“Green space” has always been Bangkok’s unsolvable issue as many sectors have not given it much importance. However, did you know that these green areas can help sustainably improve the quality of life of people in terms of rest, exercise, and participation among members of the community?
However, by having a single group create green space alone, the result would be an unsustainable construction. If the process includes those who are involved in the neighborhood and those related to voice their opinions and needs, this will surely result in sustainable development because everyone has a part in the creation and ownership of these green spaces.
Today, we would like to invite everyone to join us in talking to “Khun Yossapon Boonsom,” founder of “we!park” project in revitalizing the once deserted land to be full of life by including everyone in designing their own green space and driving citizenship for all.
Starting from needs
Discussion with relevant agencies, both public and private sectors or even people in the community reveals that they “want to create a green space, but there are no designers.” Khun Yossapon saw that there is this gap, so he began to think about how to connect people, resources and knowledge, so that the problem of green space is solved. Each party should begin to have a mechanism to enable everyone to work together to achieve success. As a result, the platform “we!park” was established.
Khun Yossapon said that he is interested in the policy because the solution to the problem of green space is not only in the design. We!park therefore proposed policies to agencies such as the National Health Assembly and the Ministry of Public Health to achieve resolutions that helped drive the success of the policy and to be able to continuously develop in the long term.
Lessons from models of 4 pilot areas around Bangkok
Currently, we!park is now taking lessons from 4 pilot areas: 1. Behind Wat Hua Lamphong behind Too Fast To Sleep cafe 2. On Nut district behind the T77 project 3. Ekamai district and 4. River City to study the several different needs. These include how to encourage participation from locals or urge private landowners to turn their unused land into a green space. Throughout the course of almost a year, the trend is becoming more and more positive. Some private landowners have donated their land for green space.
We!park is responsible for organizing the process of finding designers to work in each area. Such as the area of the Ekkamai, they began by organizing a competition for the model that would be used, then they raised funds or asked for support from various agencies which wished to participate. The trend was that people are interested and wish to fund their land or support the activities.
However, there are still some loopholes, such as land tax with a framework for further development by turning unused land into a public park which will result in more tax deduction. The project itself will be a semi-experimental pilot project, upon its conclusion, the results of both the advantages and recommendations will be summarized and acknowledged to the public sectors. Another aspect is in terms of knowledge such as how creating green space through the right processes will result differently. Through the process of participation, the park will be more sustainable.
The summarized knowledge can be passed on to other localities, which can be developed and applied in other provinces, which can be done during second phase that will be expanded in the future.
Diversifying contributions for sustainability
As we!park includes the word “WE,” their wish is for every sector to participate in every process, which includes
- Land: Anyone who owns land can participate in the project. In the future, there may be an application which will track which piece of land is ideal for use.
- Ideas Brainstorm ideas, we!park asked for opinions and needs from locals to modify the functions accordingly
- Design: We!park is not the one who designs the space, instead, designers will be sought in different ways, such as organizing a design competition where both the general public and professional designers can express their opinions.
- Creation: Encouraging the local community to help create the green area, such as painting, planting trees and organizing activities for that community
- Area management: Allowing everyone in the surrounding area to participate in the preservation, safety precautions and creation of relationship-building activities on the weekends
It can be seen that everyone can participate in every process, and we!park recognizes that some activities can be done right away, some are still subject to the law, some may receive skepticism from the public, whose goal needs to be communicated clearly.
Khun Yossapon believes that this will be the first time that all processes are under the same model. In the past, the development of public spaces like this occur in different spots, depending on the factors. It was not systematically organized in terms of what kind of knowledge, which policy and mechanism would be used, and how projects happen. If successful, it will certainly be a prototype that will be a model for years to come.
Solving problems must hit the right spot.
Conventional mechanism of park construction still encounters problems, such as the duration of government process, the process of talking to landowners with a variety of agencies, inadequate personnel or databases that need to be reorganized.
On the bright side, green space is in demand and the interest of many, whether of the government, private sectors, or the general public. Everyone wants to see more green spaces in the city. This may be due from PM 2.5 pollution which shows how important this matter is. The challenge is how to make it happen? Khun Yossapon said he does not only want it to be common tree planting, but wants to make creation of green space a sustainable development. This is considered a very difficult and challenging problem.
In addition, green spaces reduce social inequality. In term these contributions, we!park has to examine the area to look at the problem and find a solution through that green area. The process is basically unlocking the resources available in a city to truly benefit everyone, and also unlocking the potential of citizens in the concept of co-development.
“We!park’s goal is not only creating green space, it is also to empower all citizens by letting them participate in the process.
And green space is a space for everyone to share their issues for mutual benefit. This is the role of landscape architect profession,
when we see problems in the society and what our professional role can achieve.”
Proportion of community design
Khun Yossapon revealed that we!park had made a stakeholder mapping in the radius of green space to include all who would be affected from the creation of such area, including all private sectors, community, public sector, educational institutions and the society. Public space is not exclusive to the community; every sector is part of the community. When all representatives discussed with each other, they would be able to understand the issue and find solutions that went along the same direction and would realize that all of these are mutually beneficial if successful.
It is important for each party to participate equally because matters such as this cannot be resolved by the law. Otherwise, it will not last. Letting everyone know more, understand each other more and participate in effective development will make it successful.
Awakening role of citizenship
The model of we!park’s park is different from other parks in the way that people can be involved in organizing activities. This also awakens citizenship in a way that the people do not only receive but can take action and make their wish come true. Besides, it would be sustainable. We!park’s model may help public parks grow in volume by turning deserted areas into green spaces. For example, it is indicated that for every 400 meters, there should be a green space. The current reality, however, tells a different story as green space occupies only about 13% of Bangkok’s urban area.
If Pocket Park or Green Link every 400 meters in the city can actually happen, it will help connect people more easily among these areas. People can walk, run and bike safely, reducing the use of cars, which will improve the air quality. Additionally, vacant or deserted areas in the city will be used in a more beneficial way. Just take a look at Bangkok, in order to get to the park, one may have to drive, take the sky train or public bus. The whole problem is what we!park is trying to solve, and it is one way that people will take an interest in.
“In the past, our profession was not involved in the mechanism of development. We will be considered towards the end of the process. The problem is when we’re not playing a sufficiently important role, these developments will evolve into destruction. We believe this profession will be the central mechanism for human coexistence with nature in harmony and sustainability. ”