Society & Sustainability

The real value of city’s architectural heritage

Following the success of such projects, Asst Prof Asan Suwanarit, Dean of Architecture and Planning Faculty at Thammasat Design School, said the refurbishment of unused properties into public spaces is still not widespread across the country.

Many social, economic, and legal factors discourage the reuse of old buildings in Thailand, he said.

“Unlike in Western countries, where abandoned buildings remain strong and safe, many old buildings in Thailand are not so solid, so most of the time it is cheaper to dismantle them than put them to other uses,” Asst Prof Asan said.

“Some of the buildings also are contaminated with dangerous substances, so it is better to remove them for safety.”

However, as Bangkok still has a large homeless population, he added that without proper assistance measures, they may suffer further difficulties if they have to be forcibly evicted for new projects to begin.

Getting consent from property owners is another major problem, he said, as the owners of privately-owned properties are not obliged to sell. It is much easier if those buildings are state-owned, albeit still a challenging task to reach agreement between agencies.

Another concern is that private sector investment is not always forthcoming even if investments that do not require construction from scratch represent better value.

“Our countries are not so slow to renovate old buildings, but the problem is people do not see value in preserving them or why they should maintain them for other uses like the Scala Movie theatre which has already been demolished.

“Therefore, we need more public education to convince people not only of the beauty but also the value in maintaining our architectural heritage,” he added.

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