Klong Toey Primary School: a design solution for an urban slum Open Access
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Bangkok was once known as the Venice of the East. Thai people and their architecture lived symbiotically with nature, natural occurrences and functions of the land. Over the years, Westernization brought about industrialization that led to large population shifts to cities and the emergence of slums. The port district, Klong Toey, contains the oldest slum settlement in Bangkok, where most of the residents work. This project re-appropriates shipping containers readily available from the port to create a new typology infused with traditional Thai architecture that will restore cultural heritage and integrity back to the urban slum setting. The proposed primary school project in Klong Toey slum is a platform on which elements of Thai heritage are brought back in the form of architecture, utilizing modular industrial shipping containers. The school design not only addresses the disappearance of Thai arts and architecture in the midst of dense urban cities, but also re-introduces it with a sustainable philosophy that utilizes local, natural and renewable resources, as well as traditional skills. The design process will also act as a forum to educate children and slum inhabitants.Research conducted to determine this new typology included historical research on the evolution of traditional Thai architecture, specifically its relationship with nature, religion, and society. The urban slum structure was studied through the scope of westernization and industrialization, focusing on socio-economic changes in Bangkok and current conditions in the proposed area. Consultations with Thai architects and interviews with institutions in the slum (i.e. the Mercy Center) aided in background research and determined site-specific programmatic information. Case studies included the Mercy Center, the Duang Prateep Foundation, and other slum schools or dwellings through UN Habitat and Architecture for Humanity. Typologies included shipping container architecture, successful school designs, and contemporary sustainable Thai architecture. The project injects culture back into the industrialized area, significantly strengthening relationships between people and place, and between people and the whole community, and national identity. The project's sustainable practices focus on natural elements of traditional Thai design that respond to the geographic conditions of Bangkok, providing slum inhabitants with alternative means for low-cost, feasible construction. The new design typology not only reinterprets Thai traditional style, but also its ideals, craftsmanship, and cultural heritage that will be passed on to future generations.