Bottom up urbanism

Designing impermanence by Aleksandra Shekutkovska


***Macedonian version bellow

  1. Impermanence is one of the essential doctrines or three marks of existence in Buddhism. The term expresses the Buddhist notion that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is transient, or in a constant state of flux.

Reading through my notes and sketches yesterday I noticed how much I’ve put a spotlight to the notion of informal space creation.

Since 2 weeks now we are working on an architecture competition dealing with a similar context like Bangkok, making me question in repetition how to “allow” enough space for informal space creation, or how to create a wall which will in the same time will be an interface?

It has become my lens in which I tend to dissect the various layers of the city’s palimpsest. I have been looking at it as a mirror with double sides, one that projects the ingenuity of handmade urbanism and the other one which creates a cross-section between city right and city reality.

Barry Bells’ Bangkok Angelic allusions is a book that found me recently. It is somewhere between text, observation and poetry. Pretty much the “sensitivity” to understand the (in)sensitivity cross illusion of Bangkok.

There is a story in it about the famous Thai architect Sithanonchai.

“A famous Thai folk tale, the spirit of quickness and flexibility material manifest: Sithanonchai, a legendary hero, convinced the sovereign of Ayutthaya to challenge the Burmese to a pagoda-building contest, the first to finish becoming the victor. Having agreed to the contest,

The Burmese immediately set about mobilizing a large labor force and brought in large quantities of brick and stone. On the Thai side, aided by only a few people, Sithanonchai, an architect par excellance, very quickly erected a wooden structure, wrapped it in cloth in the agreed shape and size of the pagoda, and duly won the day. “

I find myself believing that this mirror is more like the infinity of mirrors being reflected when two of them are set once against the others. The handmade city creation, possible in millions of variations, creates the sense of the things missing in the city while in the same time being responsive to the given conditions and always aware of its imperemance.

Well, back to the drawing board.

Trying once again to create the wall that will be as weightless as the cloth made pagoda and in the same time with mirror impermanence. 


  1. Непостојаноста е една од есенцијалните доктрини или трите принципи на постоење во Будизмот. Терминот го искажува будистичкиот поим дека сите постоења, без исклучок се транзиторни и во константнa состојба на премин.

Вчера, прелистувајќи ги белешките и скиците постојано налетував на клучните зборови неформално создавање на простор.

Веќе две недели работиме на конкурс којшто е со сличен контекст како Бангкок, оставајќи ме постојано со истото прашање како да дозволиме доволно простор за неформално создавање на простор или како да се создаде ѕид којшто истовремено би бил и меѓуврска?

Го користам како леќа низ којашто ја набљудувам слоевитоста на градскиот палимпсест. Ми наликува на огледало коешто има две страни, една која ја прикажува генијалноста на рачниот урбанизам и другата којашто создава пресек помеѓу правото на град и градската реалност.

Многу скоро ме најде книгата на Бери Бел “Бангкок-ангелски алузии”. Текстот е помеѓу поезија, истражување и набљудување, сосема соодветнa сензитивност за разбирање на симбиозата илузија-(не)сензитивност на Бангкок.

Во нејзе пронајдов приказна за познатиот Таи архитект Sithanonchai.

“Позната Таи народна приказна, за духот на брзината и манифест за флексибилноста на градежниот материјал : Ситанончаи, легендарен херој ги убедил властите на Аутхаја да ги предзвикаат Бурманците да организираат конкурс да изградат пагода, првиот што ќе заврши да биде прогласен за победник. Откако се согласиле да го организираат конкурсот ,

Бурманците веднаш мобилизирале голема работна сила и носеле големи количини на цигли и камења. На Таи страната, подржани од само неколкумина, Ситанончаи, архитект пар екселанс, многу брзо поставил дрвена конструкција, ја завиткал во ткаенина, одговарајќи на соодветната големина и форма на пагодата и прописно “извојувал” победа.”

