Bangprathun Community Learning Center (Bangkok)

 

Global climate change poses the greatest threat to the entire world. In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. An important causal factor is the drastic growth of urban areas along with an inverse decline of natural areas, which in turn reflects the spiritual crisis of humanity. These scenarios are happening in Bangkok, once known as the Venice of the East, as well. The canals and orchard communities, the unique settlements that reflect the wisdom of living harmoniously with nature, were ignored and rapidly replaced by real estate developing areas.

Think Globally, Act Locally

Bangprathun canal was one of the orchard communities facing this scenario. People in the community, being increasingly concerned with this problem, came together as a group called “Rak Bangprathun”, meaning to conserve Bangprathun, to campaign for conserving the natural environment and communal knowledge, along with raising awareness of the vitality of the canal areas. Seeing the opportunity to make a “Small Change” as an urban catalyst to preserve the agriculture area and revitalize the canal network in Bangkok to ensure a more sustainable future of our society, “Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architects” has voluntarily joined with the community to establish the Bangprathun Community Learning Center to serve as a learning platform to spread the community’s vernacular knowledge to younger generations, and serve as a gathering area for everyone in the community, while also empowering people in the community to conserve the soul of the traditional canal orchard community and allow it to sustainably coexist with the changes and developments in the city.

The heart of the community

To ensure that the center is the heart and mind of the community meant not only making the center an activity space for all community members, but also having it be a center of learning that the community is proud of and considers its own. Therefore, the design and construction process of this project aimed to have people in the community be a part of the overall process from the very beginning onwards; e.g. communicating the main objectives of the program, the activity and functional spaces, the architectural design process, as well as the community’s part in the joint construction process. This is to ensure a true sense of ownership for the people in the community and that the learning center serves everyone’s need .

A learning space for inheriting the vernacular wisdom

The architecture of the center itself is intentionally presented as learning experiences.  This includes the project planning interpretation, which is adapted from the vernacular garden merit making pavilion lay out, the bamboo structural technique that is developed from the community’s historical constructing technique, and the “in between” construction approach that create a learning process to revive traditional building techniques such as bamboo housing and the traditional way of flooring (digging and compacting mud along the garden ditch to become a base floor), so as to provide knowledge and inspiration for younger generations.  The architecture form was also designed to reflect the uniquely attractive “Prathun boat,” which represents the Prathun canal. The result is a new architectural design with details that are more modern, yet also blends in with nature in harmony.  It is a design that reflects the proudness of the community and its people in their heritage and canal community wisdom.

A catalyst to conserve the canals and the orchard communities amongst the changes in the city  

The project serves as a catalyst to bring together and revitalize the spirit of the community.  It also provides a good opportunity to revive and preserve the community’s vernacular knowledge to educate and pass on to younger generations, and to be a symbol of pride and hope in the community’s spirit and traditions in the face of changes and development in the city.

The project will also act as an urban acupuncture, serving to inspire more efforts for conservation of the canals and orchard communities, which are the traditional type of settlements for people living in Thonburi and Bangkok, by helping it to exist in harmony with the development of the city. This will help to sustain the original social structure of the community, a significant base of the community’s overall social strength, as well as conserve the garden plantation areas along the canal, an important component of the greenery of Bangkok that is now critically few and far between. The overall benefit will be a more sustainable future for our society, living harmoniously with nature.

 

“The importance of the learning center is not only as a community center to educate the vernacular wisdom and culture, but also symbolized the identity of the community, as well as a sustainable way of connection among the past, present and future of the community through globalization.”

Nawin Meebunjong, Member of Rak Bangprathun Group

 

“This project is not just a learning center for a community, but an embodiment of the participatory process to conserve the original settlement wisdom of the city. It confirms us that participatory architecture design process is really a part of the learning process for developing people and our society. Presenting this project to ARCASIA is not with the aim of the award competition, but to initiate dialogue about this issue to a wider spectrum, and also to engage the global society to support the actions of local community people for a more sustainable world for us all.” 

Yingyong Poonnopatham, Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architects

 

 

Location: Chom Thong, Bangkok, Thailand
Year 2016
Client/Owner: Bangprathun Community
Status: Complete Building
Building Area: 45.5 sq.m.
Project Value: 2,400 USD
Collaborators: Partially supported by the City & Community Rehabilitation Program (CCRP)