With terms like creative space / district / economy starting to catch the attention of Bangkok inhabitants, to look back at the beginning of it all, one cannot forget to mention the movement of a group of artists (Speedy Grandma is among the pioneers) who relocated their bases of operation from shophouses in the Sukhumvit neighborhood to Charoenkrung where the rent is much lower.
The decision has had both its upsides and downsides. While sacrificed is the convenience of transportation and accessibility to the spaces, what the new neighborhood has to offer is an idiosyncratic character that is more down to earth and ‘realer’ than the upscale and pricy Sukhumvit. The latter is one of the reasons behind TCDC’s decision to choose Charoenkrung as the location of its new headquarters as the area is being groomed into the city’s new creative district, and TCDC is not alone in this mission. Across the river over to the Charoen Nakhon nakrung area, The Jam Factory has been hosting art and design-related activities and risen as one of Bangkok’s most renowned creative spaces.
Many of the succeeding creative spaces didn’t blossom only in Charoenkrung but also other areas of Bangkok. They come in different shapes and forms as well, from cafés to co-working spaces and galleries, all the way to community malls that market creativity as one of their attractions. Spaces like ‘ChangChui’ founded by a veteran from the fashion and design industry were conceived from a desire to fulfill the market’s demand to be ‘creative,’ judging from the elements of the space’s programs curated to correspond with the tastes and preferences of the creative crowd.
The ways in which these creative spaces are conceived can be categorized into two patterns. The first is the newly born ones such as the co-working spaces that try to put together an eclectic program whether it’s a gallery with a café in one of its corners that is friendly to not only patrons but also their laptops and mobile offices. Vice versa, it’s now common to see a coffee house fully equipped with desks and comfy chairs, free-wifi and electrical outlets for customers dedicating one of the walls to works of art or hosting a little art exhibition from time to time. Another type of space such as galleries, which deal mainly with artistic and creative activities, can be found all over the city. But even before ‘creativity’ actually meant what it does today, these spaces were never perceived as ‘creative spaces,’ especially from the general public’s point of view. Even the regular crowds who are frequent gallery goers or work in the gallery business have never actually called them by this moniker.
The latter is one of the key factors that contributed to the boom of creative spaces throughout the city and consequentially the changing vibe of Bangkok within the span of less than a year. One of the common grounds these spaces share is the concept that gives birth to ‘creative tourism,’ which is a new business trend that is being promoted by every involved sector. It implies that there’s nothing coincidental about the enthusiastic discussion of the term ‘creativity.’ There’s a reason behind its conception, and it deals directly with the well-being and living condition of the people in the society. The power of such connection (it’s surprising how many view creativity as something that’s irrelevant to people’s wellbeing) is contributing to the mushrooming of new creative spaces whether it’s Sansab Museum of Contemporary Art that is about to open within the next few years or the imminent official opening of the riverfront BOT Learning Center by Bank of Thailand.
Bangkok Design Festival 2017, as a part and observer of this trend, takes place under the theme ‘Creative Map.’ BDF plans to connect the creative spaces scattered in different neighborhoods of the city with design-related activities, which will happen in 3 urban pockets (ChangChui, Ekamai Complex and YELO House) and welcome organizations together with veterans and new waves of the creative industry as its collaborators. Under the belief that a city is a living creature driven by its own dynamic and building blocks of life, Bangkok Design Festival 2017 hopes to become an element that will make the city not just different from, but better than what it used to be.
￼TEXT: NAPAT CHARITBUTRA
PHOTO COURTESY OF BANGKOK DESIGN FESTIVAL