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OPX, London - opx.co.uk
The October 2011 issue of Journal FES, the Florida Engineering Society’s monthly magazine, featured ONE as a prime example of innovation.
For centuries, rivers have been a source of livelihood for civilizations. Today, many of these natural resources have been impacted by years of industrialization and lack of social and physical infrastructure. The mismanagement of water resources and waterfronts has reached a critical point where communities have lost much of the value rivers used to bring to the people. This is particularly true in Asia — home to some of the most polluted rivers in the world. To help address these issues, AECOM has been working with the governments of Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok to develop innovative waterfront regeneration schemes that will help transform the river corridor and greater urban fabric of these two vibrant Asian capitals.
“As cities start to spread out and move away from rivers, utilizing waterways for flood control, storm water, sewage flushing or alignment of major infrastructure such as expressways, rail lines and utility pipes has become increasingly popular,” explains AECOM’s Scott Dunn, regional managing director, Planning, Design + Development, Southeast Asia. “Given the dire state of many urban rivers, local authorities are realizing that dramatic intervention is required to bring back the tremendous opportunities that once existed — by reconnecting cities with a waterfront.”
The Chao Phraya River
Stretching 231 miles (372 kilometers) in length, the Chao Phraya River is Thailand’s principal river and has served as its main transportation and communication route since the 1700s. While it is still an important waterway for transport and remains one of Bangkok’s major tourist attractions, the river is polluted, highly vulnerable to flooding, and, sadly, no longer relates to the city’s present urban structure.
“The Chao Phraya River faces one of the most unique challenges among urban waterfronts,” says AECOM’s Brian Jan, regional director of master planning, Southeast Asia. “The history of the city’s settlement and land ownership policies has left the riverfront nearly completely void of any sort of meaningful public realm, resulting in one of the most underutilized waterfronts along one of the most active waterways.”
The need to reconnect the river with the city and its people has been acknowledged by authorities, and major waterfront revitilization initiatives such as “Creative Chao Phraya” have been developed to help re-establish a harmonious dialogue between the Chao Phraya River and Bangkok’s nine-million residents. As part of the Creative Chao Phraya initiative, AECOM provided a pro-bono study through its annual Bootcamp in Asia event to help transform Bangkok’s riverfront and surroundings into a creative corridor.
The initiative, launched by the Government of Thailand, will promote and develop cultural tourism by beautifying the riverbanks of the Chao Phraya River and providing opportunities for creative programs along its riverfront. With the task at hand, the 54 bootcamp participants split up into six teams and each team was assigned a different site along the river, each with its own set of challenges and opportunities. After a week of mentorship, lectures, critical reviews and utter hard work, the teams presented their development strategies and designs to a panel of professors from local universities, government representatives from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), and stakeholders at TCC Land Company Limited (TCC) — our client and co-sponsor for the event.
“Both BMA and TCC have been very pleased with the outcome of the bootcamp. This has been a tremendous opportunity for AECOM to bridge the interests of TCC and BMA for the greater benefit of the people of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River. I am certain that this event will serve as a catalyst for further discussion,” says AECOM’s Asi Ooraikul, director of operations, Environmental and Ecological Planning, Asia, and chairman of the Bootcamp Organizing Committee.
The River of Life
The city of Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, launched a competition for the master plan to rejuvenate and revitalize the Klang River and its surrounding area into an iconic waterway by 2020. The “River of Life” competition drew in 22 entries worldwide. AECOM was shortlisted as one of the five companies to further develop the scheme and went on to garner the highest score — winning the contract for the next phase of the project with an estimated construction value of US$340 million (RM$1 billion).
“We worked on this submission for months. The level of thoroughness and comprehensiveness of AECOM’s entry was above and beyond any of the other submissions. And, our integrated service approach also came through very strongly,” says AECOM’s Sibarani Sofian, director of urban design, Southeast Asia.
The proposed plans from AECOM’s project team — a group of practitioners from five disciplines and three offices around the world — maximize the social and economic potential of the 6.7-mile (10.7-kilometer) river. The plans set the foundation for the 11 areas of the River of Life through integrated urban design, landscape, transportation, environmental and economic solutions — taking into consideration the site’s natural and cultural opportunities, the short- and long-term economic impact and implementation viability.
The team will soon start on the detailed master plan for the entire stretch of the river, with a particular focus on Precinct 7, which will include a historical museum, a pedestrian–only area and a youth park. “The idea is to get things moving quickly for this area so that something starts to happen and people can begin to see the transformation take place,” concludes Dunn.
At a time when cities strive to distinguish themselves to attract global talent, resources and capital, AECOM has been actively working with the government and the private sector of these two major Southeast Asian cities — Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur — to develop innovative plans to transform the life along the rivers and revitalize the cities.
Why did we win? AECOM’s Jason Zlotkowski, director, Landscape Design, says, “Our solution weaved many different stakeholders together in a way that reconnected the adjacent communities and linked residents, workers and visitors back to the river. We were able to inspire people about how a drop of water can transform a global city in a way that increases adjacent social and economic land values while being cost-effective. More tangibly, we effectively dealt with complex technical issues such as environmental biodiversity, localized hydrology, land economics and recommendations for alternative revenue and funding sources.”
AECOM’s Bootcamp in Asia is an intense, one-week program that provides hands-on experience and an opportunity for AECOM’s future leaders. Forty-three AECOM employees drawn from diverse disciplines such as architecture, engineering, economics, environment, and landscape and urban design, joined by six representatives from TCC and five students from renowned local universities, took part in this year’s program.
To help reverse deteriorating water quality in the Tha Chin River, a major waterway in Thailand, AECOM worked to establish a “twinning” partnership among the Thailand Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Thai community watershed organizations and counterparts from the Waikato watershed in New Zealand. Through its ECO-Asia project, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and managed from Bangkok, AECOM facilitated focused technical exchanges and training between stakeholders from the Tha Chin and Waikato watersheds. A new community participation framework was developed as a result, enabling more effective community engagement to help restore water quality in the Tha Chin river basin.