THAILAND REMADE: Lower Chao Phraya Flood Plain, Pathum Thani, and the Technological Imagination

THAILAND REMADE explores technology and its relationship to design in landscape architecture. The studio will develop alternative futures for Thailand’s Lower Chao Phraya floodplain using environmental engineering, landscape construction and technological imagination as a source of design ideas rather than as a set of prescriptive techniques instrumentally shaping the landscape. Class members will give material form and detail to the creation of a design language for water detention and control, reclamation of contaminated soils and water, removal and disposal of municipal waste (hazardous, construction) and imported e-waste and the reconstruction of agriculture, infrastructure and public space using the themes of ‘labor’, ‘permeability’ and ‘beauty’ as a guide within the context of Thai culture and citizens.

The Lower Chao Phraya floodplain is located between the Pathum Thani province, the City of Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand and comprises highly disturbed coastal forests, salt flats, networks of historic khlongs (canals), dense urban riverfront(s) in the capital city Bangkok and underdeveloped perimeter districts. Over the past few decades, the dispersed form of Greater Bangkok has gradually transformed its agricultural periphery into a mixture of urban-rural landscapes.

The initial geographic and social perimeter of the studio consists of Greater Bangkok and its approximately 9.5 million population comprising a majority of Thai ethnicity but also communities of Vietnamese, Khmer, Lao, Malay and Chinese residents.  Class members initially working in teams will confront the realities of environmental change arising from seasonal flooding from the mountains in the region’s north, extreme monsoon rains over the region and salt water inundation and land retreat south from the Gulf of Thailand and this year, even drought caused by climate change and carry out an inventory and critique of local, traditional and emerging new site technologies and techniques employed in Thailand, individually design a repertoire of outdoor test plots and experimental stations as ‘study windows’ in the Greater Bangkok area to address water, land and waste remediation, stabilization and management and then apply them strategically as ‘acupuncture’ within a future vision of the Pathum Thani district, north of Bangkok as well as a design language and expression using an individually developed technological imagination. The class will work between detail design and material invention and the planning of larger infrastructural landscapes incorporating industry, energy, food distribution, educational centers and movement of goods and people. A required sponsored field trip to Greater Bangkok will take place in early February. The studio is open to A, LA, and UD students, although the focus will be on landscape design responses to place, processes and cultural practices in the Thai context.

Note: This studio will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Niall Kirkwood will be in residence for all classes. Kotchakorn Voraakhom will be in residence for the first class, the studio trip, the midterm review, and the final review on either May 1, 4, or 5. This studio will travel to Bangkok, Thailand.