Bangkok (1960-1970) / Litchfield Plan: Context – Planning in 1960s

It became increasingly evident the 60s that Bangkok is rising to become a primate city in Thailand; meanwhile, post-war industrialisation, population explosion, and the inherent structural inefficiency within the city (both spatial and bureaucratic) led to grim problems deteriorating at an alarming rate.  The decade sees both trouble and hope – many attempts were made to understand and alleviate problems such as urban floods, traffic congestions, lack of housing supply (“squatter” areas along the canals).  Cyrus Nim’s report “City Planning in Thailand” on issues of population growth called for urban decentralisation given the population explosion; An Nimmanhaeindr’s article “Solution to the Traffic Problem” followed by the first comprehensive Bangkok Transportation Study by a German team in 1971 proposed solutions to the traffic problem but was implemented half-heartedly by the government under financial constraints and done without zoning plans and proper road hierarchy (Rujopakarn).  Unfortunately these researches impacted little the actual development of Bangkok due to similar reasons as the Litchfield Plan.

There were also progress within the administrative structure – the Ministry of Interior set up the Department of Town and Country Planning in 1962, which aided the amendment and eventual publication of the finalised Litchfield Plan in 1971.  The first National Economic and Social Development Plan was formulated in 1961, followed by the Second in 1967.  Unsurprisingly the ambition for economic might superseded exigencies of urban problems and the two plans ignored issues raised in the aforementioned researches and failed to address land-use problems and instead emphasised economic growth and road infrastructure development.  Vague planning policies and lack of zoning regulations persisted till 1992.

Sternstein’s critique on the dominant methods of planning in the era is that they suffer a shortsightedness and cultural dishonesty; attempts are ‘too much a mimicry of happenings elsewhere: inevitably in arrear of thinking and not dedicated particularly, to discovering what is happening in Bangkok'(Sternstein).  This cultural awareness exist in parallel with government policy as the government passed cultural acts and made conservation efforts to capitalise on the booming tourist industry.

 

Reference

Larry Sternstein, 1971, Planning the Developing Primate City: Bangkok 2000, Australian National University

Wiroj Rujopakarn, 2003, ‘Bangkok Transport System Development: What Went Wrong?’ , Journal of Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies, Vol 5

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