Kotchakorn Voraakhom of Landprocess and Porous City Network
The Bangkok native and Harvard alumnus is a landscape architect with a unique set of experience spanning a Las Vegas casino, a Saudi Arabian prince’s winter retreat, and in the most recent decade, a host of important greening projects in her home country. A high-profile one at her own practice Landprocess was the design of the CU Centenary Park of her alma mater Chulalongkorn University, which won many honours, including the Award of Excellence (Build-Large category) at the 2019 World Landscape Architecture Awards. A TED Fellow, Voraakhom also serves as the CEO of the Porous City Network, an organisation set up to the tackle problems faced by “sinking cities” due to climate change.
“By 2050, rising sea levels could affect triple the amount of people previously predicted, threatening to all but erase some of the world’s great coastal cities including Bangkok. Southeast Asia, the region with the largest total coastline in the world, is facing extreme risk. Its cities, rooted in agrarian, water-based societies, have now transformed into paralysed concrete developments, leaving many delta capitals under extreme water stress. The need to shift away from concentrated land-based development is apparent.
‘Landscape porosity’ proves to be a useful approach by looking at how we can reclaim a city’s porosity, especially in the context of muddy delta cities. Porosity can be understood in this context as a city’s capacity to adapt to the natural flow of water, focusing on fluidity and flexibility as essential mechanisms of climate adaptability – elements often neglected in urban development.
Breathable void and healthy pore structures, allowing for the flow and penetration of water and wind, are thus key necessities. It is the mission of the Porous City Network (PCN) to defend these ecological pore spaces while creating more through trees, parks, green roofs, forests, wetlands, ponds and grasslands. In this regard, Bangkok serves as an excellent example of how building eco-centric green and blue infrastructures can revive our cities’ urban ecosystems.
To address diminishing landscape porosity, every square meter is needed to reclaim resilience for the land to live with water, rather than fear it. Every porous landscape innovation I have worked on has been my dream project. By sitting on a three-degree angle, the CU Centenary Park collects rainwater, purifies it through the wetlands, and restores it at the retention pond. The Thammasat University Urban Rooftop Farm, now Asia’s biggest, repurposed 236,806 sq ft of abandoned concrete roof space to grow crops – and that can slow down runoff up to 20 times more than regular concrete surfaces. The Chao Phraya Sky Park is the first bridge across the river in any world capital. There, the existing but abandoned infrastructure left unused for 40 years was turned into the pedestrian bridge’s park.”
This story first appeared in the July 2021 issue of Luxe Living/Prestige Singapore.