polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Siam Dreams

by Andrew Wade

The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Baan Eua-Arthorn Bang Chalong Project, National Housing Authority (Thailand).

On first impression, Bangkok is a city of contrasts, speaking through space about pressures on land acquisition, targeted housing supply, and low-income community empowerment. In 2003, the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI) began implementation of the government-initiated Baan Mankong Collective Housing Program in an attempt to enable low-income communities to effectively save and upgrade their housing and infrastructure.

Canal-side settlement in the Bang Khen District of Bangkok.

The upgrading efforts along the Bang Bua canal have been particularly successful in building the capacities of informal settlement dwellers to transform their environment. Operating as a network of organized communities, the program has allowed its members to reach collective consensus on the use and appropriation of canal-side residential land. The process is driven by local citizens, and includes participatory design practices implemented by community architects to facilitate fundamental decisions on plot allocation and phases of construction.

Upgraded canal-side settlement in the Baan Mankong Collective Housing Program.

Corrugated metal roof and electrical infrastructure in upgraded settlement.

While the Baan Mankong Program certainly yields positive results, its socio-spatial dynamics are often fragmented and rigid in construction typology and materials. With further emphasis on the efficient design of housing and public space, the program could bring architects into an area that has potential to become a prime model for slum upgrading.

Credits: Photos by Andrew Wade.