Both a much-needed green space and a novel way to recover urban dead space, Bangkok’s new Chao Phraya Sky Park is now open to the public on both sides of the city’s major waterway .
Called Thailand’s first “garden bridge”, the 2,380-sq.-meter Sky Park connects the Bangkok and Thonburi sides of the Chao Phraya and is built on top of the 30-year-old concrete skeleton of the abandoned Lavalin Skytrain.
Fitted with new entrances, exits and elevators, the elevated green space connects King Prajadhipok Park on the Phra Nakhon side of the river with the Chaloem Phrakiat Forest Park on the Thonburi side. Embracing the Parisian ideal of the “15-Minute City”, the Sky Park makes it easy for locals to easily walk to nearby schools, markets and places of worship. (Cycling is prohibited in the Sky Park.)
Looking at the urban wonder straddled by traffic lanes on the Phra Pok Klao Bridge, it’s hard to envision it as the derelict mass-rapid transit project left unfinished by prime minister Prem Tinsulanonda’s administration.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Bangkok Gov Aswin Kwanmuang officially opened the park at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“The effects of climate change are being felt more, so we need more green spaces,” Asawin said at the ceremony, adding it is part of his plan to increase green space in Bangkok from about 6 sq. meters a person to 9 sq. meters while also reducing the number of vehicles on the road.
City Hall proposed the idea of reusing the hulking eyesore of the forgotten skytrain about a year ago. N71 Architect, the firm behind the Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park, was contracted create a design with a lush and scenic walking route overlooking the river, plus a jogging path from King Prajadhipok Park to Thonburi.
N71 based its design on the scrapped Garden Bridge project over the River Thames in London. Total cost was approximately 130 million baht.
From the beginning, local residents were invited to offer their suggestions and physical support. As landscaping got under way last year
Locals were encouraged to grow a tree in a pot to donate or bring complementing plants from other areas, such as the Plumeria trees relocated from Tha Chang near the Grand Palace.
The landscaping actually extends beyond the Garden Bridge to Phra Pok Khlao Forest Park at the foot of Phra Pok Khlao Bridge in Khlong San District.
Urban planners saluted city hall for following through on the project, saying that also it is not a large park – 280 meters long by 8.5 meters wide – it has outsized importance as a catalyst for urban regeneration and can change the way people look at public spaces.