Nathan Mehl - Bangkok Waterfront
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Bangkok Waterfront

Nathan Mehl

Architectural design
Nathan Mehl
The rapid urban development of the Bangkok Metropolitan Region along with massive expansion of shrimp farms and other aquaculture led to destruction of the mangrove forests along the Gulf of Thailand northern shoreline, including the 4.7-Km. stretch of Bang Khun Thian, the only shoreline in Bangkok. The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority set up a mangrove rehabilitation center, but lack of public commitment, funding and staff, has left the facility in poor condition, with the goal to alleviate the ecological damage unmet. In Bang Khun Thian, the mangrove ecosystem is caught between expansion of the urban area and rising sea levels. The solution is to create a productive mangrove that avoids encroachment by providing an environment that is mutually beneficial to people and nature. As part of the urban infrastructure, it has recreational uses for urban dwellers, while becoming a type of community forest by enabling the mangrove to migrate up shore and enhancing the aim to rehabilitate nature. New routes to explore nature are proposed within the narrow 1.5-kilometer-long site, together with recreational facilities inserted in the forest and along the border, which will be operated by neighboring local residents. Mangrove rehabilitation facilities are sited near the shoreline.
In the initial stage a prototype building is conceived. The structures should be easy to adapt and adjust according to surrounding conditions. A prefabricated modular structure is proposed, allowing for more efficient transportation and reducing on-site work. Selected materials must be environmentally friendly and tolerant of the marine environment. AshCrete is used for footings and stilts to increase strength and durability in a high saline environment. Above the high tide level, locally available Yang Na (Dipterocarpus alatus) timber, highly resistant to marine bores, is the main material. Timber as a raw material is available in various fixed sizes and light in weight. Lastly, galvanized steel is used for other building components such as lamp posts, railings, and floor gratings in areas where easy maintenance is required. To further reduce building weight, aluminum frames for doors and windows and railings with the use of fishing nets are applied throughout the site.
Upon entering Bangkok Waterfront, visitors will arrive at the reception compound, comprised of 5 buildings arranged to avoid cross-circulation. Visitors arriving by an external EV service will disembark at the EV stop, with the information counter to their right. After check-in, visitors can choose to explore the site by EV service, bicycle, or on foot. The new paths connect visitors to the natural surroundings, provide links between buildings, and routes for infrastructure, such as electricity, water supply, and wastewater pipes. The typical design of the walkway allows alterations according to the natural surroundings it meanders through, from 5 angles of turning points to railings that have two typical designs.
The canteen compound, a 60-meter-long group of buildings approximately 150 meters south of the reception area, attached to the site’s western border, is meant to connect neighboring aquatic farm households with the forest. The households would supply food and sell products to visitors from their fish rafts. The compound consists of 8 modest size buildings, sitting on a dike bordering the aquatic farmland. With high risk of subsidence, each building is structurally independent to avoid structural damage. Flexibility of the buildings lie not only in their structure, but also in the spatial arrangements and relation to the surroundings. The grill wall wrapping around the compound can be rearranged, folded to partition the space according to users’ needs.
Another group of buildings intended to connect the mangrove to its neighbors is the observation tower and recreation compound. The compound consists of an observation tower, café, and kayak pier meant to be operated by local residents. The observation tower establishes a more vertical connection with the surroundings, but with the flat wetland and a 12-meter height restriction, a linear observation tower is proposed. From the tower, visitors can experience a constant change of scenery, and observe mangroves from trunk up to their crown through a set of wheelchair-friendly ramps. The structure is made entirely from Yang Na timber, layered with a light façade made from fishing nets and steel frames.
Once visitors approach the shoreline, they will arrive at a group of buildings. To the right is the office compound, situated on an open ground shaded by existing mangroves. To the left is the nursery building divided into 2 parts: the nursery area to the north and the rehabilitation area to the south. The architectural design of the nursery responds to the climate and creates optimal conditions for the seedlings. The building is partitioned along the west side with a grill wall filtering the strong afternoon light. Holes in the roof are placed according to the various functions, to provide enough sunlight for older seedlings. The facility was design to be a catalyst for the rehabilitation of the shoreline, not as a complete object of its own. The forest will slowly grow outwards and occupy the once empty mudflats, and then the Bangkok Waterfront will truly start to take shape.


 Tsinghua University
 School of Architecture

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