPU Summerlab in Santiago and Mostar. During 2014 she was Traveling Faculty in Urban Planning at IHP Cities program of World Learning, in the U.S.A., India, Senegal and Argentina. A co-founder of the NGO Reconstruye, Camila worked on the reconstruction after the 2010 earthquake in Chile. She has been editor of EURE Journal, and director of independent projects as Cientodiez Magazine. Professor Caren Levy is an urban development planner working

on planning, community-led development and governance, with a focus on housing, infrastructure and transport in urban areas in the global South. She has a special interest in the institutionalisation of social justice in policy and planning, particularly related to the cross-cutting issues of gender, diversity and environment. In these fields, she has 25 years experience of teaching, research, training and consultancy in mainstreaming social justice in organisational development, and exploring innovatory approaches to planning methodology, planning education and capacity building. She works both in London and abroad with communities, governments and international organisations, including UN Habitat, ILO, EU, DFID, SDC, SIDA. Country experience includes Egypt, Namibia, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Chile, Colombia and Brazil.

| 179

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

Barbara Lipietz is a Lecturer at the Development Planning Unit

where she co-directs DPU’s MSc in Urban Development Planning, convenes the DPU Research Cluster on Urban Transformations, and coordinate the ACHR/DPU Junior Professional Internship Programme. Barbara is secretary of the Urban Planning Advisory Group (UPAG) which reports to UNISDR’s Special Representative of the Secretary General. She also sits on UCL’s Urban Lab Steering Committee, and is editor of the ‘Forum’ section of the journal CITY. Ricardo Martén-Cáceres is an architect and urban designer,

graduated from the Technological Institute of Costa Rica (ITCR) and with an MSc degree from BUDD. He has worked as an architect in between studies, leading a studio practice in Costa Rica focused on residential projects, as well as being partner in a design practice based in Germany working with several NGOs in Haiti, the Philippines and Tanzania. His academic interests lie in the urban dynamics between informal settlements and territorial variables. Ricardo’s current PhD candidacy looks to examine these elements, particularly focusing on the urban legacy of official spaces of exception and the resulting informal counter-narratives. Samar Maqusi is an architect and urban specialist with 9+ years

of experience in international development in conflict-areas. In 2008, Samar worked with USAID on the Jordan Schools Project as a Head Urban Planner for the construction of 128 schools around Jordan; in 2009 Samar worked with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), where she still holds the post of Architect in the Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Department in Amman. Currently, Samar is conducting her PhD studies at the Bartlett School of Architecture investigating the spatial politics of the Palestine refugee camp and its impact on the potential to self-emancipation. Francesco Pasta is (almost) an architect, working since 2013 with

Community Architects Network and associated groups, such as Bangkok-based Openspace and CAN-Cam in Cambodia. As a

180 |

Editors & Contributors

community architect, he has experience of engagement in both urban and rural contexts in Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. His work on the ground involves mapping, participatory design at the settlement and architectural scale, public space design, and community mobilization. Kay Pallaris has a background in Geography and Environmental

Science (modelling, monitoring and managing environmental change) and is herself a graduate of the MSc BUDD (2012/13). She has several years experience managing programmes and delivering projects which have focused on sustainable environmental planning, urban regeneration, service design and spatial research. She recently founded Mapping Futures and has worked at the Neighbourhood Planning scale providing community groups with baseline data and mapping services to help them develop robust neighbourhood strategies. Kisnaphol Wattanawanyoo trained as an architect from School of

Architecture and Design (SoA+D), King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi and Silpakorn University, Thailand. During 2005-2013, he worked as a fulltime instructor in Architecture Program at SoA+D, KMUTT, Thailand. He is now a PhD candidate at The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London, UK. His current research focuses in the informal urbanism of Bangkok and also other Thai cities, and particularly in the aspects of the everyday life and also the emerging planning theories in relation to the urban complexity.

| 181

BANGKOK | On Transformation and Urbanism

The Development Planning Unit, University College

London, is an international centre specialising in academic teaching, research, training and consultancy in the field of urban and regional development, with a focus on policy, planning management and design. It is concerned with understanding the multi-faceted and uneven process of contemporary urbanisation, and strengthening more socially just and innovative approaches to policy, planning management and design, especially in the contexts of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East as well as countries in transition.

The MSc Building and Urban Design in Development BUDD at DPU reconceives urban design as a transformative

practice that transcends physical form and function. It emphasises research on a multiplicity of urban conditions through the principles of social justice. Students learn to critically reflect on design research practices to encourage holistic, strategic and just spatial outcomes. More information: www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu

182 |

The “Cities, Design and Transformation” series emerged

within BUDD as a way to compile, reflect on, and spread the body of knowledge and experiences emerged from the course. Through a publication series composed by issues focused on specific cities, we aim to communicate our experiences, methodologies and research.

The Volume 1 “Bangkok. On Transformation and Urbanism”

presents reflections and projects elaborated by staff and students within the MSc BUDD during 2010-2015 and stemming from the partnership with Community Organisations Development Institute (CODI) in Thailand, the Asian Coalition of Housing Rights and Community Architect Network. The material was developed during three years of action-research in Bangkok - in complete collaboration with the MSc Urban Development Planning UDP - and subsequently it became the arena of investigation in the Studio in London. This book is also a manifesto as it somehow manifests and makes evident provocations, projections and possibilities around the key central notion of Transformation.

| 183


Cities, Design & Transformation

MSc Building and Urban Design in Development The Bartlett Development Planning Unit Univesity College London

Profile for Development Planning Unit

Bangkok. On Transformation and Urbanism  

ISBN: 978-0-9955279-1-1 The “Cities, Design and Transformation” series emerged within BUDD as a way to compile, reflect on, and spread the...

Bangkok. On Transformation and Urbanism  

ISBN: 978-0-9955279-1-1 The “Cities, Design and Transformation” series emerged within BUDD as a way to compile, reflect on, and spread the...

Profile for dpu-ucl