Chula centenary brings impressive new green space to Bangkok

Chula centenary brings impressive new green space to Bangkok

Connected park system will support the community, wildlife, and promote environmental awareness

The 29-rai plot on Chulalongkorn Soi 5 which was previously used for commercial purposes will be turned into a community park next year, to celebrate Chulalongkorn University's centenary. (Graphic courtesy of Chulalongkorn University)
The 29-rai plot on Chulalongkorn Soi 5 which was previously used for commercial purposes will be turned into a community park next year, to celebrate Chulalongkorn University's centenary. (Graphic courtesy of Chulalongkorn University)

City dwellers can expect an additional green space in the heart of the city as Chulalongkorn University has decided to turn a land plot into a community park to commemorate its centenary anniversary next year.

Located on Chulalongkorn Soi 5 which connects Rama 1 and Rama 4 roads, the park will bring a much needed green area to the city allowing people to live alongside nature. The man-made urban forest will be home to city animals and plants and will also act as an outdoor area which encourages the exploration of nature.

The university will turn 100 years old on March 26, 2017.

"It [the park] will serve as a gift as we want to give back to society in celebration of our achievements of the past 100 years," said Prof Pirom Kamolratanakul, president of Chulalongkorn University.

The 29-rai park will be a gathering spot where a wide range of recreational activities can be arranged to cater to people's needs. The green space will be an ideal place to rest and a relaxing spot where people can sit back and breathe in fresh air.

"We are proud to make the city greener," Prof Pirom said, adding the gesture is in line with King Rama V and King Rama VI's initiatives to make the university a pillar of the country. The community park, which will be split across two connected areas and free to access, will be filled with footpaths and a cycling lane.

"Each green area has its own character. But as a whole, they will bring greater benefits to people who can take advantage of them," he said, saying that Lumpini Park, which is nearby, will only add to the greenery in the neighbourhood.

The land set aside for the park had been used for commercial purposes for 40 years. Once the lease expired, the university decided not to renew lease contracts as they wanted to turn the area into a public park.

A contractor is being sought to undertake the construction work which is expected to cost more than 200 million baht.

The landscape of the designated area has already improved, ahead of it being developed into a park. Six mimosa or chamchuri trees -- Chulalongkorn University's official tree -- were planted in one section, to signal the beginning of the project at a ceremony presided over by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to mark the university's 99th anniversary on March 26.

The princess also viewed a small exhibition that showcased the master plan for the project and its components.

Plans involve improvements to Chulalongkorn Soi 5 stretching 1.35km; improvements to road infrastructure, footpaths, bike lanes, and plants, according to Assoc Prof Chamree Arayanimitskul, from Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Architecture. Under the plan, trees will line the footpaths.

Assoc Prof Chamree said the university had organised a design contest for the university's community park which was won by architects Landprocess + N7A.

The winning design for the 29-rai park features 10,000 sq m of multi-functional recreational areas and parking spaces for 202 cars.

The park will also feature a constructed wetland to help nurture an ecological system, while kaem ling or monkey cheek water-retention areas will be created across the park to ensure there will be enough water at hand at all times. A section will also be dedicated for exhibitions and classrooms, according to Assoc Prof Chamree.

The purpose of the park's highlight, the constructed wetland, will be to treat and reuse wastewater in the park.

Experts from the Faculty of Architecture, the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Science came together to discuss the design work and whether it needs any ammendents.

According to Assoc Prof Chamree, the community park will incorporate several ponds, while the water-retention areas will cover about two rai in total.

There will be a rain garden which will be carefully designed to take advantage of rainfall runoff, she said explaining the garden would be set close to the source of the runoff and serve to slow the flow of rainwater giving trees, grass and a "green roof" more time to absorb it.

About 20% of the total area will be used for parking spaces, avenues, footpaths and the bicycle lane.

The garden will include elevated ground, she said, explaining the area near Banthat Thong Road will be at a higher elevation than on the other side of the park (on Phaya Thai Road), where a reservoir will be created to store water. She said the banks of the reservoir will not be made of concrete, but from natural soil which will allow fish and other animals to live in natural surroundings.

"The reservoir will be a learning centre featuring aquatic animals and plants," she said, while the community park will serve as an outdoor learning centre that offers a unique natural environment to inspire awareness and knowledge of animals and plants.

There will be eight exhibitions providing knowledge about nature covering seeds, solar power, trees, molehills, Thai herbs, wood, natural sounds and soil, to inspire people to learn about and to respect the natural environment, she said.

For example, the seed exhibition will allow visitors to learn about the growth cycle of seeds, she said, adding that more than 100 seeds will be showcased at the exhibition.

The solar power exhibition will enable visitors to catch a glimpse of how solar power works to meet people's energy needs and how a solar cell absorbs the sun's rays as a source of energy.

The tree exhibition aims to encourage people to care more for trees and plants. Visitors will learn about the different parts of a tree including the roots, trunk, branches and leaves, and its critical role in the ecosystem, she said.

Assoc Prof Chamree said the park will help strengthen its green campus image which is aimed at educating students, staff and faculty members, as well as the local community about environmental awareness and to care for nature. The university's ongoing green campus programme has already been successful, she said, claiming that around 98 breeds of birds can be found in the university's grounds according to a recent ornithological survey.

The university is committed to creating a community park which is accessible for everyone, Assoc Prof Chamree noted, saying that access initiatives to cater to people with disabilities will be applied across the park to ensure that everyone can enjoy the green surroundings.

"Access will be easy. The park will be accessible to anyone in a wheelchair and also those who are visually impaired," she said, adding that information boards and signs will also include braille.

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