Transforming a brownfield into an urban ecological sanctuary
The winning 2023 World Architecture Festival Landscape of the Year Award was presented to Benjakitti Forest Park.
In the bustling urban heart of Bangkok, Thailand, Turenscape and Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architect transformed the site of a former tobacco factory into a low-maintenance regenerative system that also provides the largest public recreational space for residents of downtown Bangkok and has become a new cultural symbol for the capital city.
A transformation into a living ecosystem
The project transformed a former tobacco factory into a resilient living ecosystem that intercepts and reduces the destructive force of stormwater, filters contaminated water and provides a much-needed wildlife habitat in a region experiencing monsoon climates, with an average yearly precipitation of about 1 500mm.
Completed at a low cost in a compressed timeframe of just 18 months, this project offers a replicable modular approach to urban engineering that can transform the lifeless, concrete-paved ground into a resilient living ecosystem that provides a full range of ecosystem services.
The porous landscape was created to retain stormwater that fosters a low-maintenance “messy nature” and establishes immersive people places. Credit: Turenscape and Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architect
Site and challenges
Bangkok is a densely populated city, and the effects of global warming have resulted in an increased flood risk due to Bangkok’s low elevation. The former tobacco factory had a limited budget and was overseen by the army, which did not have extensive experience managing landscape projects.
Design objectives and strategies
The project was envisioned as a central park capable of providing holistic ecosystem services to the city, including a nature-based solution for urban flood control, and providing badly needed public space for daily recreational activities and other cultural services. Three strategies guided the work to meet these objectives:
Reuse and recycle:
- All existing trees on site were preserved and integrated into the park design.
- Existing factory buildings were repurposed to house the sports centre and museum.
- Demolished concrete materials were recycled for the earthwork foundation and paving.
Creating porosity and wetlands:
- Cut-and-fill techniques transformed the impermeable, concrete-paved ground into a spongy and porous landscape of wetlands dotted with islets. This is expected to retain up to 200 000m³ of stormwater from the surrounding area during the monsoon season.
- Transformation of the otherwise hard clay surface soil into a wet and spongy habitat allowed a rich native plant community to establish itself with minimal irrigation or maintenance needed during the dry season.
- The landscape can be efficiently executed with a single excavator and minimises the dependence on skilled labour.
Fostering a low-maintenance “messy nature”:
- The modulated landform with diverse micro-environments was sown with seeds and planted with tree seedlings, creating a foundation for the subsequent evolution of a semi-natural plant community.
- This creates a new, highly dynamic and diverse aesthetic that sharply contrasts with the surrounding urban landscape.
Creating immersive places for people:
- Multiple boardwalks and a skywalk were designed that tie the entire park together and create a uniquely immersive experience amidst the tropical foliage.
Project: Benjakitti Forest Park.
Location: Bangkok, Thailand.
Architect: Turenscape, Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architect.
Lead architect name: Kongjian Yu.
Architect country: China.
Client: Finance Ministry of Bangkok, Thailand.
World Architecture Festival: Entrant, Landscape of the Year, shortlist.
Category: WAF Landscape – gardens, parks, ecological/environmental.
Full acknowledgement and thanks go to https://www.worldarchitecturefestival.com/ and www.archdaily.com for the information in this article.