Office workers and tourists are brainstorming about the future of the neighbourhood of Silom as part of the City Lab Silom project that continues until Friday.
This is an experimental campaign in a collaboration between the Healthy Space Forum, Thai Health Promotion Foundation, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, private sectors and Chulalongkorn University's Urban and Regional Planning Department, to enhance landscapes and public space on Silom Road.
Urban designer Sirada Darikarnonta, who serves as a research assistant at the City Lab Silom project, is inviting people to show their ideas in the Silom public-life survey, conducted by City Lab Thailand page on Facebook.
"This is a good opportunity for everyone to learn how the people-oriented designs should be. With the limited budget and conditions, we decided to develop some space close to a hospital because there's a diversity of road users," said Sirada.
"To build a relationship in a community, the project offers several interactive games and activities to create a lively atmosphere in the neighbourhood."
Focusing on smart living, the project came up with new designs for a crosswalk, bus stop, street furniture and creative activities. Starting from the United Center Building, Palette Me set up a board so that everyone can choose a colour to identify a character of Silom district and write what's on their mind on the topic "If Silom were a colour, which colour would you like Silom to be in the future?".
This seems like a colour palette for Silom. Someone chose purple to bill Silom as a hip hangout for gays. Someone choose brown referring dust and construction sites around the neighbourhood. And someone choose orange to link with entertainment activities, with a hope to have a smooth sidewalk.
"This is an open stage, where people can come and recommend to Bangkok's authorities how they should develop the public infrastructure systems. We also explored ideas about other cities like London, Paris, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Zurich and Singapore on the Palette Me website and received good feedback from Thais and foreigners," said Natcha Phanitrungroj, research assistant at Palette Me.
At the front of Bangkok Christian Hospital, Cloud Floor introduced a new crosswalk that is chromatic and noticeable. It comes in a bigger size and features additional signs referring to people with different walking speeds.
Using bright blue rather than black and white, car drivers and bikers can see the crosswalks at a distance of 20-25m. The idea is to warn drivers to reduce their speed.
Pedestrians themselves need to mind their step. Zigzag lines are added to the crosswalk to remind users to look carefully before stepping into the next lane. And blind people can feel safe, with Braille blocks leading them to another side of the road. But for wheelchair users, the streets are still an obstacle to a smooth journey.
Cloud Floor also developed a Silom Active Bus Station, painted white and fitted out with exercise equipment to boost health-consciousness. Pedestrians can easily stretch their arms and legs while waiting for a bus, perfect for those with no time to go to a gym.
There's also a new bus-route map illustrating the directions and landmarks. Using different colours, it's designed to be easy for people of all ages to understand.
"We want to build a multifunctional bus station where users can enjoy activities while waiting for the bus. We provide exercise equipment on which people can spend a few minutes stretching their muscles. We've observed reactions among users and find many of them get our ideas," Sirada explained.
But some only want what's simple but convenient for daily life. Office worker Chonticha Saengsuwon simply wants a bus stop with comfy seats and a roof that can protect her from the rain or sunlight.
"This bus stop has a good design but provides fewer seats than others. I think that people don't pay attention to a route map, even though the authorities have produced them in different versions," Chonticha said.
"I want the authorities to build smooth, big pavements. Because if there's no bus station, people still have space to stand."
With concerns about safety at night, Kimbab added some colourful artwork-like lights to the front of Bangkok Bank to illuminate the pavement. But pedestrians tend to prefer brighter light with a normal design.
Pedestrians with weary legs can take a break at a semi-private nook. It's lined with white street furniture that can filter out PM10 airborne dirt, so pedestrians can keep themselves away from pollution and chaotic crowds for a while.
The gaps between trees and space under the BTS station are transformed into communal spots where students, office workers and tourists can participating in such activities as jumping, chess and crossword puzzles. This is to use every square inch of the pavements.
Sakchai Boonma, deputy governor of the BMA, said locals will be included in the process. The design will be developed to respond to the needs of the community, not to what the government wants. Many projects in the past have been built and deserted or even underused because they did not stem from the community's need and lacked the community's input.
Silom district will become an experimental city space from which authorities can learn how to develop road-infrastructure systems to fit all road users.
Pattarawadee Saengmanee is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.