Bangkok (1960-1970) / Litchfield Plan: Position
Bangkok’s shift from a canal-based to road-based city began its full-blown transition from King Chulalongkorn’s extensive infrastructural and architectural commissions. This transition continued through a period of nationalism until its consolidation during Americanization. Specifically, the post-war alliance brought funding and technological advise to promote construction of roads, while the rising middle class contributed to popularity of automobiles(Askew). Issues of traffic congestions already became prominent in the 60s and no canal has been built since 1910s; in this respect water has met concrete, and roads have superseded canals long before concepts of modern planning came to play in Bangkok.
The complex urban form is due partly to the contrast of two tectonics, and partly to utter chaos underlying the actors behind Bangkok’s urban morphology. Independent agencies built for their own interests with little administrative intervention; and this chaos was made more complicated with Bangkok’s cultural heritage, fast evolving social hierarchy, and climatic and geographical challenges.
The Great Bangkok Plan 2533 (also known as Litchfield Plan) was the first attempt at a master plan for Bangkok, produced by an American team of planners (Litchfield Whiting Bowen and Associates, Adams Howard and Greely) in 1961. Its relevance within the water-concrete narrative are two fold: first the issues it addressed arose from existing patchworks formed by the land-water duality, for instance slums facing canals and annual flooding caused by inefficient drainage. Secondly it asserted canals and roads both as permanent structural elements of Bangkok within the planning framework – it formulates new road plans and acknowledges the function of canals as “drains for rain water, fire protection, disposal of sewage, and even bathing”.
Marc Askew, 2002, Bangkok: Place, Practice and Representation, Psychology Press, London