Urban Design and Development Centre (UDDC) has introduced the idea of “Inclusive Bangkok”, by developing Thailand’s capital to provide easily accessible public services and to increase public spaces, while seeing that the city has potential to do so.
Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia (L’institut de Recherche sur l’Asie du Sud-Est Contemporaine or IRASEC), Alliance Française Bangkok, Faculty of Architecture of Chulalongkorn University, Urban Design and Development Centre (UDDC), and National Superior School of Architecture Paris-Belleville (École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Belleville), recently jointly organised the “Grand Bangkok – Grand Paris: Inclusive Cities” at Alliance Française Bangkok.
Speaking about the development of Bangkok, Asst Prof Dr Niramon Kulsrisombat, Director of UDDC, Chulalongkorn University, said that Bangkok in the future should be the place where city dwellers can have easy access to the available public services under the concept of “Inclusive City”. She said now it is the high time of the big cities where half of the world’s population live in. The cities, therefore, have become a common ground for people of different cultural, racial, linguistic backgrounds, and genders.
“The concentrated exchange and connection between people in cities bring about creativity and various types of innovation, which will later be utilised to drive forward the economy and the new form of city society. At the same time, a city of diversity hides several different ideologies and necessities. To put it frankly, the city will be a place of confrontations and negotiations between various groups of people. Therefore, the exclusion of one or any group of people away from opportunities and resources that the city can give, can lead to more serious crisis in social, economic, and even political aspects.”
Under the said challenges, Asst Prof Dr Niramon said that the concept of “Inclusive City” had become a significant issue. Even though it is still a new idea, the development work to equally fill in people’s needs is important. The “Inclusive City”, in a deeper sense, signifies a city that creates equal opportunity for every group of people to have access to the public services – open spaces, public parks, mass transit services, including knowledge facilities, all on the basis of basic human rights in a democratic society.
“So, the restoration of the city so that it becomes the coveted ‘inclusive city’ is to increase offered opportunities to the people. This can be done by transforming physically, economically, and socially deteriorating areas into areas with good environment that encourages social interactions in every level. The most meaningful problem now is how to associate the diversity, complexity, and differences between various groups of people in the city with the city planning and related decisions.”
The UDDC director spoke about the basic necessity of the “Inclusive City” that it needs public open spaces that allow everyone to conduct or organise activities for free of charge. The public open spaces also encourage people to experience the difference outside of their own community, Just as many academics say “A city without public space is the city without democracy”. According to this saying, the people are virtually confined to their own zone, lacking adaptability or patience to live inside diverse community where people are from different racial, religious, and ideological backgrounds.
Asst Prof Dr Niramon, meanwhile, added that all the public spaces along the riverbanks have potential and have a concentration of negotiations as the Chao Phraya riverbanks are the home of diversity with dense population. People who visit Bangkok often have a sightseeing cruise along the river. But the charm of diversity on the two banks of Chao Phraya river instead has become a problem as walls and fences have been built by their owners.
Riverbank spaces, especially in the inner Bangkok, are concentrated with people interactions. Taking into consideration only 14% or 3.3 kilometres of the entire 24-kilometre stretch of riverbank between Krungthon bridge and Bangkok bridge are free to enter while the rest is the recreational space where people have to pay for the service.
The future development of the Chao Phraya riverbanks is important, especially at the time when the rail mass transit system will be completed in the inner Bangkok, easily linking the area with the rest of Bangkok under the concept of “Connecting Quarters with the City, Connecting the City with the New Life”.
“Most importantly, how can we develop riverbank spaces to encourage and support public participation while keeping all the existing charms?”
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