Writer: Saranyu Nokkaew
English Translation: Suchanart Jarupaiboon
As physical and labor costs waned, intellect, skills, culture, and knowledge rose in prominence as the main driving forces of the sector of the global economy known as Creative Economy. According to a survey conducted by the European Commission, creative industries in the European Union grew by 12% in 2004, creating some 4.7 million jobs. Meanwhile, in the United States, copyright-based industries –a type of creative industry– have generated economic value of USD 1,388 billion, the equivalent of 11.12% of the total national GDP. An estimated 40 million people are employed in this sector, accounting for around 30% of the total workforce in the country.
Thailand first incorporated Creative Economy into its 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan B.E. 2550 (2007), aiming to transform ideas into new assets, and has continued to do so to this day.
One of the models for creativity-based economic development that has brought about visible changes is the revival of an old community of Charoenkrung, transforming it into a Creative District. To ensure sustainability, this initiative has seen collaborative efforts between the government and residents. This proves that not only designers and thinkers can spearhead creative activities, and that existing cultural roots can add value to economic development.
Around 150 years ago, Charoenkrung, located on the banks of Chaophraya River, was an extremely prosperous commercial district. In addition to the major ferry pier, Si Phraya, Bangkok’s first road, first tram service, first Japanese restaurant, and House No. 1 are all to be found in Charoenkrung. However, as the central business district subsequently expanded to Sathon, Silom, Sukhumvit, and Siam, following the construction of new roads, Charoenkrung was gradually on the decline until it become something like an old history book which, although filled with interesting cultural stories, was left largely overlooked and unread.
As the new city center became too busy and overcrowded, and due to the Co-Create Charoenkrung project launched in 2015 and the opening of a new, permanent location of Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC) on Charoenkrung Road in mid-2017, a wave of creative ideas has flowed into the neighborhood from Bangrak to Si Phraya Pier, an area with a solid cultural background and rich history. Once new ideas are introduced, it is not so difficult to add value to creative and cultural capital. The upshot is that Charoenkrung today is no longer just a place where people go to buy jewelry.
Today, Charoenkrung is bustling with chic dining establishments, galleries, hostels and cafes eager to rewrite the story of the capital’s first commercial district. Street art, gallery hopping, bicycle tours are now connecting tourists with locals in small alleys and areas of the neighborhood that had never been explored. Before long, the district will welcome a new community mall recreated from an old warehouse, a combination of ideas and visions of Duangrit Bunnag, who was also brought back to Charoenkrung by the concept of “creativity.”
Credit: Saranyu Nokkaew, freelance lifestyle writer, whose interests range from food, drink, and travel to arts and culture.