The 2011 Bangkok Floods: Live Peacefully (Yoo Hai Yen), Live Harmoniously (Yoo Hai Pen Suk)
Thailand’s Bangkok has experienced rapid population growth and subsequent expansion over recent decades. It has resulted in an unintentional increase in vulnerability within rural-residential and metropolis areas. Flood prevention strategies, such as dams, irrigation canals, and flood detention basin, and Kaem Ling ‘Green belt Embankment’, have been slowly built and activated in response to this suburban catastrophe (Vanno). In recent years, King Rama IX of Thailand, initiated Kaem Ling’s, ‘Monkey’s Cheek’s’ project; a reference to the common parable of an intelligent monkey storing its food in its saggy cheeks rather than swallowing. This has allowed the Western and Eastern suburbs of Bangkok to function as waterways, diverting the destructive water paths away to protect the metropolis. Beginning in July 2011, a significant rainfall from the highlands of Thailand flooded down to Bangkok. With affected areas lying less than 10 metres above mean sea level and some as low as 1.5 metres, some areas remained flooded until January 2012. By October, the inundated metropolitan Bangkok began to negatively impact on industries, such as computers and automotive. Both critical supply networks for other manufacturing operations outside of Thailand. This ‘vulnerability’ where the inter-connectedness of economies could mean the closing of factories and manufacturing assembly lines in one country because of a flooding disaster in another had not been recognised. The 2011 Thailand’s flooding death tolls surpassed 815 deaths (with 3 missing), affected 13.6 million people and classed 65 of Thailand’s 77 provinces as flood disaster zones (Benfield, 2012). During the extreme environmental activity, decisions were made to close several district gates in last-ditch efforts for protecting the metropolitan areas. This caused many other peri-urban areas of Bangkok to flood. These suburban areas were intended to act as waterways to protect the metropolis, but instead became a reservoir. Nimitmai 40 Road, situated in Khlong Sam Wa district, was in the middle of the 2011 flooding zones became the locus and main area of interest in this research. Several initial studies, of precedence and technical data, explored objectives of building resilience in response to flooding and community. This research further utilised field study surveys, interviews, and case studies, all of which provided a wealth of information and contextual material. They contributed to design propositions developed through a series of critical reflections. This research aimed to build community resilience, encapsulating spiritual elements in cultural and psychosocial elements of suburban Thai community’s livelihood and to provide flood resilience through both non-technical and technical solutions. Final outcomes of the design iterations suggested a merging of Thai monastery and community centre as a spiritual anchor for the community’s resilience and strengthen my neighbourhood’s sense of place.