Within the last few decades Bangkok, Thailand has seen explosive urban growth. Urbanization has increased from 36% to 50% in the last decade alone. Turning once porous farmland into concrete and steel. Land that was a natural strainer, is now a pot always on the verge of overflowing. The rainy season, May to October, results in 62.5in(1587.5mm) of precipitation annually. A month during the rainy season can have upwards of 25 days of precipitation. This results in the city being bombarded by water in a short amount of time very often. On top of that, climate change is projected to only strengthen the storms pounding Thailand. Bangkok’s flooding issue is so bad that pictures like this are all too common.

Bangkok resident’s removing wildlife from severely flooded roadways

This is just a fraction of what the citizens of Bangkok deal with. There seemed to be no good solutions. You can only upgrade the storm system so much and you can’t un-urbanize land. Then in 2017, a landscape architect took a major step towards creating a dryer, safer Bangkok.

Back to your roots

Kotchakorn Voraakhom has seen the shift from green to gray and black. She remembers the rice fields and canals that served as a buffer between the people and the water. How they were then filled in with concrete to the point where her once “semiaquatic people” became full-fledged city dwellers. The people that once lived in harmony with the water, are now constantly fighting against it.   By then her favorite game as a child was expanding cracks in the concrete so plants had more space to grow. This game manifested itself into her lifelong mission.

Kotchakorn Voraakhom at a ted talk in 2018

Founder and CEO of both Landprocess and Porous City Network, her award-winning architecture firm and nonprofit respectively, Voraakhom’s compass always pointed north. She had a passion for helping her native city and her first big win came in the form of Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park

A match made in heaven

This collaboration between the university and Voraakhom was birthed to celebrate the school’s 100th birthday. Voraakhom’s landscape firm won the contract in a contest against steep competition. The University’s symbol, the Raintree became a huge inspiration for the park. It has an expansive root system and large overarching branches that create shade, allow biodiversity and absorb many gallons of water. These attributes were brought into the construction of the park.

A group of Rain trees in Bangkok, Thailand

Green in a sea of gray

This 11-block crack in the urban jungle is a park with a purpose. Housing an amphitheater, outdoor meeting space, massive lawn, and playground. This park adds much-needed greenery to the city. But there is more than meets the eye

Situated at a 3-degree angle the park sends the water down from the highest point through multiple filtration/storage devices. It was built with the purpose of holding every inch of water until it can be sent through the public sewage system later. It’s capacity? Roughly 1 million gallons. For reference, that is a whole football field’s length at 3 ft high. This is water that is not:

  • Flooding homes and businesses
  • Contributing to urban runoff- water that carries undesirables into waterways
  • Sending alligators up to your doorstep

A living breathing machine

How the Ecology of Centenary Park makes it so innovative:

  • Green Roof- roof covered in vegetation for the absorbsion of water
  • Retention pond- where the water waits until it can be processed through storm system
  • Dams and ponds allows the water to be moving consistently
  • Wetlands contain native flora that assist in the absorbsion and filtration
  • Porous main lawn turns into another pond in the event of severe flooding

With very little maintenance required this park shows that land does not have to make a profit to be a good investment. Green architecture can prevent costly damage and that is what this park showcases so well.  Centenary Park sets the gold standard in what all architecture needs to do moving forward. We must build, not on nature, but with nature in mind if both worlds are to coexist.

How do you feel about this type of architecture? What other cities could use a park like this? Let me know below

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