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Bangkok Design Week 2023 takes creativity for a ride with stops at several districts around the city

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Lighting at the exhibition ‘1985°F’ brings the Hall of Sculpture to life. Sculpture prototypes of Buddha’s head for Phutthamonthon Park, Prince Narisara Nuvadtivongs and Prof Silpa Bhirasri are on display. (Photos by Nutthawat Wicheanbut and Pattarawadee Saengmanee)

Functional seat prototypes in various forms and materials have been designed to find methods to enhance landscapes and provide people ease... traffic barriers doubling as flower pots to create green spaces... augmented reality is used to connect people's imaginations to the metaverse.

These are all on show as Bangkok Design Week (BKKDW) returns for its sixth edition.

The event's focus on urban concerns is timely. With many megacities already forced to deal with difficulties including overpopulation, complex resource management, social inequity and environmental challenges, the Covid-19 pandemic then made plain a need to embrace human-centric city development.

From now to Sunday, Bangkok's historical sites, long-established communities, iconic commercial neighbourhoods and public green spaces have been turned into a network of playgrounds where visitors can learn how to balance economic, quality-of-life and environmental concerns through a programme of 530 multimedia exhibitions comprising art installations, performing arts, workshops and related activities.

In keeping with the concept of "urban'Nice'zation", BKKDW 2023 widens its city perspective to encompass not only Charoen Krung-Talat Noi, Yaowarat, Sam Yan and Ari-Pradipat, but also the districts of Phra Nakhon, Pak Klong Talat, Nang Loeng, Wongwian Yai-Talat Phlu, Klong San, Bang Pho, Phrom Phong and Kaset.

BKKDW 2023 coincides with Bangkok joining the Unesco Creative Cities Network as a Creative City of Design, so this year's event likewise serves as a timely forum for Bangkokians to discuss ideas and find better ways of living.

Montinee Yongvikul, director of creative city development of Creative Economy Agency (CEA), said: "Local communities are given the opportunity to engage in neighbourhood development. Charoen Krung 32, for example, appears to be an experimental model for collaborating with Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to facilitate, rather than organise, roadside vending spaces to meet sanitation regulations. We've provided grease trap tanks and washing areas, while the BMA allows local vendors to sell street food in limited areas for nine days. At the same time, we're considering making it a tourist destination.

"Yaowarat is dedicated as a place for university students to promote their ideas, and Pak Khlong Talat's vendors have beautifully adorned their shops to capture the allure of the floral path. The network of Silpakorn University is in charge of Phra Nakhon district to highlight Bangkok's rich history via the use of landscapes and historic buildings."

Here's a rundown of events in four main areas which are connected by the Bangkok Mass Transit network, making it possible to have a great weekend without a car.

Phra Nakhon

The exhibition "1985°F" takes over the Hall of Sculpture on Na Phra Lan Road using architectural lighting designs to revitalise valuable old buildings. Part of the Unfolding Bangkok-Living Old Building project by Urban Ally, this is the work of Fos Design Studio and transports visitors back to a time when the building served as Thailand's first sculpture workshop.

Lighting installations, projection mapping and a botanical garden illuminate the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority Maen Si facility at night.

To allow visitors to feel a spectrum of emotions while admiring the artwork, prototypes of sculptures by Prof Silpa Bhirasri will be lit up white and orange at different angles. The concept behind the lighting design relates to copper melting at around 1,985 Fahrenheit.

Visitors may imagine themselves returned to 1976 when they stand in the middle of the room and watch as Prof Silpa creates a prototype of the Buddha statue's head to be enshrined in Phutthamonthon Park. Prototypes for the King Rama I statue at Memorial Bridge, HRH Prince Narisara Nuvadtivongs and Thao Suranari are also on display.

The professor also created a naked Buddha statue to demonstrate the human body's muscles, and he imported a lifelike Western-style model from Italy to teach his students about anatomy. The lighting display will be synchronised with Thai and Western contemporary dance performances during the weekend.

The old Metropolitan Waterworks Authority Maen Si facility, built during the reign of King Rama VI, has been turned into an outdoor living room where local talents can showcase their creativity and art aficionados can also learn about the past and how to create green areas, all the while sipping on well-crafted refreshments.

DecideKit has utilised projection mapping onto a water tower to depict icebergs melting as a result of global warming, while Fos Design Studio conveys the idea of ice melting at 32F through the use of glowing light. To provide seamless audio experiences, Hear & Found has collaborated with Urban Ally using sounds from their open audio library assembled from the aural recordings of forests, temples and communities.

