Faculty members of Chula’s Faculty of Education collaborate with academicians from four academic institutions to research the future of “Hua Lamphong” as a creative space to preserve the history and culture linking the old town and the new commercial district, after the railway hub moved to Bang Sue Central Station.
“Hua Lamphong” or Bangkok Railway Station has been an iconic landmark of Bangkok for 105 years since the foundation of the transportation system in Siam during the reign of King Rama V. But from now on, Hua Lamphong will have a new role, when the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) moves almost all train services to Bang Sue Central Station, which will be a major connecting point for the Red Line suburban railroad construction project.
What will the new page of Hua Lamphong’s history be? SRT and Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI) commissioned Chulalongkorn University, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thammasat University, Naresuan University, and Arsom Silp Institute of The Arts to conduct research to determine the future direction of Hua Lamphong in its new century.
Asst. Prof. Dr. Fuang-arun Preededilok, Chair of the Department of Development Education, Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University, and director of planning for the feasibility study “Conservation and Development Project of Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong)” said that the study began in August 2020. Divided into two phases, it focuses on conservation, and area use guidelines while allowing participation from many sectors of the society to determine the future of Hua Lamphong.
“In this study, the people are involved as the “cocreators” as the “users” of the designs, and the “responsible persons” to preserve the public properties that belong to all Thais. This research shows us clearly that the people think “Hua Lamphong Station” belongs to all Thai people,” Asst. Prof. Dr. Fuangarun said.
“Hua Lamphong Station”, the hub that connects old values with the new economy
Asst. Prof. Dr. Fuangarun unveiled the results of Phase 1 research with Asst. Prof. Thip Srisakulchairak, Arsom Silp Institute of The Arts as project leader. Phase 1 research focused on the dimensions of identity values and basic social needs. “The development guidelines were to make Hua Lamphong an economically self-sufficient area and the gateway between Bangkok’s old town such as China Town (Yaowarat), the July 22nd Circle, Talad Noi, etc., and new commercial districts on Rama IV Road,”.
Research results were in line with SRT’s concept to develop the 121 rai (about 48 acres) of land around Hua Lamphong as a “House of Trains” with a railway museum and conservation areas along the train tracks in the form of museums of local cultures, as well as creative village enterprises that integrate with tourist attractions in the old town.
The concept of “Hua Lamphong” as a space for the creative economy of the future
From the Hua Lamphong’s development framework drawn from Phase 1 research, the team continues to explore the forms of use for the station’s buildings and their vicinity to be a tourist attraction and a hub for the creative economy, learning center, and a public space that meets the needs of diverse groups of people. Phase 2 of the project consists of three sub-projects.
1. A Study for Conservation and Development of the Physical Environment of the Hua Lamphong Station
with three proposed uses and benefits:
Type 1. Equal use for public and commercial areas in the same proportion of 30 percent.
Type 2. The largest proportion of 30 percent goes to commercial use, followed by activity space, creative space, and conservation areas in equal proportions of 18 percent.
Type 3. The largest proportion of 40 percent goes to commercial use, followed by activities space, and conservation area in the same proportion of 18 percent.
2. Investment management models and financial feasibility to support the conservation and development of the physical environment in Hua Lamphong
– Asst. Prof. Dr. Fuangarun elaborated that “considering the functions of the buildings and their surroundings, it was found that all three types of proposed uses (according to the research results in Part 1) were acceptable alternatives for the people in the community. But there may need to be some compensation for what the community would lose, e.g. some people may not feel they benefit from using the space for a shopping center.”
3. The study of logistics system to link the Hua Lamphong area
is divided into 2 sub-sections: the system linking the areas within Hua Lamphong, and one linking Hua Lamphong to other places via different modes of transportation such as buses, taxis, BTS, and MRT trains, and boats, with Hua Lamphong as the hub. The study also presented examples of four tour routes of Hua Lamphong and the nearby communities. (Virtual Tour) https://hlpvirtualtour.com.
Various social sectors help paint the portrait of their dreams for Hua Lamphong
Phase 2 research used qualitative and quantitative research (mixed methods) emphasizing public communication to raise awareness of conservation and development of the Hua Lamphong area and to encourage participation from various concerned sectors, namely those who live in the Hua Lamphong area, personnel working in Hua Lamphong, commuters using the services of Hua Lamphong, government agencies, the private sector, the tourism sector, academicians, experts, architects, conservationists, SRT officials, the civil society including various educational institutions,” Asst. Prof. Dr. Fuangarun explained.
The research methodology includes surveys, interviews, various activities, communication, and public forums through a variety of channels such as Facebook Fanpage, Conservation Research, and Development Project of Bangkok Railway Station – Hua Lamphong, Community Walk, seminars, public forums in collaboration with public media such as Thai PBS, The Active and The Cloud. In addition, there were small group discussions of representatives from relevant sectors, opinion surveys via Google Form, public media communication and Chula radio station, and presentation of the tourist route “Hua Lamphong and nearby communities” (HuaLamphong Virtual Tour). Also, an online exhibition was organized to present the findings of the project and the three sub-projects which received over 900 views.
Asst. Prof. Dr. Fuangarun explained the challenges of the research that “it is an integration of different fields of science, i.e., architecture, social sciences, and economics. Moreover, the studies had to be done during the COVID-19 pandemic, so data collection methods and other tasks had to be adjusted according to the situation while striving to meet all research objectives.”
Finally, Asst. Prof. Dr. Fuangarun suggested that the research results can be useful in many aspects.
“SRT and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, which are the agencies directly involved, can apply the research findings to drive their policies, and use them as a framework for development model contest, and for various groups of people involved with Hua Lamphong to understand and recognize the value of its conservation and development, as Hua Lumphong is an area of great value and historical significance in Thailand.”
In addition, SRT, investors, businessmen, entrepreneurs in the area, and the Business Network for Bangkok Society can apply the research findings to investment management and financial feasibility guidelines for joint investment in the Hua Lamphong area, both in tourism management and creative entrepreneurship, as well as for people in the communities around the Hua Lamphong to use the findings to drive the development of surrounding communities.
The interested public can view more content on conservation research and development of the Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong) via the following links:
“Hua Lamphong and Sustainable Development” Exhibition
The contents of the exhibition include
1) The story of the Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong)
2) Study results: Conservation and development framework of Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong)
3) Public Forum, opinions on conservation and development of the Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong) area
4) Design contest results “Conservation and development of the area of Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong)
5) virtual tour – Hua Lamphong tourist route and nearby communities