Klong Toey Community Lantern
The Klong Toey district of Bangkok is a typical Thai slum. Doors are open to the narrow walkways where neighbors hum, marinating in the smells of Thai spices and the Chao Phraya River. It is also the largest and oldest of Bangkok’s slums, and is rife with social problems, chief among them drug use. These troubles are exacerbated by high unemployment rates and sanitation issues, making Klong Toey one of the many communities in Southeast Asia in need of shared, safe public spaces.
Wanting to create a community-driven project for the families inhabiting this slum, Norwegian architects Yashar Hanstad and Andreas Gjertsen of TYIN tegnestue Architects stepped in and created the Klong Toey Community Lantern in 2012. The intention of the Lantern was to serve as a secure space for residents of Klong Toey. The communal area was designed with the purpose of replacing the crowded streets as an intersection for all facets of the community to gather, work or relax in a well-lit, sheltered zone.
The Klong Toey Community Lantern project began over six months before breaking ground through workshops, interviews and group discussions with community leaders. The team fused the community’s existing assets with a shared goal: to design a space that may help to inspire positive change. With community partners, they hoped to ensure that every feature of the space served a purpose specific to the district’s needs.
While TYIN tegnesture champions this asset-based community development model around the world, not all undertakings are a success. Although Hanstad and Gjertsen dub themselves as merely facilitators, the design duo engages communities as equal partners to ensure more sustainable, long-term strategies to achieve individual neighborhood goals. TYIN buys material from solely local merchants and connects with resident youths during the construction process. By directly engaging the community in these ways, the architects set a framework for a mutual exchange of knowledge throughout the process. In the case of the Klong Toey Community Lantern, several challenges arose following the project’s completion –ranging from vandalism to apathy to a lack of community ownership.
“We hope this project can [still] be a little contribution that can lead to something positive,” says Yashar of the Community Lantern. While this project didn’t turn out exactly the way they had intended, despite all of their hard work and dedication, there are often other underlying issues at play. “The issues of informal settlements in our growing cities are some of the most complex and difficult challenges we’ll face in the next decades. It is not solved by architecture alone, but it sure isn’t solved without skilled and conscious architects.” More sensitive and conscious architects like Hanstad and Gjertsen are drawing attention to these issues, influencing the world of urban designers around them – and opening up a dialogue about the continuing challenges.
TYIN is now planning a project in a slum area in Puebla, Mexico. The project is still in its early planning phases.
Design with community in mind.
TYIN was established in 2008 and has built projects in poor and underdeveloped areas of Thailand, Uganda, Sumatra and Norway. Solutions to fundamental challenges call for an architecture where everything serves a purpose, an architecture that follows necessity. By involving the local populace actively in both the design and building of their projects, TYIN is able to establish a framework for a mutual exchange of knowledge and skills. All materials used in TYIN´s projects are collected close to the sites or purchased from local merchants. The studio is currently run by Andreas G. Gjertsen and Yashar Hanstad, and has its headquarters in the Norwegian city of Trondheim. TYIN has won several international awards and their projects have been published and exhibited worldwide.