Research Track

Global Education


Ploy Yamtree, Michael Hornblow, Stacey Moran, Adam Nocek


A collaboration with Open Space Studio, Thammasat University, and the Nang Loeng community in Bangkok, Thailand that brings together the practices of community architecture and urban infrastructure design to co-create spaces of collective and social activation. Project Under Development in 2019.


Bangkok, Thailand




Local Studio and Buffalo Fields

Get hands-on experience in participatory design processes with an exciting live project in Nang Loeng, in the Old Town area of Bangkok. Local Studio will explore interdisciplinary design research as part of a community-based, site-specific performance festival, Buffalo Field. The 5-day studio and 3-day festival are a collaboration between community, artists and academics from Thailand, Asia, Australia and the US, hosted by Bangkok co-design specialists, Openspace.

Nang Loeng is a long-standing community in the Old Town of Bangkok, and an important node of exchange when people arrived more than 100 years ago from many different places and cultural backgrounds. It was originally called the Sanam Kwai community, Sanam Kwai meaning ‘field of buffalos’ because there were many buffalos living there when there were only a few houses.


Our ‘Buffalo Field’ recalls the history of Nang Loeng, with the original forces of life that created this place, but also the way something is awakening in the spirit of local people and their culture. Buffalo Field Festival is produced by co-design studio Openspace, as a collaboration between Ploy Yamtree, Mike Hornblow, the E-learning community artist group, and aninternational network of artists and researchers.


Themes and Approach
Three festival themes – sustenance, settlement, social fabric – will be used as conceptual drivers for design research during Local Studio. These will provide opportunities for academics, students, and community members to tell stories, explore techniques and formulate ideas around local concerns and special features of Nang Loeng. Studio outcomes will go on to provide context, content and material resources for Artists to activate further during Buffalo Field Festival. Studio participants are invited to continue their involvement during the festival period, as our investigations take new form, entering new fields of creative expression. Community consultation in the studio phase will extend to a Community Forum (including a studio debrief) at the start of the Festival Week (see Program Schedule). Further opportunities for participation will occur through festival workshops and Artist ‘Co-Lab’ sessions (open to Local Studio participants). The festival will launch with a welcome dinner, followed by a two-day performance program with daytime and night-time sessions at outdoor sites and indoor venues across the Nang Loeng community.


While it is home to one of Bangkok’s most famous markets, many residents in Nang Loeng often struggle to afford or access good quality food. Urban farming allows people to become more self-sufficient and offers useful methods for local communities. In the design studio, we’ll explore food security, radical hospitality, and ways of upcycling food waste in collaboration with local city farm networks. At the Festival Launch evening we’ll reactivate these ideas as part of a long-table Welcome Dinner, with cooking from local kitchens. We’ll discuss how these activities may then ‘plant the seed’ for future food initiatives.


The specter of eviction lies behind the gentrification of Old Town areas. In contrast with city infrastructure such as a new train line for Nang Loeng, there’s also the need for upgrading squalid dwelling conditions, while retaining the informal character of the neighborhood with heritage restoration or adaptive reuse projects. The studio will review existing urban studies on the area and develop new analyses by exploring the local neighborhood. We’ll also experiment with more performative urban mapping techniques, and speculative structures using found materials that may act as way-finders or narrative devices for collaboration with festival artists. Community consultation will consider the value of new design-build projects, artist-in-residency programs, and other proposals.


The cultural memory of life in Nang Loeng is most visible in places of traditional livelihood – such as an old barber, printer, butcher, or tailor. We’ll work with ‘local experts’ in the community to open their spaces of vocation for collaboration with festival artists and designers. This process will use a range of storytelling, mapping, and multimedia techniques. At the festival, audiences will navigate local sites aided by narratives and mapping tools developed through community processes – to retrace the fabric of Nang Loeng in all its colors, textures, stories and characters.

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