Another tank is devoted to Foto_Momo and features a projection-mapping presentation with some 20 photos of water tanks across the country. The images are in a variety of styles and materials and show the application of local wisdom in resolving water issues in each place.

On the 2nd floor of the site's former office building, visitors can discover "A Garden Too Secret", an immersive art installation that's a collaboration between Arcane and Seam Design depicting the stark contrast between Bangkok areas with and without green spaces.

According to Asst Prof Niramon Serisakul, director of the Urban Design and Development Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok provides only 3m² of publicly accessible green space per person, significantly less than the minimum 9m² per person advised by the World Health Organization.

The triangular sculpture is covered with 90 tropical plants of 10 different varieties, representing the amount of public green space that each Bangkok resident has access to. All plants have their own soil- and root-based connections to the sculpture's steel pipes and an atomising mist system helps maintain humidity at proper levels throughout the week.

Pak Klong Talat

Under the concept of Pak Klong Pop-Up, a thread of shophouses and flower stalls are beautifully decked out with a variety of colourful blossoms to celebrate the week of creativity and the month of love.

Tourists can view the "Pause / Continue: Street Photo Exhibition" from the Insider while the pavements have been converted into an outdoor gallery. Local photographer Sumet "Gop Gap" Boonsong, who has worked in a rose shop, spent his free time documenting people's daily lives at the flower market.

Pak Klong Talat presents a number of astonishing multimedia art exhibitions to provide visitors fresh shopping experiences.

A short bridge that connects the flower market and Rajini Pier has been jazzed up by a group of Silpakorn University second-year architectural students with colourful umbrellas, artificial flowers and lights. Visitors will travel back in time to a bygone era when flowers were wrapped in banana leaves and the flower market was crowded with flower carts.

Upwards at Yodpiman Flower Market's hidden mezzanine, XD 49 studio has created interactive multimedia installations that allow visitors to arrange virtual bouquets for Electric Floral. Rose petals will float in the air as you wave your hands before dropping to the ground. The work explores how we have used flowers to express our esteem and admiration as well as give tender farewells to those important to us. The short lifespan of flowers is also addressed in the installation.

From there it's just a short stroll to Praisaniyakan Post Office Building, where 27 June Studio has used augmented-reality technology to create its Interactive Flower Experience. Visitors can immerse themselves in the realm of the imagination as a visual trail appears on the ground with fallen leaves blooming into vibrant flowers as you pass. Thanks to real-time computer software, the facade of Thailand's first post office has been transformed into a huge projector with which visitors can show their artistic side by painting flowers in various designs and colours.

Yaowarat

The Luen Rit Community serves as a fun testing ground for the Design & Object Association's collection of 29 striking art installations in the "You Do Me, I Do You" exhibition, which investigate the potential of new materials and cutting-edge design solutions.

Baan Chaan and Artslonga used discarded leather and threads from their factories to make a colourful impeller-like artwork that represents love, while MN Formula used fibreglass and ceramic scraps to build a huge cat sculpture that can double as a fragrant candle holder.

For their part, Pin Metal Art and Touchable Bangkok reworked a vivid seat and coffee table into the shape of a flower made out of wool, metal and fabric to create a dynamic ambience in the house. Another highlight is a series of video art installations that depict Yaowarat as a fusion of Thai, Chinese and Indian culture as seen through kaleidoscopic pictures and video.

Charoen Krung

TCDC Bangkok remains a major hub for innovative product designs and interactive multimedia art. Its "Design Plant: Better City" exhibition is arranged on the 1st floor and offers a way to transform leftover wet cement into solid pavement foundation that will enhance public safety as well as aesthetics.

Concepts for protecting the environment and improving public usage are presented in the ‘Design Plant: Better City’ exhibition, now on view at TCDC Bangkok.

In future, disorganised electric wires may be wound to resemble a hat and an umbrella to provide shade on walkways. Additionally, traffic barriers may be able to function as flower pots to create green spaces. To reduce the amount of single-use waste, lottery tickets may be created from everyday items such as chewing gum, cigarettes and facial masks instead of paper.

On the 3rd floor, the "Melting Reality" exhibition by NewView & Styly presents 11 interactive artworks that connect our sensory and metaverse worlds using physical computing and augmented reality. For instance, Lollis Nick AR allows us to recall our youth when we bite into a vivid lollipop and utilise a smartphone application to listen to the taste of sounds.


Find out more details at bangkokdesignweek.com.

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