Bangkok, capital of Thailand, is one of the three biggest city in South East Asia with almost 20 million inhabitants and is considered as an international hub for transport, fashion or tourism. This fast growing city, contrasted by its wealth cultural heritage and its numerous business towers and malls centers, start to tackle new issues such as over-construction, urban heat islands or saturated urban mobility to insure an efficient economic development.
Today, one envisaged response to heat regulation or carbon sequestration is the urban greening. It consists in bringing back natural elements in the too concreted cities. That is why, the Royal Thai Government with help from the U.S. university of Wisconsin found the urban forest assessment of Bangkok in 2016. Study results provided land use planners information on the current urban forest resource and the potential for future urban greening. Since that, initiatives appeared as the introduction of vegetation on transport structures.
It is in that greening cities context we met Goustan Bodin, a landscape architect and entrepreneur. He is involved in this urban planning sector for more than fifteen years in Bangkok area. Today, his wish is to re-introduce nature in our way of building and bringing back some biodiversity in the city.
The first reason to bring back trees in cities is to get closer urban people with nature, which is proved as an improvement factor for quality of life: comfort, esthetic, health... Furthermore, Goustan thinks that our city building model has to be change because our architecture is too dependent of sand, which is coming too rare. “There are still so much empty spaces left where we can put vegetation: on streets, disused buildings, rooftops or even all around buildings! Why not use it ?”
According to his philosophy of sharing and spreading knowledge and know-how, Goustan created an open source website which provides technical information to anyone who wants to grow trees in any size or shape and in a short time: Banyan Fever. It aims to encourage Bangkok citizens to plant trees in their neighborhood.
The Hyper Tree Project, also initiated by Goustan, experiments building trees from pre-cast elements. The objective is to prove the feasibility of this process by building prototypes, before moving into higher scale and develop full green architecture. Tree species used grow only in the wet tropics, they are adapted to Bangkok's weather. Further researches try to identify other species to increase geographical coverage.
In order to scale up these new green architectures technics, it is necessary to bring more legitimacy to this project. A success key would be to develop prototypes and release not technical locks but legal ones, financial ones and the public acceptance. Goustan is today working on his 1-2 years trees structures and keep improving the growing process.
Therefore, Goustan is involved in the local permaculture community. He assists and attends in lots of conferences in Thailand and abroad, mainly on the sustainable urban development and the city greening. He became an expert on the domain and a known reference in Bangkok.
Goustan organizes also many free events in Bangkok area to plant trees in urban areas. Through social medias and some apps, like “Meet Up”, Goustan gathers committed citizens to create a “urban forests” community in Bangkok. He also offers tours on city nature and permaculture, to raise awareness about how it is important to reconnect cities with nature.
WHAT NOW ?
Goustan really believes and develops his project with a lot of commitment and passion. Nevertheless, if the entrepreneurship adventure is dared alone, that requires a lot of energy and different skills like finance, marketing, business development… Today, it is becoming harder for him to handle alone both his landscape architecture responsibilities and his others projects: Banyan Fever website and HyperTree. That is why Goustan is actively looking for motivated people to join the team and help him on HyperTree: so feel free to contact him.
Meanwhile, Goustan would like to develop this project by implementing prototypes in public areas and he plans to pursue small events organization to promote them. The dynamic of Bangkok city to introduce vegetation in urban areas could be a lever to accelerate the development of Goustan's project.
It is very interesting to see that these kind of green building technics already exists and are functional. In Northern India for example, local people use living bridges from at least one century (link). Real benefits, like with these structures made in biomaterials, might be reproduced in a way in cities. Furthermore, these could bring back a very helpful biodiversity to make these areas more resilient. A relevant question could be: is ecology and city greening means repelling modernity, gained over the years, or on the contrary is an innovative way of thinking nature as a free inspiring source of evolution?