Each day I have been taking a few hours to walk around my surrounding area. My destination is usually a specialist coffee shop I have researched in advanced, although the purpose of the walk is really to explore the streets and to get me away from the hellish main roads. I take my camera and stop into shops that peak my interest, and visit temples or romantic side streets that beckon my attention.
The architecture of Bangkok is fascinating. It is truly tragic, painfully ugly and seemingly, completely, unregulated. There is no sense of cohesive planning or attempt to facilitate the throngs of communities that spill out onto edges on the roads, inches from speeding traffic.
Not that New Zealand is any sort of model citizen at regulating architecture or demonstrating community-friendly town planning.
The architectural design all has brutalist roots, with unexpected flourishes of art deco and dirty hand-me-down versions of generic European design. The power and phone cables string above the road in sickly liquorice loops and dangle precariously at intersections. On some buildings, attempts have been made to increase their appeal with bright colours and murals, which is definitely one of the more positive elements in my turbulent love-hate relationship with Bangkok architecture. Admittedly, this place is a photographer’s dream and I am taking intense pleasure in the patterns, colours, the strong brutalist forms and the feral shrubs and trees that buckle the footpaths and tangle in the power-lines.
Please note, the photographs I am showing you are definitely a more cheerful selection of architectural highlights.
It is difficult to escape the constant clang of construction in Bangkok. In fact, behind us at W District, a giant apartment block is being built and I am acutely aware, everyday, of its progress. Although it is currently shrouded in scaffolding and muslin cloth, it will undoubtedly emerge as the swanky monster of the neighbourhood. The much older surrounding buildings already hide in its shadow, and seem disarmingly quaint and homey in comparison.
A Thai friend suggested I write about how to 'fix' the architecture and street design of Bangkok. Well, I am sorry Kang, this is an impossible task for me. There is so much to reflect on and absolutely nothing to suggest. Let’s just enjoy the menagerie of architectural styles Bangkok has to offer, which is unified only by the communal layer of grimy black dirt, which covers everything.
A late addition:
Today I saw an architecture exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre that seems to highlight the forms and structure of some of the more humble styles of building that have been lost through the ad hoc urban development of the twentieth century. There was no information provided in English, so I assume these buildings are documentations of heritage buildings, or reconstructions of buildings that have been razed. Regardless, these stilted forms have an overload of charm, and you have got to admire those fine draftsmanship skills!
I read this inspiring post last night about experimental education buildings in Thailand: http://architizer.com/blog/thailand-education/
These brave initiatives fill me with hope - Ahh, if only I was an architect!