Mapping the historic city: mapmaking, preservation zoning, and violence.
The paper presents a critique of the cartographic construction of Rattanakosin City, the historic district of Bangkok, Thailand. Drawing on critical cartography literature, I argue that Rattanakosin City has emerged from a particular intersection between cartography and historic preservation as the former is used to legitimize the latter. The paper explores how geometric lines, boundaries, and colored zones have been deployed in constructing Rattanakosin as central and as whole. The paper goes on to show that this particular cartographic construction has a hegemonic potential as it is a double silencing that eclipses outside historical geographies, while silencing and subsuming those inside under the category of "historic preservation" landuse.
Critical cartography, historic preservation, zoning, Bangkok
On the zoning maps, krung Rattanakosin or Rattanakosin City is designated by the city government as the historic core of Bangkok. Lying on the right bank of the Chao Phraya River, Rattanakosin today is the site of royal palaces, Buddhist temples, historical monuments, and government buildings. In between these sites are residential communities that have begun to move out over the decades. Rattanakosin claims a special place in Thai national imagination as a nearly sacred site of rich historical heritage. Key among the heritage sites are the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which function today not only as tourist attractions but also a site of national pride. Given its significance in the history, culture, and economy of both Bangkok and Thailand, Rattanakosin has been subject to various state interventions such as historic preservation and beautifications schemes as the city government seeks to clearly delineate its field of operation.
The paper investigates one fundamental intervention that dictates a certain way of seeing: cartographic construction. The paper explores as it deconstructs Rattanakosin as a product of cartography and historic preservation as they intersect to legitimate historical value and significance. Specifically, the paper analyzes how the city government's mapping instruments, such as building ordinances and zoning maps, have been deployed to carve out Rattanakosin as an exceptional historical space above the rest. The remainder of this paper consists of six sections. The next section draws theoretical and methodological inspiration from two separate bodies of literature, critical cartography and historic preservation. In particular, it seeks to synthesize a productive connection through which to interpret the use of cartography in historic preservation. I argue that, as lines and dots are put in place to demarcate what is historical and what is not, cartography is not a problem-free objective instrument, but a tool to conveniently map historicalness of a site while the larger, more complex historicity of that site is largely ignored. "Mapping Rattanakosin city" section introduces several building ordinances and zoning maps issued by the city government of Bangkok since the city's Bicentennial Celebrations in 1982. This section discusses how these legal-cartographic instruments, following the rise of Rattanakosin as a new cultural consciousness, are used to demarcate and legitimate spaces and boundaries, particularly the historical boundaries. "Maps as a way of seeing: Geometry and geography" section analyzes more deeply these instruments as an attempt to prescribe and direct a certain way of seeing. In so doing, it exposes the logic and rationality of seeing from the two-dimensional map. Importantly, it shows how the map's rationality and its truth claims may differ from other ways and systems of seeing. "Pictorial elegance, cartographical deletion, and historiographical violence" and "Conclusions: Double silencing" sections reflect on the violent consequences that result from an uncomfortable intersection between cartography and historic preservation, looking in particular at the historical spaces that the maps commit to, as well as those that they omit. In doing so, we venture both inside and outside what we now call Rattanakosin City to seek potentially contrasting accounts that the official mapping regime seems to bypass and render silent.
