For designing infrastructure that embraces Bangkok’s water, instead of trying to keep it out, Kotchakorn Voraakhom is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2019.
As sea levels rise, Bangkok is simultaneously sinking, making the flat, paved-over megacity vulnerable to flooding when it rains. Instead of building infrastructure to keep stormwater out, local architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom designs parks to capture it. “Getting rid of water is an impossible approach, because we’re a city of water,” she says. The wedge-shaped Chulalongkorn Centennial Park, in central Bangkok, for example, which opened in 2017, can hold 1 million gallons of water. An on-site museum with a sloping green roof directs water through wetlands and into a retention pond at the lowest part of the grounds, which helps prevent nearby blocks from flooding. Another park that Voraakhom designed, which will open this summer on a university campus on the northern edge of the city, features a massive green roof that will not only grow rice and other food for students, but also (in conjunction with other “rain gardens” on campus) capture more than 2.5 million gallons of water. Through a social enterprise called Porous City Network, Voraakhom works with communities throughout Southeast Asia to help find other ways to bring back green space and live with water.