A Post-Diluvian Future

While most of the world follows the standard from dust to dust, ashes to ashes cycle, Bangkok prefers something wetter: from water to water. Almost 300 years after rising from the marshy banks of the Chao Phraya, it appears Bangkok will return to its watery origins. A recent UN study estimates that much of the metropolitan area will need to be abandoned by the middle of the century. Bangkok’s population is growing by approximately 100,000 residents per year, just as the city itself is shrinking below sea level 4“ per year. While most cities in this position could simply increase urban density by building up, this would only hasten Bangkok’s subterranean slide. It is the blinding growth of Bangkok’s built environment combined with the over-exhausted aquifers 2 m below the city surface that is causing the city’s physical depression. We are left then with a Post-Diluvian dilemma currently facing many world cities: do we sink or swim, flee or float?

With the city sinking 10 cm below a sea level that is rising by 40 cm annually, the safest place to create new architecture is above water. As it happens, Bangkok is surrounded by fields of water; brackish, polluted water remaining from an oversaturated shrimp farming industry whose very growth precipitated its own demise. Erstwhile shrimp farmers, who can no longer sustain shrimp life in their polluted plots, are currently selling their water-fields to developers who bury the water in housing racts, or to the government, who hopes to restore the once thriving mangrove ecosystem. While the government’s aspirations would yield considerable environmental benefits to the metropolis, they cannot compete with the prices developers would pay for the equivalent water field. Developers, though paying the shrimp farmers slightly more, constitute an entirely negative environmental force by encouraging urban spread and commuting, by stifling the possibility for open space, and by simply burying brown-field environments with expensive flood-susceptible, cold weather foreign architecture.
Each party is thus engaged in a win-lose proposition: suburbs will impair government mangroves, water will submerge suburbs, and shrimp farmers will lose their livelihood. City dwellers, developers, shrimp farmers and the environment all lose more than they gain.

This negative economy of loss occurs because Bangkok is still laboring under a very ante-diluvian mindset where flooding is considered a crisis and not a constant. Bangkok has always been flooded and the latest apocalyptic predictions only suggest that flooding will return with increased consistency. Once the city is submarine, can we even call this phenomenon flooding? Flooding implies a passing phase rather than a fixed environment, and yet, at the current juncture, water is much more predictable than land. In order to initiate a Post-Diluvian perspective that designs for water we must abandon the Metropolis in favor of the Wetropolis, and Architecture in favor of Aquatecture. Towards a Post Diluvian Future will propose a Post-Diluvian prototype community that transforms principles from Thailand

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