Forget Ari or Thong Lo – Bangkok’s coolest neighbourhood is Charoenkrung
When the Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC) relocated from Sukhumvit in 2017, it became home to a community of creatives, as well as cafes and bars.
Housed in Bangkok’s Grand Postal Building, the Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC) spans five storeys and across 9,000 sq m. The state-of-the-art facility boasts a library with over 70,000 books dedicated to art and design, a material and design innovation centre with over 8,000 materials, and a comprehensive range of equipment that designers can utilise for prototyping.
Besides its immense variety of research and production resources, the centre also plays host to a plethora of design-related workshops and exhibitions. The most important zone in the building, however, may just be the Creative Space on the topmost floor, which comprises a co-working area and a business centre where staff is on hand to help creatives deal with industry issues and also to connect them with one another.
Impressive as all these facilities are, they aren’t all that the TCDC has brought to Charoenkrung when it moved to the historic district in 2017. It’s also played a central role in rejuvenating the old town by drawing a creative community to it – a group that is steadily growing.
The TCDC was established in 2004 as part of the Thai government’s initiative to transform the nation’s economy. Facing an economic crisis at that time, the government realised that it cannot rely solely on low-cost production and decided to shift its focus to design and encourage innovation among its people.
“Fifteen years ago, when we talked about design or creativity, [the Thais will] think that it is ‘luxury’ work and not ‘related’ to them,” explained the TCDC’s managing director, Apisit Laistrooglai. And that is where the centre came in, showing them how to use design to improve their business and their quality of life.
Now that Thailand has a thriving design industry, the TCDC still has a mission to fulfil – to continue inspiring creative thinking and help the next generation of designers grow. Relocating to Charoenkrung is also a strategic move in seeding the transformation of the old town into a creative district in Bangkok.
“TCDC is just a small part of this creative district, but I think TCDC kind of became a place that unites design people and that’s how we grow the community. I wish everyone, not just designers, can come and experience this kind of community,” said Laistrooglai.
Contemporary art galleries, hip cafes and bars now dot its streets, while young people and creative professionals who came to be immersed in the culture have formed part of the local community. In the two years since the TCDC moved in, Charoenkrung has become one of those rare places in Bangkok that has managed to retain its heritage while transforming into one of the coolest spots within the vibrant Thai capital.
Adapted from the series Remarkable Living. Watch full episodes on CNA, every Sunday at 7pm.