Architecture Design Option Studio — From Ocean to Table: Thai Coastal Urbanism (Mazereeuw & Guest Critic Chuenrudeemol)

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Thailand has ambitious plans for the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project with a highspeed rail line connecting three airports, new industries and new cities. Chonburi Province is the centerpiece of the EEC and close enough to Bangkok to become part of the decentralization efforts. It has become Southeast Asia’s hub of industrial manufacturing campuses whose managers, engineers, and skilled labor are comfortably accommodated in sprawling suburban enclaves.  Natural ports and extensive freeway systems further solidify it as one of ASEAN’s critical economic and infrastructural hubs. With vibrant beaches, electric nightlife, and world-class accommodations, the famous resort town of Pattaya is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand.  With all that it has to offer from industry to infrastructure to tourism, Chonburi has been selected as one of four provinces to be developed as the “Smart City” prototype for Thailand. 

Set within these goals of 21st century urbanism is Angsila, a historic fishing village from the 19th century, with meandering streets barely wide enough for motorbikes to deliver buckets of oysters from pier to land.  Many of the community members have been living here since the reign of King Rama I (the current Thai Monarch is King Rama X).   Residents still cling on to the rich aquatic way of life and culinary traditions, despite the onslaught of challenges that accompany rapid development; from extinction of cultural knowledge due to urban migration, to coastal erosion and rising ocean pollution levels resulting from unregulated garbage disposal.  

Some may see Angsila as an anachronism, out of place and out of time - an obsolete community that has outlived its usefulness in the midst of unyielding development, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In this studio, we will design based on knowledge collected from this culturally-rich community, and develop modes of Thai coastal urbanism which embraces the history while galvanizing the future. Carefully studying existing urban patterns, building typologies, alongside the exuberant flora and fauna, this studio will juxtapose that knowledge with specific precedents and technological advancements.  We will challenge the cookie cutter generic cities imported from neighboring countries and invent systems and typologies which bridge from water to land, mangroves to people, digital to physical, and history to future. In a time when our climate and oceans are in crisis, we must develop new models and relationships for coastal development, especially in this region targeted for rapid densification.

This studio is sponsored by Life and Living (Thailand), MIT Architecture, and the Urban Risk Lab.  Chatpong Chuenrudeemol is the director of CHAT Architects based in Bangkok, Thailand and has architecture degrees from Harvard  GSD and UC Berkeley.  Prior to starting his own firm, he worked at the former Office dA (currently NADAAA) in Boston. While practicing, he also teaches design studios at a number of Bangkok universities including Chulalongkorn University, Rangsit University and KMUTT. He has recently lectured at UC Berkeley, the Asia Pacific Architecture Forum and exhibited in Toto Gallery Ma in Tokyo.