Critical cartography and historic preservation
Questioning the neutral map
Critical cartography as theory and methodology was pioneered by John Harley. In his influential 1989 article, "Deconstructing the map" Harley critiqued the field of cartography on two aspects: its pretension to objectivity and neutrality, and its ignorance of the map's powers. In the first critique, the commonly held assumption is that objects in the world are real and objective. As "mirrors of nature," they enjoy an existence independent of the cartographer (Harley, 1989: 4). Therefore, the cartographer's only task is a technical one: to progress toward an accurate representation. Rejecting cartographers' ideal of maps as correct representations, Harley deconstructs the claim behind the scientific, technical rationality of cartography. Inspired by Barthes and Derrida, he calls for an attention to signs and symbols, arguing that "what constitutes a text is not the presence of linguistic elements, but the act of construction," demystifying the naturalness and refocusing instead on the constructedness of maps (Harley, 1989: 8). Following Derrida, Harley further proposes that map as text is a more apt analogy than map as mirror of nature. By adopting the metaphor of map as text, analysts can avail themselves of useful literary analyses. For example, the issue of authorship leads us to question who writes or makes the map, to what audience, and for what purpose. Similarly, literary theory's focus on subtext may lead us to explore the other side of the "imposed tapestry": deceptive appearance of naturalness, distortion, and arbitrary mechanism of representation. In addition to the visible signs and symbols, he also points to those that are absent or silent. thus opening up the other side of the tapestry for equal interrogation. Silences, Harley argues, take place throughout the process and steps in mapmaking: selection, omission, simplification, classification, creation of hierarchies, symbolization. These processes of silencing or omitting signify subjective human purposes, rather than some "fundamental law of cartographic generalization." The mapmaker omits those features of the world that lie outside the purpose of the immediate discourse (Harley, 1989: 11).
The second critique is the ignored powers of maps. Drawing primarily on Foucault, Harley cautions that the Derridean deconstruction of signs and symbols in maps alone is insufficient, because maps are not only products for semiotic reading, but indeed tools for political manipulation. To understand the powers of maps, Harley proposes two analytics of cartographic power: internal and external. The internal power is the cartographer's power in selecting consciously or unconsciously some things and silencing others in the map. The external power is how maps are used by different social actors to legitimate or facilitate their claims. For example, in geopolitics, maps facilitate surveillance and control, so much so that a mapless society is politically unimaginable (Harley, 1989: 12).
Harley's propositions--deconstruction and powers of maps--have been significantly reworked to enhance the analytical rigor of critical cartography. Pinder (2003) ventures several pieces of methodological advice through which the deconstruction approach can be improved. First, the analyst is encouraged to look at hierarchies of representation, i.e. the signs, sizes of signs, and relative emphasis of each of these signs. Second, silences are not simply blank spaces but may very well be intended erasures and omissions. A historical geographer by training, Harley himself does remark that early European town plans commonly skipped alleys and courtyards of the poor (Harley, 2008: 138). Third, geometries of maps can shed light on how maps are purposely oriented, centered, and projected to create a normalized view. Going beyond deconstruction, signs, and symbology of maps, Crampton (2001, 2011, 2013) has importantly revisited Harley's two original concerns, objectivity and powers of maps, and suggested fruitful research agendas and methodology. Furthering Harley's rejection of the map's professed objectivity, Crampton suggests we stop worrying about map objectivity altogether and accept instead intersubjectivity. That is, instead of viewing maps as records of landscape, or mirror of the world, and thus judging them on accuracy, we should accept their intersubjectivity as a form of social production, which is contingent, rather than foundationalist knowledge. With its emphasis on hard and fast lines, the map has supported the idea of clear territorial borders, when in fact the real world is more diversified and spatially transitional (Crampton, 2013: 248). On the second concern of map and powers, Crampton admits that Harley's 1989 article is more concerned with mapmaking rather than power relations of maps. That is, Harley was more explicit about the "internal power" in maps, or how the cartographer picks and chooses what elements to represent and to omit. By contrast, his account on the "external power" of maps to surveil and control is underdeveloped. To fill in the gap, Crampton (2010) suggests we trace out the genealogy of power discourse; how maps are used as strategies and tactics in the larger social relations of power and cartographic knowledge.
In fact, the external power of maps--how maps are used to facilitate and legitimate political claims--has been well expanded by various scholars following the spatial turn in social sciences. State maps in their various manifestations, such as cadastral maps and town plans, were exercised bureaucratically in creating new spaces of government and new territories of rule (Mitchell, 2002; Scott, 1998). When mapping as an imagined space is administered on concrete space, it projects new realities altogether. The map's capability of territorialization is documented by Thongchai's (1994) work on the Siamese elite's encounter with Western powers in the mid-19th century, where cartographic sciences were deployed to create and impose a national boundary that had never existed. "A map anticipated spatial reality, not vice versa. A map was a model for, rather than a model of, what it purported to represent. It had become a real instrument to concretize projections" (Thongchai, 1994: 310). As Wood similarly argues, "the map creates a territory by bringing it into being. Outside of its inscription on this map, this territory as such has only the slightest of claims to existence" (Wood, 1992: 68).
