Foodies Unanimous: A Multi-Scalar Food Urbanism

Street food appeals to everyone and across all socio-economic groups in Thailand. It is the magic ingredient for an inclusive and convivial public space and a multi-sensory urban experience. Not only is the food irresistible, the vendors themselves are also charismatic. Street vendors are always on the move. From harvesting local produces to selling around the city, food vendors bear a tight entanglement with their cities. They are highly adaptable. Their performance takes place on a variety of vehicles of different scales: a bike, a cart, a motor cart, a tuk-tuk car or a small truck. Vendors are smart and strategic in choosing their spots, hunting for the foodies moving around the city. This spirit of nomadism is well registered in the curriculum of cooking classes in Thailand where the students often start the day with a tour to the market and the streets. Unfortunately, in 2017, out of concerns on hygiene and formality, Bangkok decided to ban street vendors, relocating them from “vital walkways” to “designated zones and nearby markets,” precisely to curb their nomadic nature.

Without dismissing the government’s concerns nor accepting its brutal approach, this project tries to create a site that is charged and attractive for the "endangered" vendors instead of driving them to unpopular lots. With already a very interesting food network in Angsila where one can find a variety of cafes and restaurants, how can we further enhance it? Can the site support a multi-scalar street food system that permeates the entire Angsila and breaks down socio-economic differences? This project proposes a network of buildings and vehicles that continues to celebrate the mobility and flexibility of street food but consolidates it under a consistent and interconnected system. The objective is to join forces with the existing street vendors and restaurant owners, to scale up their operations to an architectural and urban scale and, at the same time, organize them in a more systematic way. While the multi-scalar system is mobile and migratory, it will be firmly anchored within our site, supporting a variety of programs—transportation node, Thai-boxing stadium and cooking school—that will become effective for local residents, vendors and tourists alike.