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03. Growing pains : Urban change we are all apart of

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

The USL Forum vol. of March2019/2 By David Fiske, our advisor, introduce inevitable impacts of changes to the city. Stay tuned for the case study from Portland, Oregon on gentrification.

Change is the only constant, or so the saying goes. In cities, change is evident everywhere you look. It is a way of life for urban places, as the economic forces and progressive tendencies that make cities great sources of opportunity and innovation drive them into the future. To rebuke change, or stand in its way, is as hopeless as attempting to stop time itself.


With change comes very real impacts for city residents and urban communities. Change can mean thousands of new jobs for people, as when a major company like Amazon or Intel opens their doors or invests in a city. It can mean a new grocery store or café around the corner that provides access to healthy, higher-quality foods. It can mean better and easier ways of getting around town, as when a new bus line or train opens up.

However, these same occurrences can also bring about negative, disruptive change to peoples’ lives. A major private company moving to a city, along with their employees, can increase the cost of housing, making it harder, and less affordable for long-time residents to find a place to live. A new grocery store or café may outcompete a local marketplace, putting generations-old shops out of business. Investment into new transportation infrastructure can bring people to an area in a way it’s never experienced before, upsetting the way of life and cultural traditions of an area.

These are the consequences of change in a city, and they are happening all around us, every day. More often than not, those experiencing the negative consequences of urban change are the poor, the old, or the minority populations of a city. In Bangkok, like major cities everywhere, change is happening at a seemingly breakneck pace, and it can often feel chaotic and haphazard. The effects of change are very real, but the ways in which it occurs are often hard to understand, and your ability to affect the process can seem small and insignificant.

One of the questions being asked by urban practitioners around the world is, can change happen in a way that doesn’t negatively impact a city’s residents, especially those that have lived and contributed to the history and tradition of an area? If change is inevitable, at the very least, can it happen in a way that shares the positive consequences in a more equitable manner? And, if investment and growth in a city disproportionately affects a certain population, should something be done to repair the damage?


In Bangkok, where major investments and growth are occurring at a greater scale than ever before, the impacts of change and the possibility of gentrification are constant. Because of this, exploring and answering the above questions is of the utmost importance for those of us involved in the process of urban development, policy, and design.

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