Кога мислам на огледалото се повеќе мислам дека е со оној ефект на бесконечност кога две огледала ќе се стават едно наспроти другото. Рачно изработениот град, со бесконечно многу варијанти, не тера да мислиме на него со восхит, наспроти тоа што искажува недостатоци на градот, истовремено егзистирајќи со доверлив одговор на условите и свесност за сопствената краткотрајност.

Повторно размислувајќи за нашиот концепт.

Обидувајќи се да проектираме ѕид кој ќе биде со доволна леснотија како пагодата направена од ткаенина и во исто време со огледална непостојаност. 

On place making : the (in)visible high heel repair shop by Aleksandra Shekutkovska



As an architect and urban designer I have been perpetually interested in defining, rethinking, distinguishing and connecting the concepts of SPACE and PLACE.

Place argues J.Nicholas Entrikin in “The betweens of space”, are locales at which experience can “take place” and which at the same time can be experienced-space and experience are fused so that they produce places that are characterized by “wholeness” or “individuality” and thus becoming particularly meaningful.

Yi Fu Tuan is frequently quoted that

“place is space to which meaning has been ascribed. Space is transformed into place as it acquires definition and meaning”.

Living in Bangkok and experiencing on a daily basis the spontaneous and frequent process of PLACE ( SPACE) MAKING and “shifting” from SPACE to PLACE and vise versa, I have become attracted and addicted to trying to understand the layers behind it, the way, the what, the why, the where-the PLACE ( SPACE) making is created and by whom.

Yesterday, somewhere near SIAM square, I got encountered to a very specific and for me unique PLACE MAKER and PLACE MADE- the informal workshop for shoe repairment.

The space that she chose to “occupy” was under the stairs from the elevated pedestrian walk, a place which is usually considered as dead, non-functional, unused space.

Layer 1: Transforming Non-functional space to functional PLACE (physical inhabitation)

Second thing was that she brought a whole new meaning of the space around it by offering the service at this place.

Layer 2: Creation of place by giving meaning to space

An approximate 4-5 women were waiting to get their shoes repaired, all carrying small bags with shoes which could have been a sign that this PLACE happens frequently.

Layer 3: Attraction of people by offering the service

Since there were only women who were waiting to get their high heels repaired the process of place making involved targeting calling out a specific group of people at a specific place for a specific service.

Layer 4: Place, targeting and specific service

Layer 5 ***: The “physical boundaries” of the chosen space became the invisible walls of the “shop” for shoe repairing . There was also a chair where the woman could sit down and wait while she got her shoes repaired.

The place that she chose was not particularly significant before. It was not on the pedestrian walk where people are passing by, it was not near the BTS entrances and exits, and it acquired meaning and value because she assigned it, using the public as actors to further define the place creation.

There is a thought by Doreen Massey who explored the double articulation and the opposition between place and space I really experienced by “finding this example” :

 we should think of place “not as an inward looking enclosure but as simply a subset of the interactions which constitute space, a local articulation with the wider whole”. 

Како архитект и урбан дизајнер постојано истражувам за дефинирањето, размислувањето, разликувањето и побврзаувањето на концептите за ПРОСТОР и МЕСТО.

Место вели Џ. Николас Ентрикин во “ Двојноста на просторот”, се локалности во коишто може да се случи искуство и истовремено може да се искуси, просторот и искуството се соединуваат за да продуцираат места коишто се карактеризирани со целовитост или индивидуалност и на тој начин стануваат специфично значајни.

Ѕи Фу Туан е честопати цитиран “ место е простор во коешто е впишано значење. Просторот е трансформиран во место како што добива дефинираност и значење”.

Живеејќи во Бангкок и искусувајќи ги дневно спонтаните и чести процеси на МЕСТО ( ПРОСТОР) СОЗДАВАЊЕ и премостување од ПРОСТОР во МЕСТО и обратно, останав повикана пробувајќи да ги разберам сите обвивки позади процесот, начинот, како, зошто и каде е содзавањето ма МЕСТОТО ( ПРОСТОРОТ) и од кого.

Вчера, некаде во близина на СИАМ, се сртенав со еден за мене многу специфичен пример на МЕСТО СОЗДАВАЧ и СОЗДАДЕН ПРОСТОР- неформалната работилница за поправка на чевли.

