In evaluating the progress and potential of the Baan Mankong
(Collective Housing) Programme in Bangkok, a clear theme has emerged from the complexity of cases and multiple sites engaged throughout the city: local communities of the urban poor have the proven ability to organise and effectively negotiate for upgraded infrastructure and people-centred housing solutions.The fundamental shift this implies is from a supply-led, centralised system of housing provision to a demand-led, decentralised network of communities effectively empowered to upgrade their own neighbourhoods. Along with this shift comes the idea that more relevant and nuanced solutions grow naturally from individual communities, allowing their unique resources to find expression in incremental upgrading that gains momentum with time. The mere process of overcoming such logistical hurdles as forming savings groups, working with community architects, and pooling creative and material resources further strengthens the capacity to develop at their own pace and on their own terms.
An example of a catalyst intervention within such a community is photographed above in this efficiently designed playground, found in an existing open space. By involving local citizens in its construction and encouraging the reuse of materials, the playground strengthens community ties in both process and product, yielding a high rate of return in a context of scarce resources while highlighting the value of well-considered design. Overall, it becomes apparent that the desire and potential to grow communities out of an impoverished urban realm hinges upon their organisational capacity to find strength in numbers, acquiring agency through integration with the city that surrounds them.