Experts criticise government-proposed bridge to famous hospital as an eyesore

An architect and an urban planner have urged Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to revise its plan for a pedestrian bridge, which they said would create an 'eye-sore' within the historic district. Experts have also asked if the bridge is really necessary.

As "owner" of the proposed Bt1.7 billion (S$69 million) pedestrian bridge project, BMA has held |public open houses, including one last Friday, to unveil its latest plan for a new bridge over the Chao Phraya from Siriraj Hospital to Tha Prachan.

Experts interviewed by The Nation say the planned bridge is an eyesore that would tarnish the look of the city's historic quarter.

The BMA, meanwhile, insisted that the latest project design shown to the public was not its final version.

The plan presented by the BMA showed a two-storey pedestrian bridge equipped with lifts, escalators, and golf carts for the elderly.

The bridge would be nine metres wide and as tall as a four-storey building.

But experts have strong criticisms based on drawings of the bridge.

Chatri Phakitnonthakan, a lecturer at the faculty of architecture at Silpakorn University said the publicly released location of the bridge, its architectural design, and size of the structure were all improper and unacceptable.

"The location of this bridge will be on a very compact area of Rattanakosin Island, the historic centre of Bangkok. From the design and size of the bridge, it will be big visual pollution to the heart of Bangkok," Chatri asserted.

"And that's not even counting the transparency of the entire study and design process of the project, which was not open for the public to give their opinions and ensure the BMA selects the best design for all stakeholders. "This project needs to be entirely revised."

He said that the BMSA should hold an open contest for the design, with terms of reference (TOR), coming from a proper study to avoid negative impacts on the scenery of the historic district and to river navigation.

'Proper public participation needed' Nattapong Punnoi, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn's department of urban and regional planning, also stressed the importance of proper public participation on the design, which he said will be very important to ensure the bridge is well accepted.

"I understand that the latest design of the bridge is not the final one and can be amended and improved. Nevertheless, despite how beautiful the bridge is, public opinion is the most important thing and the project owner should make sure that everyone can raise their voices in the development of this gigantic project," Nattapong said.

He also asked BMA to reconsider the very necessity of the project because a large amount of public funds will be spent on it.

There were also multiple options for travelling across the river between Siriraj Hospital and Tha Prachan, he noted.

"While we are investing billions of baht in this pedestrian bridge, we are going to have the orange subway line across the river at this spot, and people can already cross the river with a ferry," he said.

"BMA should conduct research on the necessity of this bridge project in the first place" before drafting the TOR and designing the bridge, said Nattapong.

However, BMA Public Works Department director Nat Srisukhontanan insisted that the design of the bridge could still be adjusted.

The department has already gathered all comments from three public forums.

"After the last public hearing on Friday, we will summarise all comments from the people and improve the bridge design to reflect the public input.

Moreover, the improved design will be examined by the Fine Arts Department, Marine Department, and Rattanakosin Island Committee for further suggestions on the design before we can start the budget calculation and find the contractor," Nat explained.

He said the project's schedule was yet to be determined, but assured the audience that every step of the project will strictly |follow the rules and be transparent.