- 2002 : Chulalongkorn University
- 2006 : Harvard University
Career and Projects
Lead landscape architect for
- 2017 : Chulalongkorn Centenary Park
- 2019 : Thammasat Urban Farm Rooftop
- 2020 : Chao Phraya Sky Park
- 2019 : “TIME 100 Next” list and one of 15 leading women fighting against climate change.
- 2020 : “Green 30 for 2020” from Bloomberg; the BBC's "100 Women 2020".
- 2020 : UN Global Climate Solution, Women for Result.
- 2021 : Chairwoman of the Climate Change Working Group of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA World).
Leading with compassion
In her TED talk, landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom is keen to spread her message about how to transform sinking cities into landscapes that can fight floods effectively.
Besides giving short presentations for TED, which features the world’s leading thinkers, the 41-year-old founder of landscape architecture design firm Landprocess is one of the few people in Thailand raising awareness about the role landscape architecture can play in promoting inclusiveness as well as tackling environmental issues.
"It’s been my goal ever since I was a student to promote this profession and the solutions it can provide to help improve society, urban life, and the environment. When people don’t know what we do, how can we get them to do what we want?" she said.
Ms Kotchakorn is also the founder of Porous City Network, a social enterprise working to solve urban environmental problems in order to increase resilience in Southeast Asia by educating climate-vulnerable communities about productive landscape design.
Her first work to gain recognition was Chulalongkorn Centenary Park, which acts as a water retention area in times of flood and has won her awards and fame.
"It received a good response in terms of concept design and demonstrated what landscape architecture can achieve. It proves proving that urban design solutions can be applicable to many fields, including climate change where it can be used to increase green spaces," she said.
Moreover, the project also helped her grow as a person.
"It was like jumping off a cliff and then swimming. At the age of 32-33, I was still relatively young and I wanted to learn more and had ideas to share. Everyone on the team was my teacher and I also felt comfortable," she said.
A graduate in architecture from Chulalongkorn University (CU), she later earned a master's degree in the same discipline from Harvard University.
"Before working on CU Centenary Park, I worked in the US. Everything was good there but I was not happy because I did not lead projects. When I came back to Thailand and entered this design competition, I had a sense of ownership. It felt right to me – it was my home, my country.”
"A public park had been missing in this area for 30 years, so this project was like a new beginning and moreover, it was my school, Chula. Therefore, I put in more effort than my previous projects where I was not the leader," she said.
Another project in which Ms Kotchakorn was involved is the 14.5 ha urban farm rooftop at Thammasat University Park, aka Puey Park. It is the biggest urban farming green roof in Asia. Besides its water retention function, the design also demonstrates the four values of the university: equality, democracy, fraternity, and freedom.
"In terms of scale and design, it was even more ambitious," she said.
Ms Kotchakorn also had a hand in the development of the city’s latest landmark -- the Chao Phraya Sky Park, which is the first sky park in Bangkok to provide 360-degree views of the Chao Phraya River.
"I worked on the bridge with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and a team led by the Urban Design and Development Center (UddC) at Chulalongkorn University. I was the landscape architect in this project and it was a collaboration between many agencies, however, my focus was on the physical design. The project focused on re-designing decaying urban infrastructure," she said, referring to an incomplete bridge that was abandoned 40 years ago.
The Klong Chong Nonsi Linear Park spanning Surawong and Rama III Roads, is yet another effort to boost the city’s image and increase green space.
"For my next project, I’m not sure what it will be exactly but I would like to work on streetscapes to make urban roads better," she said. "These are used by people every day in the community.”
A winner of the 2020 UN Global Climate Solution, Women for Results, Ms Kotchakorn believes people should have the opportunity to contribute to society.
"It’s not that I am better than others or that I was there [on the world stage] but instead it’s likely that others didn’t have the opportunity,” she said.
“I think there must be more opportunities to allow Thai, Southeast Asian, and Asian women to step up and contribute,” she said.
As a lecturer in Thailand and abroad, she always pushes female students to realise the potential within them.
"When working in teams, we should respect and support each other. That’s important,” she said.
She has also given her 12-year-old daughter the freedom to learn and think by herself.
One night she told her daughter not to come home too late to which she replied that she should lead with trust, not fear.
"I said to myself, ‘Wow, I used to think like that too when I was a child but I didn’t speak my mind,’” she said.
Asked what her motto is, she said, "I want to make my life meaningful every day and in everything I do. I want build something meaningful day by day."
"Nowadays, people in society talk a lot about passion. However, I think compassion is more important than passion. I do things not only to benefit myself but also to help others," she said.