Learning from UCL East to improve Bangkok’s infrastructure

Governor of Bangkok Chadchart Sittipunt led a delegation from Thailand visiting
Governor of Bangkok Chadchart Sittipunt led a delegation from Thailand visiting the Urban Room at UCL East

UCL Urban Room, based at the UCL East campus, welcomed the Governor of Bangkok this week to discuss urbanisation and regeneration in global cities.

Governor Chadchart Sittipunt, who is also a structural engineer, is keen to adopt policies and innovative approaches from across the world to support Bangkok’s development.

He led a delegation from Thailand interested in learning more about how UCL East works with communities and partners to tackle local challenges, through the UCL Urban Laboratory and the new Urban Room.

The group also saw students being taught on the MASc in Global Urbanism - the first urban Masters degree to radically cut across arts, humanities, social sciences and technology studies - and visited a Connected Environments Lab where students from The Bartlett’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis’s MSc Connected Environments work on smart cities.

Governor Chadchart explained his desire to tackle the challenges Bangkok faces, including pollution, flooding, traffic, poverty, urban planning, a lack of green space and preserving Bangkok’s heritage while managing redevelopment.

During his UK visit, the Governor was keen to explore digital and other innovative approaches to urban policy and planning, the regeneration of cities, transportation and tackling climate change and its impacts.

Joining him was Bangkok Deputy Governor and social entrepreneur Sanon Wangsrangboon, who has a particular interest in social development and education, spearheading the Open Bangkok Data Project to identify accident sites and air quality across the city.

The Urban Room is a new space for events, exhibitions, workshops and engagement with local stakeholders, professional audiences, and the wider public in east London. Visitors come together with the academic community to discuss how industry, globalisation and gentrification will shape the area’s future.

It is managed by UCL Urban Laboratory and UCL’s new School for the Creative and Cultural Industries on behalf of four faculties: The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, Social & Historical Sciences, Arts & Humanities and IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society.

Dr Kara Blackmore, Urban Room Curator explained how the facility helps to build relationships with diverse communities, adding: "The Urban Room represents UCL’s commitment to immersive education and to development. It allows students and communities to be part of the exhibition.

"Our current exhibition is focused on Southwark in the 70s and 80s - we take a time and place that’s not familiar and consider what are the challenges people are facing and what are the lessons we can learn from activists?"

UCL’s Urban Laboratory is a world-leading cross-disciplinary centre promoting critical, creative and collaborative inquiry into urgent urban problems. It is based at The Bartlett, UCL’s Faculty of the Built Environment, but collaborates across faculties, supporting the wide network of scholars and practitioners who work on cities at UCL.

It is home to the new MASc in Global Urbanism, giving the opportunity to specialise in urbanism as a challenge-driven, practice-oriented, transdisciplinary field.

Ben Campkin, Professor of Urbanism and Urban History and Academic Lead for UCL East, and Dr Clare Melhuish, Director and Principal Research Fellow, UCL Urban Laboratory, explained Urban Laboratory’s commitment to working with local partners and community-led approaches to urban change. They discussed with the Governor parallels that exist between London and Bangkok, such as the benefits, creativity and challenges of night-time culture and the night-time economy.

Helen Fisher, Director of Operations for the UCL East Campus, explained UCL’s commitment to local communities and its role in the development of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games. She described how the campus aims to benefit communities through collaborative teaching and research and cultural engagement, with UCL East buildings designed as open and welcoming spaces to encourage participation and break down the boundaries of traditional academia.

UCL is the most popular institution for Thai students in the UK, and also has broad engagement in health and medical sciences with institutions in Thailand.

UCL Medical School has a successful partnership with HRH Princess Chulabhorn College of Medical Sciences to design a world-leading, contemporary undergraduate medicine degree programme, drawing on the UCL MBBS curriculum.

Research collaborations with the country include UCL Economics undertaking a study with the Bank of Thailand on the impact of Covid-19 on low-income workers in developing countries.