Просторот којшто чевларката решила да го насели беше под  скалишниот простор на подигнатата пешачка патека, место коешто вообичаено е мртов простор, не функционален и неупотреблив.

Слоевитост 1 Трансформирање на Не-функционалниот простор во фунцкионално МЕСТО ( физичко населување)

Вториот аспект беше дека му даде сосема ново значење на просторот преку услугата на поправање на чевли и го претвори во МЕСТО.

Слоевитос 2 : Создавање на МЕСТО преку давање на значење на просторот

Околу 4-5 девојки чекаа да ги поправат сопствените чевли, сите носејќи ќеси со чевли, што можеби претставуваше знак дека ова МЕСТО се случува честопати.

Слоевитост 3 Привлекување на луѓе преку услуга

Бидејќи само девојќи стоеа во редицата, ова МЕСТО повикува на одредена специфична услуга и на специфична група на луѓе.

Слоевитост 4 Место и таргетинг

Слоевитост 5 Физичките граници на прсторот под скалишните комуникации стануваат невидливиот излог, невидливите ѕидови на чевларската работилница

Просторот којшто таа го избрала немал особено значење и функција претходно. Не е простор којшто се наоѓа на пешачката патека, не е во близина на влезовите и излезите на BTS, станува МЕСТО заради значењето и вредноста што таа му ја дава, додавајќи ја и публиката за додефинирање на значењето на местото. Дореен Массеј којaшто ја истражува дијалектиката и разликите помеѓу концептите на простор и место во Двојна артикулација вели дека треба да се размислува за местото како

“ не нешто коешто е затвора кон внатре, туку едноставно како збир на интеракциите коишто создаваат простор, локална артикулација со пошироката целина”.

Tokyo/Bangkok/Singapore: Intensities, Reuse and Creative Milieu Reviewed by Supitcha Tovivich (Faculty of Architecture, Silpakorn University) by Aleksandra Shekutkovska


originaly posted on:

Tovivich on Boontharm, 'Tokyo/Bangkok/Singapore: Intensities, Reuse and Creative Milieu'

Davisi Boontharm. Tokyo/Bangkok/Singapore: Intensities, Reuse and Creative Milieu. Tokyo: International Keio Institute and Flick Studio, 2012. 135 pp. n.p. (paper), ISBN 978-4-904894-05-7.

Reviewed by Supitcha Tovivich (Faculty of Architecture, Silpakorn University)
Published on H-Urban (October, 2014)
Commissioned by Heide Imai

When planning and designing a lively and creative milieu, maintaining balance between control and spontaneity is challenging. On the one hand, designers need to define and determine certain behaviors, activities, and standards. On the other hand, appropriate design should support spontaneous growth and adaptation of users through different times. Within debates in the postmodernist era, perceiving planning and design as control seems outdated and ineffective. Current debates focus significantly on the extent to which design can embrace changes, flexibility, and adaptability, while encompassing great respect for the capacity and creativity of local communities (both designer and non-designer citizen). Davisi Boontharm’s book Tokyo/Bangkok/Singapore: Intensities, Reuse and Creative Milieu is a great example that illustrates well how “urban requalification” precincts in three cities in Asia--Tokyo, Bangkok, and Singapore--can support bottom-up and emergent inventive ideas within their existing, established milieus.

This book developed from Boontharm’s interest in the sociocultural context of sustainable urban regeneration with an emphasis on four overlapping themes: reuse, creativity, consumption, and place. Following the urbanist Charles Landry’s definition, “creative milieu,” as stated in the book The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators (2000), includes ordinary streets and the banality of everyday life of urban creativity which is non-institutional, abstract, and non-measurable. Boontharm argues that “local creative precincts will prove to be strong enough to withstand the spread of generic commercial spaces and generate value, which will reach far beyond that of their commercial activity” (p. 7). Her research questions are based on three dimensions: resource, activities, and cultures. First, what is the capacity of the existing building stock to accommodate and express local creativity? Second, what role do local creative practices (groups and individuals) play in requalification of the existing building stock? Third, how does the cultural difference get expressed through the new environments that evolve from creative use of the existing building stock?