Along this line of inquiry, the current paper takes as a point of departure these two particular problematics: maps as contingent knowledge and the power of maps to legitimize claims and actions. The next two sections further explore how mapping intersects with historic preservation, and how such intersection may be an uncomfortable one.
Historic preservation as mapping historicalness
Mapping and historic preservation are brought to intersect because one desired result of such intersection is historicalness. Here, Baudrillard's (2003) distinction between historicity (historicite) and historicalness (historialite) is helpful in analyzing historic preservation, particularly historic preservation as an act of drawing, selection, and interpretation. In his study of the colonial hotels in Southeast Asia as a consumption of nostalgia, Peleggi (2005) critiques the recreation and refurbishment of the colonial hotels to appeal to the nostalgia-seeking tourists and visitors to the region. The architectural enhancement, the renovation of furniture and decor, and the overall creation of "colonial ambiance," the author argues, are a form of historicalness that selects and interprets which aspects of the past to be curated and represented. By contrast, the historicity--the entire colonial context in which these items of historicalness were erected in the first place--is isolated if not entirely disregarded. Another similar, albeit more violent example is the redevelopment of the Singapore River as the "River of Life," where certain historical icons are selected and others are actively forgotten (Huang and Chang, 2003). The government portrays the Singapore River as a tabula rasa upon the British arrival, by commemorating the symbols and statues of the heroic British pioneers and founding fathers. By contrast, no plaques or official mention was made of other pre-British and non-British native figures that had long occupied the river and had battled with the colonial administration. Despite what is marketed in the vibrant, tourist-friendly "River of Life," what is also obscured is the less commercially viable, darker history of many overworked and underpaid workers suicided in this "river of death". Pre-British Singapore as a context of historicity is muted from the staged historicalness of the Singapore River. Understood as selection, historicalness is a "refusal of history masked by the exaltation of the signs of history," where history is "simultaneously invoked and denied" (Baudrillard, 2003: 74, cited in Peleggi (2005: 261)).
It is possible and in fact productive to employ historicalness as an entry point to address the intersection between historic preservation with cartography. Historic preservation, I argue, is an act of mapping historicalness, delineating what Handler (1987) calls the historical "picket fence" around buildings, sites, and areas. These objects of historic preservation, e.g. historical buildings, historical sites, or historic districts, are important examples of a new territory of rule created and made possible by maps. A good example is Yeoh and Huang's (1996) study of the use of roads as a perimeter to forge Kampong Glam as an official historic district in Singapore. The "inside" historic district, which has come to enjoy the status of heritage is delimited "based on existing roads serving the area," leaving behind the "outside" to the logic of development (Yeoh and Huang, 1996: 418). This is where historicalness becomes hegemony. The politics of being inside and outside points to the hegemonic potential of cartography when geometric lines are readily used in historic preservation to designate a certain thing as historical and, by quite literally putting a fence around it (Handler, 1987), implicitly say that the things outside the fence are not historical. Maps create as they separate historicalness. Historicalness, hereby cartographically conceived, is isolated and detached from the context of its historicity, from the very geographic context where it really makes historic sense (Handler, 1987).
Cartography and human geography: An uncomfortable encounter
However, the intersection between cartography and historic preservation, between geometry and history, is not smooth. The new anticipated realities of maps, the new direction of desire, often intersect with the existing realities in an uncomfortable way that is often fraught and violent. For, as the scholars below show, it is not the abstract placement of the lines per se, but their material implications that lies at the heart of such uncomfortable encounter. Scholars have studied various kinds of human geography, from indigenous to colonial, from residential to historical, that have been impacted in their collision with state mapping. Bringing to light an awkward interaction between cartography and historical geography, Yeoh and Huang (1996) address the arbitrary act of demarcating the historic district of Kampong Glam in Singapore. Here, the rectangular boundary drawn around the historic district is more of a convenient cartographic production of roads that bound the historic landscape, rather than a careful study of the area's historical geography. As an official boundary, the historic district slices up the organic form and texture of cultural hearths dividing what is sanctioned as historic from what is not (Yeoh and Huang, 1996: 421). One immediate result is that two mosques of the same era are treated differently, for one is "fortunate" to be in the historic district and the other is not. The neat rectangle is not elastic enough, the authors argue, to accommodate addition that would otherwise be seen as protrusion.
