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Benjakitti Forest Park by Turenscape

Deforestation. Habitat loss. Flooding. Air pollution. While the consequences of climate change are global in scope, few places are as acutely affected as Thailand. Across the country, poor air quality takes a major toll on quality of life and is responsible for some 50,000 deaths each year; the economic impact of pollution is estimated at as much as six per cent of the nation’s GDP. And in Bangkok, the high concentration of industry, waste and vehicles amplifies many of the risks. In the city’s core, however, the 42.3-hectare Benjakitti Forest Park now introduces a regenerative “green lung” on the site of a former tobacco factory.

Benjakitti Forest Park by Turenscape
“I love the grittiness and scrappiness of this forest park. For me, it was a playful way to deal with a bothersome condition or challenge. I mean, look at that thing! Crazy.”
Julie Bargmann, AZ Awards 2024 Juror

Designed by Beijing-based Turenscape with local practice Arsomsilp Landscape Studio, the intervention restores the natural swampland that existed here long ago. As the city industrialized, that landscape was drained, the plot almost entirely paved over to accommodate a sprawling tobacco plant. To begin, the firms conducted a careful mediation between natural and industrial heritage, and between this terrain and the surrounding city. They reimagined the shells of existing factory buildings as a museum and sports centre — while maintaining mature trees — and salvaged much of the stone and concrete to create the berms and water filtration layers of a new wetland.

Benjakitti Forest Park by Turenscape

At the heart of the site, hundreds of raised islands (created via cut and fill) emerge like mounds from four ponds, and the entire oasis is topped by a porous elevated network of pedestrian paths. While the wetlands naturally filter polluted water, improve air quality and support a new wildlife habitat, the revived landscape can also hold a million cubic metres of stormwater, significantly mitigating runoff. It also supports diverse (yet low-maintenance) flora and fauna: Some 91 bird species and hundreds of plant varieties have already reclaimed their territory. For people, meanwhile, the verdant landscape is now a popular gathering spot. Completed in just 18 months with a budget of only US$20 per square metre, the metamorphosis is at once radical and modest. Leveraging the site’s industrial history as a wellspring of reinvention, the design team has transformed an expanse of stone and concrete into what it describes as “a biodiverse botanical classroom.”

Team: Kongjian Yu with Dong Wang, Wei Liu, Liang He, Yanjin Bai, Lelai Dai, Defeng Lu, Xiaodong Li, Chang Yang, Xianfeng He, Qiong Zheng, Wenjing Yue, Baiqiang Ren, Jiinyi Hwang, Yujie Liu, Kening Pan and Boxun Yuan; 1st Development Division of the Royal Thai Army; and Kasem Design

Winner: Landscape Architecture
Benjakitti Forest Park: Transforming a Brown Field into an Urban Ecological Sanctuary

Leveraging the site’s industrial history as a wellspring of reinvention, the design team has transformed an expanse of stone and concrete into what it describes as “a biodiverse botanical classroom.”

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