The book is divided into three main parts. In the the first part, the introduction, Boontharm presents the significance of her research and her hypothesis; asks pertinent questions; and introduces the conceptual framework of the term “urban requalification,” with an emphasis on the resource approach to the building stock, urban regeneration, reuse culture and discourse on value, theories of creativity and value, theories of the dialectics of creativity and consumption, and theories of place and place making. In the second part, Boontharm examines case studies from three Asian cities--Tokyo, Bangkok, and Singapore--that illustrate how physical reality of the creative milieu phenomena in different contexts can be examined. The final part offers further discussion and a conclusion.

For her Tokyo case study, Boontharm explores three areas of the city: Harajuku, Daikanyama/Nakameguro, and Shimokitazawa. In this section, she highlights the differences between two categories of places--the omote (front) and ura (back). She describes the omote phenomenon as the main streets of Harajuku--Omotesando, Meiji Dori, and Aoyama Dori--on which flagship stores of major global fashion brands are located. The ura or the hidden side of Harajuku, which is the core of Boontharm’s research, includes Urahara, Onden Shotengai, Cat Street, and Aosando. These streets “are marked by successful requalification of small-scale old spaces into new, ever-changing uses and activities” (p. 33). She uses Urahara as an example of “commeresidence,” houses that were built for residential use and were subsequently transformed into shops. It is important to mention that Boontharm highlights the tensions between the (perhaps short-lived) creativity milieu of Urahara and radical consumerism. Daikanyama/Nakameguro is also an example of the transformation of old blocks of apartments into authentic, small-scale, and upcoming creative shopping. Finally, Shimokitazawa shows how local governance can be empowered, self-aware, and resilient to a top-down government project. At the same time, Boontharm questions the extent to which a strong community base can halt gentrification in the long term.

In her discussion of Bangkok, she explores Chatuchak Weekend Market and Siam Square. Chatuchak Weekend Market was built as a temporary structure in 1982 because of the relocation of an old Sanamluang market, and transformed to be the biggest weekend market in Thailand. The thirty years of the market’s existence has enabled reuse, recycling, and requalification. Boontharm examines creative space use in tiny spaces, the gabs between stalls and open spaces, and ad-hoc activities on a pedestrian promenade. Siam Square is a long-standing example of reusing and recycling shop houses. Upper levels are used, independently from the ground floor, for commercial activities. The variety of activities that take place there is immense. Both cases illustrate that Bangkok has its strength in spontaneity and bottom-up responses.

Haji Lane and Wessex Estate are the focus of her Singapore case study. “Unlike Tokyo and Bangkok where creativity flourishes randomly and spontaneously, mostly initiated by the locals, Singapore dedicates and plans on certain precincts being creative” (pp. 104-105). Haji Lane was once a narrow back lane that became a fashionable spot in Singapore which supports youth subcultures. It is a rare example of bottom-up freedom in Singapore. Boontharm observes different uses during the day and night. She states that “all that is possible in Haji Lane [is] because its buildings were not at the core of the conservation zone. Businesses situated on the Lane use the lack of restrictions as a license to freely reuse, recycle and reinvent the milieu of Kampong Glam, and let Haji Lane develop on its own accord” (p. 115). On the contrary, Wessex Estate is listed as a heritage site and was designed to be an art studio for “the creative class,” which incorporates artists, designers, and architects. Boontharm maintains that the estate can be defined as luxury, segregation, exclusion, elitism, and domination of foreigners over local creative people. Thus, she argues that it does not fit her definition of reuse and recycling and does not contribute to the creative milieu or the requalification of the precinct. Wessex Estate shows that the creative class alone can generate a creative precinct, as the key to successful creative milieu is in blurring the division between the “creative” and the “not-creative” actors in urban space.

