Blueprint for forests in urban living
The Forestias is one of the largest property development projects in Thailand. The highlight of this project by Foster + Partners is a 48,000 m² urban forest designed by TK Studio.
Can nature and the experience of nature be cast in an “urbanized” mould? Bangkok-based TK Studio is striving to create ideal environments that encapsulate the “happiness of living in an urban forest”.
It seems these landscape architects have defined urban planning and development as being closely linked to personal happiness. And they believe that the success of a project has nothing to do with chance.
TK Studio is responsible for the “forest design” in The Forestias near Bangkok. The new neighbourhood itself was designed by none other than architecture firm Foster + Partners. And it is their architects who are enabling an urban forest here.
The company founded by Norman Foster is one of the best-known architecture studios in the world. It designs such sensational tourism projects as the Coral Bloom in Saudi-Arabia as well as multifaceted residential complexes and master plans like those for the Ellinikon in Greece.
A holistic district for healthy and sustainable living
The Forestias is one of the largest property development projects in Thailand. The vision behind it: intergenerational and communal living in a wooded oasis on the outskirts of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. It is a neighbourhood that is intended to help bridge the country’s “growing disconnect between contemporary city life and family traditions”.
Foster + Partners developed a master plan based on the principles of a smart city with autonomous vehicles, smart metres and sensor networks. The project also aims to create a blueprint for healthier and happier living in the city – in other words, urban living with a forest.
Housing, neighbourhood and environmental design
Its site is divided into two zones. The northern zone contains commercial and public amenities – with offices, retail spaces and food stores as well as entertainment, cultural and sports facilities. The larger southern zone is primarily for residential buildings. Inspired by the bustling streets in the traditional neighbourhoods of Thailand’s cities, the goal is to create an “expandable pattern” of buildings and social spaces.
According to the local office of F&P Thailand, traditionally strong intergenerational ties are being strained due to the demands of urban life. The younger generation moves to the city for work while the children and older members of the family remain “at home” (in more rural areas).
The master plan for The Forestias is based on the arrangement of traditional Thai houses. Inspired by this, the architects produced a contemporary interpretation in the form of flexible communal spaces, focused on health and nature, that can extend and adapt as the family’s requirements grow.
Many different types of housing
The types of housing in the south include large villas as well as modern, design-oriented high-rises with condominiums (“Whizdom”) and “cluster-home residences” – groups of interconnected apartments that support living together (“Mulberry Grove”). Housing for elderly people has also been included, with services tailored to the users (“The Aspen Tree”).
The location of this wooded urban quarter means that residents are connected not only to the city, but also to the “rest of the world” thanks to its proximity to Suvarnabhumi Airport, says Thai developer Magnolia Quality Development Corp. Ltd. (MQDC).
The Forestias is situated within the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) – a zone which is the recipient of Thailand’s most important infrastructure investments for the near future.
Modern jungle as the centrepiece
The real star of the project is the 48,000 m² forest at the centre of The Forestias. This urban forest connects all elements within the site. Smaller planted areas and green spaces throughout the settlement enable residents to feel like they are escaping to an oasis. The forest is intended to contribute to the well-being and health of the residents – in short, to boost their happiness.
The “modern jungle” also provides a habitat for more than 500 plant and animal species. It is divided into four different sections: from a quiet garden to the edge of a dense forest.
A Miyawaki eco forest
The forest follows the principles of the Miyawaki eco forest. This technique, the brainchild of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, is based on creating native, dense forests in a very small space – about the size of a few parking spaces – in an effective, intelligent and sustainable way.
An average forest needs a few centuries to grow. Using Miyawaki’s method, it is supposed to be possible for a person to watch a mini-forest develop into a lush jungle almost in their back yard within their lifetime.
Forest pavilion: a learning centre
In the middle of this urban forest is the forest pavilion, the future “The Forestias Ecosystem Learning Center”. Here, people can learn a lot about the forest ecosystem. The pavilion is also the gateway to the extensive forest zone in The Forestias. Its greenery can be seen from every corner of the forest pavilion.
One aim of the TK Studio landscape architects was to strike a balance between human activity and a thriving forest. The footpath and the “Skywalk” were designed to invite people to spend time outdoors to enjoy the natural environment with its tranquil, picturesque landscape.
Text: Linda Benkö
Photos/Renderings: Foster + Partners, v2com (Rungkit Charoenwat, Weerapol Singnoi), Lamda Development