Sky park bridges old Chao Phraya communities
Bangkok residents can now proudly say they have an elevated garden overlooking the Chao Phraya River after architects transformed a portion of an abandoned electric train track into a green pedestrian bridge similar to the one being proposed in London.
For 30 years, the unfinished Saphan Phut line withstood the elements and served as a reminder of the old Lavalin Skytrain project, which was abandoned in 1992. The project began in 1984 under former prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda.
Today the concrete beams and pillars have been given a new lease on life as they become the support structures of the Chao Phraya Skypark, dubbed the world's first garden bridge.
With a price tag of 122 million baht, the sky park costs less than the proposed 7.8 billion-baht ($250 million) Garden Bridge project over the River Thames in London.
The sky park is expected to be unveiled at the end of the month with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha presiding over the opening ceremony, Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang said. No date has been set for its official opening.
According to the project's management team, the sky park is part of a pilot campaign to preserve the cultural heritage of communities in the Kadijeen and Klong San areas.
The abandoned Lavalin project holds no historical or cultural value, but the green pedestrian bridge links the communities on both sides of the Chao Phraya River.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA)'s Department of City Planning and Urban Development commissioned Chulalongkran University's Urban Design and Development Center (UDDC) to design the sky park.
In March last year, the city planning department contracted a company to build the project. It has since been completed and is now ready for its inauguration.
The sky park is built on top of the abandoned Lavalin structures and entry and exit points were placed on both ends. Lifts have also been installed.
The green pedestrian bridge connects the King Prajadhipok Park at the Phra Nakhon side of the river with the Chaloem Phrakiat Forest Park in Thon Buri.
The elevated section of the sky park is 8.5 metres wide and 280 metres long. It is straddled between traffic lanes on the Phra Pok Klao Bridge.
It features a garden surrounding a point overlooking the Chao Phraya river and leisure spots. Cycling is banned on the path, but people are allowed to dismount and walk their bicycles.
UDDC director Niramon Serisakul said the garden bridge concept has been an inspiration for architects since the 19th century.
Similar projects have been mooted including the Garden Bridge in London as well as Pier 55 in New York.
Thailand's sky park project, however, is the world's first to be finished at a fraction of the cost of the Garden Bridge because of the use of existing structures erected during Lavalin's construction.
"We want to create an alternative for the over-the-river commute," Ms Niramon said. "People can enjoy a relaxing walk, which can improve the quality of life of urban residents."
Skypark visitors are expected to consist of neighbourhood residents, tourists and students from the 25 educational outlets in the area.
Ms Niramon said the sky park links old communities in the area and people can easily access the pedestrian bridge.