Things Must Change
A turning point came in 2011, when Thailand endured its worst floods in half a century, which left more than 800 dead nationwide with hundreds of thousands displaced. Bangkok, built on once-marshy land and surrounded by natural waterways, was hard hit.
Then came the World Bank warning that 40 percent of it would be inundated by 2030.
It was clear then things needed to change, says Voraakhom, who grew up in the capital and says air quality has deteriorated rapidly, as has food quality and security because of the heavy use of pesticides.
In 2018, she created Asia’s largest rooftop farm, which mimics the region’s famed rice terraces where run-off travels down layers of crops, conserving both water and soil. Winding around the 22,400 square-metre (241,111 square feet) rooftop is a jogging path and a lawn.
Later this year she will unveil plans to transform a vast, unused bridge crossing the Chao Phraya river into a park with bicycle lanes, bringing more green space to a place with precious little of it.
“If you just do a normal building, it’s just going to be the same. It’s just another building. But if you create (something new), you actually could touch and change their way of living, their way of eating, their way of understanding of sustainability.”
Kotchakorn has even greater ambitions for the city she grew up in — she wants to “reclaim” the more than 1,000 canals that snake through Bangkok that are currently used for sewage.
“Canals have so much life, so much potential to be public green space and a skeleton of the whole city,” she explains.
Hailing her late mother as her inspiration, and her 11-year-old daughter as her motivation, she hopes her work will solve problems for generations to come.
She says: “Being a mother is really helping to push me to create hope and solutions for the next generation. You see that the things you build will last after your life.”
PHOTOS BY LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/afp