A similar effect of simplified mapping is documented by the study of the contested airport noise contour maps of St. Paul-Minneapolis Airport (Cidell, 2008). Here, akin to the Singapore's boundary that produces and polices historical geography, the noise-contour maps create, rather than represent, scientific knowledge. The noise contour maps are drawn up to represent the noise levels in a form of concentric-wave contours. The maps in turn serve as a basis for local authorities to determine compensation packages for residences within the contours. However, the contour maps produced by statistical modeling contradict with the perception of the people outside the contour lines, whose daily activities continue to be interrupted by the noise. Although the contour lines serve to determine which side of the lines would get compensated, the divisive lines cannot properly function as discrete boundaries between noise and quiet because "noise spills over" (Cidell, 2008: 1212-1214).
The effect of the state's mapping imaginations is most salient when they intersect indigenous geographies, introducing new ways of administration while disrupting local practices. This tension has been well documented by the literature on indigenous geography as an encounter zone between modern interventions and premodern human-environment relations. Chou (2006) explores the implications of the Growth Triangle, an aspiring economic bloc among the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore upon the preexisting native landscape. Intended to create regional cooperation zones for trade and investment, the Triangle eulogizes the ideal of transforming communities into a single people through universal laws that privilege standardized measures (Chou, 2006: 246). To this end, a new tool of territorial management, such as cadastral mapping, was introduced to legitimize rule over land, resource allocations, and access rights. In opening up fresh territories of rule, the Growth Triangle as a state mapping project supplanted the indigenous systems, replacing the customary spatial ordering of land with the official vision of growth. In a similar example, Byrne (2008) shows the conflict between populated human geography and colonial land policies in Australia and Southeast Asia. Forests, for example, were reclassified as "wasteland" and interpreted by the state as unoccupied natural resource. The label "vacant land" on the map was inscribed across places where the Aboriginal people lived without reference to those who inhabited it. Forged through ad hoc treaties and institutional arrangements, these superimposed boundaries and constructed geometries are at odds with local concepts and practices of space. As Bunnell and colleagues duly suggest, there are geographies, histories, and lives that cannot be reduced to Cartesian geometries, triangular, or otherwise (Bunnell et al" 2006: 236-237).
Mapping Rattanakosin city
The paper concerns Rattanakosin as a geometric construction of historicalness. Its genesis as a legal construction and an official boundary dates back to the Bicentennial Celebrations of Bangkok in 1982. In the months leading up to the Celebrations, a cabinet resolution was issued in 1981 to freeze all development and halt all construction activity within the innermost historic precinct (DFA, 1982). This area would later be designated as Inner Rattanakosin (see below). Although provisional, the cabinet resolution set an important precedent of invoking a legal instrument to control activities within a consciously drawn space in Rattanakosin. Unlike beautification projects that targeted sites and structures as isolated objects, the cabinet resolution targeted space in its entirety, encircling everything therein. Space now emerged as a field of intervention in its own right.
The section below discusses a number of Building Ordinances that were sequentially issued between the late 80s and early 90s in the wake of the 1982 Bicentennial Celebrations. Built upon the cabinet resolution and on Rattanakosin as a new heritage consciousness, these ordinances served as mapping devices to together carve out and cement historical space, concretizing in statutory terms Rattanakosin City and its boundaries. This important intersection between cartography, law, and history, I argue, had the effect of territorializing Rattanakosin; Rattanakosin was no longer a loose, diffuse spatial identity that simply existed discursively in collective memory or popular consciousness. Instead, through state practices of law and mapmaking, it came to exist materially as a "city" that is official, whole, and bounded.
