How can architecture help adapt to increasing floods?

7 Mar 2018



Kotchakorn Voraakhom, a Harvard graduate and female landscape architect, experienced the problem of worsening floods as she grew up in Thailand. After completing her architecture graduate studies in the US in 2006, Voraakhom returned to Thailand wanting to offer up her skills to tackle this problem. However, whilst practicing landscape architecture in the public domain, Voraakhom “witnessed the development of many top-down public projects that should, but did not, lead the way towards a sustainable city,” she mentions.


Finding no local answer, Voraakhom founded Porous City Network (PCN) in 2017 aiming to "increase urban resilience and adaptability to confront future climate uncertainty in vulnerable communities in Bangkok and other Southeast Asia Cities," Voraakhom continues. She works to do this by reclaiming urban porosity through a network of public green spaces.



Currently, PCN is working on a project with the Lat Phrao canal community, who live along the banks of one of Bangkok’s main drainage canals. When floods occur in the city, this community of over 4,000 households is worst hit. PCN is working with the government on a $76mn project to rebuild these homes and put up embankments on both sides of the canal to protect the communities, and city, from flooding.







Although these embankments are only a band-aid solution to flooding, PCN is using this project as an opportunity to improve the climate resiliency of these low-income houses, working together with the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI) and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).

PCN entered the Lat Phrao community to listen to their needs, different to traditional infrastructure projects in Bangkok,and has integrated these needs into their architecture designs. Through a human-centered approach, Voraakhom has shown that working with the community to inform flood-resilient designs, running educational events and raising public awareness of environmental issues, the Lat Phrao community can be empowered with a voice, and live safely by the canal in the age of increasing floods.


So far Voraakhom’s work has been recognized with fellowships from Echoing Green, the Asia Foundation, and most recently TED. She has already been planning and working on projects beyond climate resilient housing - including rain gardens, green roofs, permeable parking, urban forests and farms - to address the root causes of increased flooding in her city.



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