The Klong Toey district of Bangkok is a typical Thai slum. Doors are open to the narrow walkways where neighbors hum, marinating in the smells of Thai spices and the Chao Phraya River. The largest and oldest of Bangkok’s slums, Klong Toey is ripe with social problems, chief among them drug use. With troubles amplified by high unemployment rates and sanitation issues, Klong Toey is one of the many communities in South East Asia in need of shared, safe public spaces to aerate dangerous areas.
Today, the Klong Toey Community Lantern serves as a secure space for residents to make, mingle, and move. Five-meter, vertical playpens of wood encase an illuminated football field. Hanging swings adorn climbable walls where kids may watch games on the filed or create their own. But the range of ages that both inhabit the space and that contributed to build it illustrate that the Community Lantern is about more than just play. This space can replace the crowded streets as an intersection for all facets of the community to gather, to work or to relax in a well-lit, sheltered zone. Additionally, the durable design allows the space to adapt as community needs change.
Norwegian architects Yashar Hanstad and Andreas Gjertsen lead TYIN tegnestue Architects , where they design with the community in mind. The Klong Toey Community Lantern project began over six months before breaking ground through workshops, interviews and group discussions with community leaders. From this initial needs assessment, the team learned how to fuse the community’s existing assets with a shared goal: to design a space that may help to inspire positive change. With community partners, they could also ensure that every feature of the space served a purpose specific to the district’s needs. After months of meticulous planning, TYIN tegnestue constructed the Community Lantern in only three weeks, as documented in this short video .
TYIN tegnesture champions this asset-based community development model with projects across the globe, spanning from Thailand to Haiti to Uganda. Dubbing themselves merely facilitators, the design duo engages the community as equal partners to ensure more sustainable, long-term strategies to achieve individual neighborhood goals. TYIN buys material from solely local merchants and connect with resident youths during the construction process. By directly engaging the community in these ways, the architects set a framework for a mutual exchange of knowledge throughout the process.
“The area struggles with drugs and crime amongst other challenges, and we hope this project can be a little contribution that can lead to something positive,” says Yashar of the Community Lantern. With the help of City 2.0 Award, TYIN will expand its work into neighboring slums with more projects designed with specific community needs in mind.