In conclusion, Boontharm notes that “urban requalification precincts are the ones which value and support emergent inventive ideas within its existing, established milieu.... The lessons from Tokyo, from Bangkok and from Haji Lane in Singapore demonstrate how established places provide solid ground and contexts for creativity to flourish.... In Tokyo ordinary buildings and non-self-conscious approaches to reuse and recycling of their parts and elements acquire sign value which translate into an atmosphere of the whole milieu. In Singapore, such awareness is carefully guarded at the level of urban authority, while in Bangkok it emanates from the demands of market forces or institutional regulations” (pp. 128-129). Boontharm summarizes her findings by referring to Nan Ellin’s book, Postmodern Urbanism (1996): good urbanism is always a balance of control and freedom. She emphasizes the importance of local and bottom-up creativity in our banal and mundane everyday lives.

The book offers insight into the reuse, recycling, and requalification of existing old buildings in relation to the creative milieu. The three case studies illustrate well the diverse character of the creative precinct. The book will be helpful for discussions in contemporary urban design and architecture, especially in Asian cities where local contexts and creativity are often ignored by designers, architects, and planners.

Sidewalk as a scenery by Aleksandra Shekutkovska


Coming from Macedonia, I was always able to attach new meanings and functions to the SIDEWALK as an element of the city planning, apart from it just being a pedestrian pathway. In Bangkok the sidewalk has grown on me, it is becoming one of my favorite places to visit and explore. I perceive it and experience it constantly as a SCENERY “ready” to be inhabited by the CEO’s of the informal economy.

Street vendors create the organic social structure of Bangkok. In fact, they are almost everywhere. When I go with the van in the morning to the university I see them next to the bus station selling various kinds of food and snacks, refreshments, pieces of fruits, small packages with food. What triggers me the most is the way how a certain TERRITORY is being TRANSFORMED, or how suddenly a PLACE is created by them. There are many different forms, some of them have the “tradition” of appearing at the same spot every day, some of them appear suddenly and out of nowhere ready to create a PLACE on the sidewalk and there are some of them like the ones in Khao San Road where the SIDEWALKS are the new STREET.

In the last ones, the vendor owners create an intensive new organic and physical tissue on the sidewalk, one that guides movement and experience. They mold the physical boundaries: the passage ways, entrances, exits, create the whole storyboard of movement, as well as creating a colorful story on clothes, food, jewelry, beauty parlors, massage studios... The SIDEWALK becomes both the SCENERY and the STREET. More to come on this topic soon..


Доаѓајќи од Македонија, отсекогаш можев да разберам поинакви значења и функции поврзани со тротоарите како еден од најзначајните елементи на урбанистичкото планирање, настрана од тоа дека во суштина треба да претставува пешачка патека. Во Бангкок тротоарот ми станува еден од омилените места за посетување и истражување. Го доживувам постојано како СЦЕНА подготвена да биде населена со водачите на неформалната економија.

Уличните продавачи ја создаваат органската социјална структура на Банког. Тие се појавуваат насекаде. Наутро додека патувам до универзитетот, ги забележувам на автобуската станица како ги пречекуваат патниците продавајќи им различни видови на храна и ужинки, освежителни пијалоци, мали пакувања на свежо овошје и храна. Она што ме привлекува е како тие ТРАНСФОРМИРААТ ТЕРИТОРИИ, како одредено МЕСТО наеднаш е создадено од нив. Постојат многу форми и облици во коишто се појавуваат, некои од нив имаат “традиција” да се појавуваат секој ден на истото место, некои од нив се појавуваат спонтано и создаваат МЕСТО на тротоарот и има такви како оние што се на Khao San Road кадешто тротоарите се новата улица.

Во овие последните, сопствениците на тезгите создаваат интензивно ново органско и физичко ткиво на тротоарот, коешто дава патоказ на движењето и искуството. Тие ги моделираат физичките граници : премините, влезовите и излезите, го создаваат целосниот сториборд на движење, истовремено правејќи разнобојна приказна за купување храна, облека, накит, козметички салони, студија за масажа...ТРОТОАРОТ истовремено станува и СЦЕНА и УЛИЦА.