In 1985, the first Building Ordinance was issued to kamnod boriwen, or designate the area of, Rattanakosin chan nai, or Inner Rattanakosin. According to the Ordinance, "boriwen krung Rattanakosin chan nai"--the area of Inner Rattanakosin--was to "refer to the area between the centerline of Khlong Khlu Mueang Doem (the original moat) and the centerline of Chao Phraya" (Figure 1(a)) (BMA, 1985). This area is in the administrative district of kwaeng Phraborommaharachawang in khet Phranakorn. Having delineated its contour, the Ordinance proceeds to divide it into four boriwen or zones, and prescribe for these zones a list of zoning requirements that prohibit the construction and modification of certain building types, uses, and dimensions. Particularly for Zone 1, the largest zone that encircles the Grand Palace, Sanam Luang, and the surrounding areas, virtually no buildings with very few exceptions are allowed to be constructed or altered (BMA, 1985: 21). The maximum building height for Inner Rattanakosin is set at 16 m.
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In 1987, the second Building Ordinance followed suit to, this time around, officially designate and delineate Rattanakosin chan nok or Outer Rattanakosin (BMA, 1987). "Boriwen krung Rattanakosin chan nok" was to consist of the area encircled by the centerlines of Khlong Khlu Mueang Doem (east), Khlong Ropkrung (west), and Chao Phraya River (north and south) (Figure 1(b)). (1) Similar to the 1985 ordinance, the 1987 Building Ordinance not only has the effect of forging and enforcing another legal boundary of Rattanakosin City but also of prescribing the contents within it. However, the zoning provisions in these outer layers are more complex and the area is more finely divided into 10 regulated zones. Unlike Inner Rattanakosin, where most edifices are palaces, temples, and government buildings, Outer Rattanakosin is the site of various urban communities from guild neighborhoods to wet markets, from "Little India" Pahurat to the Khaosan backpackers district. Dividing Outer Rattanakosin into small, different zones with different zoning requirements reflects the need to cater for such a variety of preexisting landuse activities. Similar to the Inner Rattanakosin, the height restriction in Outer Rattanakosin is 16 m.
In 1992, the third Building Ordinance was issued to control building activity, types, and heights in Thonburi, a former capital preceding Rattanakosin, located on the left bank of the Chao Phraya. Like the two preceding Building Ordinances, this legal-cartographic document was meant for the area designation of the left-bank districts of khets and kwaengs to form a distinct zone of building control. (2) However and more importantly, the Building Ordinance does not apply for the entire Thonburi, generally known as the areas of Bangkok west of the Chao Phraya. Instead, the ordinance targets a few specific khwaeng districts that are directly across the river from the Rattanakosin, particularly those that overlooks the Grand Palace on the other side (Figure 2). In doing so, the ordinance designates boriwen fang Thonburi trongkam boriwen krung Rattanakosin, or the Thonburi that is opposite Rattanakosin City. In the map, the length of this zone, from the top to the bottom, tightly mirrors the western contour of Rattanakosin, creating a buffer strip between Rattanakosin and the city's left bank.
The Thonburi-across-from-Rattanakosin buffer strip is further divided into five zones, lending themselves to different degrees of zoning strictness. In particular, Zone 1 and Zone 2, which are directly across the river from the Grand Palace and the Front Palace, respectively, have the strictest set of regulations. The Ordinance prohibits from these two zones construction and modification of any buildings, except those affiliated with religious sites, government edifices, and certain types of housing (BMA, 1992). As in Rattanakosin, the maximum building height in these areas was set at 16 m. The rationale (3) behind the 1992 Building Ordinance is not to protect the historical heritage in Thonburi per se, but to ensure that the view and vista of Rattanakosin's Grand Palace will not be eclipsed by tall buildings, and thus can be appreciated from afar. Therefore, although the Ordinance intends to regulate the building heights and types within the Thonburi-across-from-Rattanakosin on the left bank, the hoped-for effect is the visual impact on the right bank: the historic skyline and visual profile of the Grand Palace.
