Architecture expert lauds Mahakan Fort community

Architecture expert lauds Mahakan Fort community

The Mahakan Fort community, doomed for eviction under a city development plan, is a shining example of community engagement with urban improvement, said Graeme Bristol, an expert on architecture and human rights.

In a petition letter to Bangkok governor, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, the academic urged the governor to review the eviction plan, set to be implemented at the end of this month. In pushing for the eviction, City Hall is relying on an old development plan which dates back to 1992, and aims to turn the 4.3-rai area behind the fort and city wall in Phra Nakhon district into a public park.

The fort community houses 59 families, and is well-known for its wooden houses in the early Rattanakosin-style. Faced with strong resistance from the community, and academics and activists, City Hall shelved the plan but dusted it off early last month amid a public outcry.

Mr Bristol, Executive Director of the Centre for Architecture and Human Rights, which is based at King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, said the community's success story in the area of community design, human rights and cultural diversity, has been the subject of numerous books and documentaries in Thai and English.

For the past two decades, the community has served as an open classroom for a number of students from various educational institutes on topics ranging from architecture to community rights law. In 2006, Silpakorn University, commissioned by City Hall under Apirak Kosayodhin, envisaged the community as a living museum. However, the then governor trashed the museum plan.

"I have used the Pom [fort] community as an outstanding example of the synergy of community leadership, academic and NGO support as well as the assistance of the professions of planning, architecture and engineering. I have learned a great deal from the people in this community," he said in the letter, which was seen by the Bangkok Post yesterday.

That the fort community could be a lesson for the international community is more obvious now that Human Rights and Community Architecture has become an issue at Unesco. "The centre hopes to put these lessons to good use over the next five years," said the academic.

"Rather than have this vibrant community destroyed by outdated master planning, we urge you to take this golden opportunity to demonstrate once again the creativity that we associate with your high office and to reach an arrangement whereby the residents will be able to work with the BMA to show what can be done," said Mr Bristol. He cautioned that since Mahakan Fort is world-famous, the world will be watching to see what happens next.

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