14th December 2014 is the final day for Chiang Mai Design Week under the auspices of the TCDC ( Thailand Creative Design Center, part of the Prime Minister’s office), events and displays having commenced on the 6th .
This may come a surprise to many Thai folk who cannot read English, as the many signs around town advertising the event are all in English. As for the residents of this multi-cultural city those who can, they might have expected the week to feature visiting presenters from ASEAN and wider afield.
On 12th an event advertised as “Creative Dialogue” was held between 4 and 7 pm. I went knowing only that I wanted to hear one of the nine speakers, who lucky for me turned out to be the first. No program was on hand so I did not know what to expect in the three hour session, except dialogue. All the talks were given in Thai and simultaneous translation was given by a headset, but apart from myself I could see no other foreign faces in the packed to over flowing auditorium.After 70 minutes with 4 very interesting presentations by imaginative and inspiring folk all of whom were from Thailand and working here I decided to depart.
Why did I leave early? Because I felt somewhat like the folk in the above protest photo taken from the Bangkok Post. No the police were not breathing down my neck but no time had been given for dialogue, neither among the speakers, nor with the audience.
Maybe in my case this was a good thing as when the first speaker told us how the use of earth and vegetation to protect riverbanks is far more effective and far less costly than the present unabated building of concrete walls along the Ping River, I might have been moved to chip in with a comment critical of the government. Similarly I was saved the task of correcting one speaker who mistakenly said that roadside vegetation reduces noise problems or the comment that Yang Na is a native tree in Chiang Mai, while all the evidence suggests otherwise.
I feel sad for the other attendees though, who must have had questions they could not raise in a timely manner, and those who went away with misinformation or the impression that dialogue means passively listening.
I suggest TCDC consider these criticisms and develop a more consultative and participatory approach to their work.
They have built an impressive resource center with a spacious large library with a wonderful collection of titles, almost all in English. To use the library one must pay an annual subscription which Chiang Mai’s many design professionals will find a good investment.
The library and meeting room is situated in the grounds of the Lanna Ladies Club which is at the corner of the road from the moat to the White Chedi, just east of the President Hotel.
These pictures show:
1. the Ladies Club lawn looking south, lovely to play lawn bowls if they can stand the heat of the sun.
2. The TCDC building with the library on the top floor.
3. The priority given to electric wires over an old tree, cut to suit. Rather than placing the wires underground, beginning from the road, they have been extended some 20 metres ontot the TCDC land and then placed underground to travel a short distance beneath the car park where trees for shade are not planted.
4. Trees – all showy Lagerstroemias have been planted along the adjacent foot path where wires are not an issue. Had the designer read Dr Preecha Ongprasert’s doctoral thesis on the street trees of Chiang Mai, this is the last genus they would have planted. Many straight growing local species including evergreen trees would be preferable.
Judging from the excellent turnout at Friday’s event Chiang Mai Design Week must be regarded as a success in providing opportunities for networking among professionals.
Next year the organisers might like to consider how they can make a contribution beneficial to the great majority of Chiang Mai folk including the many who will likely gain no benefit from the kind of high end design displayed this year.
Adjacent to TCDC is the Provincial Electoral Office, now turned into a display venue, and behind that a few ancient trees and pond. Rubbish is all around, but a clean up by a group of volunteers like iServe could turn this into a delightful mini park away from the grime and hustle and bustle and stench of the Mueng Mai market.