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This paper examines preservation of an old and multicultural commercial district of Bangrak, Bangkok through application of ordinary urban heritage, which is an alternative approach, but one which can fill a gap in the heritage conservation process. The dual objectives of this paper are 1. Introducing an alternative lens for considering the heritages of ordinary people in an urban context through the case of Bangrak in Bangkok, Thailand; and 2. Identifying selection criteria of ordinary urban heritages.
Bangrak, the study area, is an old commercial district of inner Bangkok that is characterized by diversity in the different groups who live and work there, their cultures, and their heritages. This paper studied four areas comprising groups whose members originated from China, India-South Asia, Western countries, and Thailand.
The ordinary urban heritages discussed in this paper are outcomes of identifying selection criteria based on the methodology of three processes: (1) theoretical reviews of vernacular heritage, ordinary heritage, and urban heritage, making use of AHD (Authorised Heritage Discourse) to distinguish “official” heritages identified by Thai government agencies, and the ordinary urban heritages of Bangrak. (2) analysis of historical maps, and (3) non-participant observational surveys to verify locations and appearances of ordinary urban heritages identified by the analysis of historical maps.
The selection criteria of ordinary urban heritages of Bangrak are outcomes of five factors: (1) The amount of time the heritage has been present in the area, (2) Heritages of ordinary people, (3) Repetitive appearance or cluster of heritages, (4) Ability to adapt to urbanization, and (5) Present-day existence of heritages in four areas of different cultures.
The ordinary urban heritages identified as the result of selection criteria comprise shophouses, urban patterns of “Trok” (small alleys), and sacred places in the communities. As buildings, shophouses are, per se, ordinary urban heritage from a physical aspect, and they are the centers of the commercial activities of everyday life. “Trok”, or small alleys, have been built by ordinary people, and they help form the particular urban pattern of Bangrak. Small sacred places represent a legacy of the beliefs of different cultures represented through their physical spaces and appearances.
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