Landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom
The Pulitzer Arts Foundation and Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis have named the internationally celebrated landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom as designer-in residence. The founder of the Bangkok-based design firm Landprocess and nonprofit Porous City Network, Voraakhom’s work centers on designing productive urban green spaces that alleviate the effects of climate change in at-risk communities. She will serve as designer-in-residence for a year-long appointment.
Voraakhom’s major projects include Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University Centenary Park, which can collect and store up to a million gallons of runoff and flood water; the Thammasat University Urban Rooftop Farm, the largest urban rooftop farm in Asia; and Chao Phraya Sky Park, a pedestrian walkway and elevated garden installed on an abandoned bridge over the Chao Phraya River.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Chulalongkorn University in 2002 and attended Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, earning her master’s in landscape architecture in 2006. Voraakhom launched Landprocess in 2011—the same year that her family’s Bangkok home was decimated by record-setting floods.
Landprocess, which is dedicated to helping cities navigate climate uncertainty, won the competition to design the 11-acre Centenary Park, Bangkok’s first new public park in nearly 30 years. Completed in 2017, the park can alleviate flood risk during heavy rainfall by collecting and holding runoff, which is filtered through a large green roof; wetlands filled with native water plants; and a retention pond that can double in size.
Voraakhom explained in a recent interview for the New York Times that the design for Centenary Park was partly inspired by the example of a monkey’s cheek, which can expand to store food until the monkey is hungry: “This is a kind of monkey cheek for water in the city.”
In Fall 2021 Voraakhom served as visiting professor in the Sam Fox School, teaching the seminar “Messy Fluid Urbanism,” which explored climate-related challenges in delta cities around the world. She also spoke in the school’s Public Lecture Series in spring 2021. As the annual capstone for the university’s Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design’s Master of Urban Design program, Voraakhom will host WashU students in Bangkok as part of the 2022 Global Urbanism Studio, led by senior lecturer Jonathan Stitleman, this summer.
Her appointment as designer-in-residence will begin July 1 and continue through the 2022-23 academic year. Organized around the topic “Ecologies of Access for Vulnerable Sites in St. Louis,” her residency will include nearly a month of local site visits and engagement activities. Voraakhom also will continue to serve as a visiting professor in the Sam Fox School, co-teaching a studio for the school’s Master of Landscape Architecture program in spring 2023 and participating in reviews, critiques and other aspects of university life. The residency will culminate with a public event later that spring.
Stemming from the Pulitzer Arts Foundation and Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University’s shared commitment to rethinking the future of St. Louis, the residency is one of several projects funded by an endowment created by Emily Rauh Pulitzer to support collaboration between the two institutions. It is organized by Derek Hoeferlin, WashU’s chair oflandscape architecture and urban design, in conjunction with the Pulitzer’s Public Engagement Team and the Sam Fox School’s Office for Socially Engaged Practice.
Other recent collaborations between the Pulitzer and the Sam Fox School include the ASAP Fund, a series of grants designed to help artists navigate the COVID-19 pandemic; a residency by artist Jordan Weber; and several iterations of the PXSTL design competition.