ANOTHER CHANCE FOR BANGKOK’S PEDESTRIANS

The Pathumwan intersection welcomes a new city infrastructure of good intention.

Not long after the official opening, the new skywalk at the center of Pathumwan intersection has become the hottest selfie spot for Bangkok’s tourists and shoppers. The project was initiated by a 300 million THB co-investment between a consortium that calls itself Siam Synergy with members being the moguls of the Siam area: MBK PCL., Siam Piwat Co., Ltd. and Siam Business Group. Urban Architects Co., Ltd. was chosen to oversee the design with the conceptual and functional requirements encompassing the creation of a large-scale skywalk inspired by a lotus pond (the concept plays with the word Pathum, which in Thai means lotus). Urban Architects delivered a design that accommodates a large open well that serves as the center of the program. What the well offers is visual access to the often congested traffic below. The new skywalk is being promoted as a public program that incorporates the principles of Universal Design, requiring that it be a highly user-friendly space accessible by the elderly or disabled individuals alike. The project is also striving to become a new arts district in Bangkok with renowned Thai and international street artists being invited to create works on the lotus leaf-shaped structure as a gimmick to help promote the project.

Nevertheless, the question we have for the project is whether it’s really conceived from the tenet considering the fact that the new skywalk fails to follow even the very first principle of Universal Design, that being ‘equitability,’ simply because if you’re a wheel-chair user, you won’t be able to conveniently access and interact with the project from all sides. At the very least, the project’s entrance from Siam Square doesn’t provide any elevators for the disabled. The pavement in other areas around the project is not convenient for wheelchair users, whether it be due to the complexity of the entries and egresses or the uneven surfaces. Not only that, but the skywalk’s program doesn’t provide any facilities or symbols for the blind except for the circular shaped graphics of different tones of green on the floor and the fancy- looking manhole covers. The semi-sculptural structure in the shape of a lotus leaf also claims to have the additional functionality of a roof but doesn’t seem to be providing any practical use in terms of protecting users from the rain or the sun.

TEXT: WICHIT HORYINGSAWAD
PHOTO COURTESY OF MANGO ZERO

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