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Phuket Opinion: Aesthetically unappealing urbanism

PHUKET: The current public debate about street art in Phuket has stirred up much emotion, sparking a lot of dormant interest in urban aesthetics.

cultureconstructionenvironmentopiniontourism
By The Phuket News

Sunday 15 May 2016, 09:00AM


Many people took the opportunity to have their photo taken with the 'Mardi' mural before it was removed from the walls of the old Standard Chartered Bank building in the Old Town. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

Many people took the opportunity to have their photo taken with the 'Mardi' mural before it was removed from the walls of the old Standard Chartered Bank building in the Old Town. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

While many agree that there is a place for street art in the historic heart of Phuket Town (see story here), few “culturally-conscious” residents would argue it appropriate to grant just anybody with a can of spraypaint unrestricted creative license to “tag” up the town.

Nonetheless, the passion and tension surrounding this topic should be of little surprise to those who have been around for a while, who understand the sensitivities involved. After all, it was aesthetics that was cited as the main reason to build expensive underpasses instead of more-economical overpasses along the bypass road and at Chalong Circle, and such an appeal was similarly applied in the campaign to begin burying the clutter of electric cables in Old Town.

Indeed, image, face and presentation mean everything in Thailand, and Phuket is no exception.

Yet it’s bemusing why such appeals and sensitivities have yet to gain as much traction in other areas of urban planning, or lack thereof...

One has to wonder how it can be so easy for such influential officials and residents who hold the island’s image in such high regard to overlook if not ignore the many other blights on the Phuket landscape: the ugly clutter of billboards along every major road, which are increasingly jammed full of disgruntled commuters, impatient speed demons and accident victims; dozens upon dozens of improper roadside dumps piled with rubbish that never made it to the overflowing landfill and incinerator stacks; rows upon rows of cheap, prefab housing developments full of overpriced properties with “for sale” signs on every block.

Where is the public outcry to regulate and minimise these less aesthetically-appealing aspects of Phuket, which surely do a lot more damage to the island’s reputation than a street mural or two?

The Phuket News supports officialdom in the drive to “clean up” Phuket and continue to make it a more pleasant place to live and be proud of, but let us not limit efforts to the beaches and Old Town.

The entire island – from Chalong to Koh Kaew to Koh Siray to Pa Khlok – needs less concrete boxes, and other manner of greed-driven construction; and a lot more community centres, green spaces, parks and yes, meaningful art.

 

 

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