Street vendors: Charm and golden opportunity for the urban neighborhood

“Hawker stalls and carts are two sides of the same coin:  They represent both opportunity and obstacles for the city”

This is an experimental project which explores innovations in hawker management in Bangkok. This is an extension of the GoodWalk Project, and is also a product of public interest and urban awareness. The aim is to find solutions and solicit suggestions for sustainable and comprehensive management methods through participatory design and experimental research, with a trial innovation in a pilot site.

Static and mobile hawker stalls are a form of trade that has been with the Thai society for a long time, dating from the early Rattanakosin period. It was so popular, that being a hawker became a viable career, not just a way to earn supplemental income.  Hawker stalls and carts are an important economic engine for Bangkok. They are a convenient source of goods for all groups of people, and are an easily accessible food source in the city.  Taken as a whole, the army of street vendors is an informal economy of the city, and they brighten street life at night with their lights and the population they attract.  However, some residents of Bangkok resent the intrusion of hawkers in the neighborhood because of the clutter they create and the less-that-sanitary practices. A creative compromise solution is needed for this dilemma since there are both opportunities and obstacles, i.e., two sides of the same coin.

The existence of the hawker stalls and carts today reflect many dimensions of Thai culture and society. Thus, any approach to hawker stall management needs to be comprehensive, rather than trying to address the issue crudely with brute force regulations which are erratically enforced. To be effective, there needs to be more focus on managing the street vendor economy so that it benefits the larger urban complex.  There can be standards of hygiene and decorations to add charm in the neighborhood. Filling the streets with lively and peaceful social exchange can help thwart crime.  The vendor food carts and stalls of Bangkok are actually world famous, and some have even earned a Michelin stars. The street vendor economy also provides opportunities for employment or supplementing income from a day or night job.

Accordingly, UddC conducted research on the potential design, management mechanisms, city planning, finance and business models to capitalize on the street vendor economy.  The study looked at the including the design and layout of neighborhoods which have greater or lesser density of street vendors by type of trade. A model of hawker outlet management at the neighborhood is the Ari-Pradipat area.  That can be used as a prototype of others to emulate.  The variegated composition of the city creates diverse neighborhoods and other social roles, rather than just food or work areas. In addition, UddC experimented with innovative design in terms of management of the street vendors at the neighborhood level in pilot sites of Bangkok such as Yaowarat Road and Khao San Road.

PROJECT FACT

Project Name : Street vendors: Charm and golden opportunity for the urban neighborhood
Program / Role : Research