parque Centenario de la Universidad de Chulalongkorn
parc centenari de la universitat de Chulalongkorn
Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park
As our constantly-fluctuating climate causes rising sea levels, storm surges, and unexpectedly heavy rainfall, low-lying cities across the globe are bracing for urban flood disaster. As concrete infrastructure multiplies, Bangkok is sinking two centimeters every year.
For the first time in 30 years of rapid urban development, an invaluable property at the heart of Bangkok—11 acres of land and 1.3 kilometers avenue — was not turned into commercial use. Instead, it is transformed into a public park. Opened in 2017, Chulalongkorn Centenary Park is the first critical piece of green infrastructure in Bangkok to mitigate detrimental ecological issues and reduce urban flood disaster risk.
Bangkok is a flat city. By harnessing the power of gravity, the park is able to sustainably collect, treat and hold water to reduce flood risks in its surrounding areas. Sitting on a 3-degree gradual incline, the park is equipped with several ecological components— the green roof, wetlands, detention lawns, and retention pond--leaving not a single drop of rain wasted. The runoff is pulled down through the park‘s terrain to generate a on-site water management. Taking into account a 50-year return period precipitation intensity, the park can hold up to a million gallons of water. It shows the city ways to live with water, rather than fear it.
While playing a role in confronting climate risk, the park simultaneously serves as a recreational spaces for the university community, and urban dwellers. Bangkok thirsts for more parks, but more importantly, a productive one that can help city confront climate uncertainty. A single park can’t control flooding across an entire city, but this is the first step, a big, bold one. The park gives us a spark of aspiration in how to handle our threatening future while allowing room for newfound landscape architecture potential to emerge. As new challenges present, we can only see new opportunities sprung up to make a difference and save our sinking home.
On the park’s highest point, anyone can see Bangkok’s skyline--not on an expensive rooftop bar or a skyscraper helipad, but atop the biggest green roof in Thailand covering 5,200 sq.m., where a rare sight open skies and green grass is free to all. Laid with low-maintenance native grass and weeds which attract local birds and insects, the roof provides a unique experience of a rural and natural environment with a dense urban backdrop.
-Underneath the green roof lies a museum and parking space, possibly due to the park’s inclined architecture. Additionally, three underground tanks store rainwater absorbed from the green roof. The amount of water it holds can irrigate the park for up to a month, during dry seasons.
-Excessive runoff from the green roof then flows through to four constructed wetlands, two on each side of the park. A series of cascading weirs and ponds slow down the runoff and increase water aeration, aided by native water plants which help filter and clean the water. In a concrete jungle like Bangkok, the park provides a hidden oasis where kids and adults can explore and interact with wetlands and the sound of flowing water once again.
-On good weather days, the main lawn at the center is a vast inclined open space for recreational activities, serving as a big multi-purpose amphitheater for public events. As for stormier days, the lawn absorbs rain and runoff, gravitating it and sending it down to the retention pond by the low end of the park. During severe flooding, this retention pond can store excessive water and double in size by expanding into the park’s main lawn.
-Visitors, too, can become an active part of the park’s water treatment system by hopping onto any stationary water bikes along the pond, using their exercise to keep water aerated.
-Adjacent to the main lawn is eight “landscape outdoor classrooms”, each with different biomes and layouts, lining both sides of the park to serve as diverse multi-purpose areas, including an herb garden, meditation area, reading room, bamboo garden, playgrounds, and earth amphitheater. Whether in the choice of porous components or locally-sourced materials, these outdoor classrooms pay great attention to detail to best complement the park’s main ecological features.
-Following the planting concept of growing urban forests, 300 varieties of plants and trees have been grown either from seed or as young seedlings which easily adapt to the climate changes, recreate a healthy ecosystem and provide a home for local birds, pollinators and insects.
-The first green avenue made for the people, the first of its kind in Bangkok, the 1.3-kilometer road running perpendicular to the park was revamped to shift priority from cars over to foot and bicycles. By reducing four vehicle lanes into two and enlarging them each from 12 to 30 meters, the once heavily-congested street now seamlessly connects pedestrians and cyclists directly to surrounding neighborhoods and roadways linked to the city’s major residential, entertainment and retail facilities. Also lined with corridors of rain gardens on both side to provide shade and reduce runoff from the road surface, the park shows Bangkok the possibility of a pedestrian-friendly, yet commercially-developed area.