Relegating the extension
In 1999, another Building Ordinance was promulgated for the areas east of Outer Rattanakosin in order to provide an extra development-regulation cushion wrapping the historic city. The Ordinance designated these areas as Phuenthi tonueang krung Rattanakosin chan nok, or the areas extended from Outer Rattanakosin (Figure 3). (4) These areas are mostly old commercial and residential yarns or districts (Askew, 1996) and old market communities that have long developed throughout the past two centuries. These include the historical yarns of Bang Lamphlu, Bamrung Mueang, Charoeng Krung, Chinatown, (5) Nang Loeng, among others. In this Building Ordinance, the rationale given for extending a protection measure to cover these extended areas was the following:
The areas extending from Outer Rattanakosin are sites of historically important communities dating back to Kings Rama V, VII, and VIII, and are unique Chinese commercial and residential settlements ... There is a growing tendency in these areas to construct in a large number modern buildings that are yai (big) and sung (tall), which may not conform and harmonize with the historically and architecturally significant buildings within the Rattanakosin City (emphasis added). Therefore, measures on building control should be put in place to regulate building construction in the areas extending from the Outer Rattanakosin. (Bangkok Building Ordinance, BMA. 1999)
The fact that the 1999 Ordinance recognized these districts and neighborhoods as an important accretion to Bangkok's history shows a sensitive knowledge of the city's broader historical geography. That is, the city government was fully aware that the historicity of old Bangkok is not limited to the confines of Rattanakosin but extends beyond its moats and walls. However, given the clearly expressed rationale, the building regulation did not target these "historical extensions" in their own right, but instead treated them as a buffer zone to cushion the historic city against out-of-context urban development. In this formulation, the 1999 Ordinance is not unlike the one previously issued for the Thonburi-across-from-Rattanakosin in 1992; although the Ordinance extended protection to the areas surrounding from Rattanakosin, the main motivation for controlling height and development in Thonburi-across-from-Rattanakosin and in the Extension was to create a cushion wrapping around Rattanakosin on both fronts, west and east.
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From lines to colors: The zoning map
Perhaps the most important intervention that has firmly cemented Rattanakosin as a legal construction is the landuse zoning map. Promulgated for the first time in 1992, the landuse zoning plan has become the important municipal apparatus that the city government of Bangkok has at its disposal for land management. As a land device, the zoning map serves to redistribute ideal landuse types and activities across the city. Unlike city ordinances that are issued on an ad hoc basis to target a specific area or thematic concern, the zoning map is more comprehensive as it applies to the city of Bangkok as a whole by dividing it into multiple zoning areas. Once the zone's boundary is outlined, its contents are prescribed. The zoning areas are, in turn, color-coded by functional landuse type, e.g. red for commercial, yellow for low-density residential, purple for industrial landuse, and so on, to assign a function, a role, of that particular zone in relation to the city. As our present concern, Rattanakosin along with the Thonburi-across-from-Rattanakosin is a zoning area in its own right (Figure 4). The boundary of this zone is an exact replication, a direct descendant, of the boundaries designated by the Building Ordinances in the preceding decade. Rattanakosin together with the Thonburi-across-from-Rattanakosin is zoned as "light-brown" or a historic preservation landuse--the only historic preservation zone in the entire Bangkok.
While the Building Ordinances of the 1980s forged the legal boundary of Rattanakosin, the zoning map of the 1990s filled in the contents. Looking at the city as a whole, the zoning map prescribed and made explicit Rattanakosin's function and role vis-a-vis the rest of the city. According to the zoning map, the light-brown zone is intended for the "historic preservation, enhancement of the national artistic and cultural identity, and promotion of tourism" (BMA, 2013: 7). By comparison, the rest of Thonburi, the other Thonburi, is zoned as high-density residential, while the Extension is designated as "red" or commercial areas to "serve as a central business district to support businesses, trades, services, and recreational purposes for the general population" (BMA, 2013: 6). Since its first promulgation in 1992, the zoning map has been revised three times in 1999, 2006, and most recently in 2013 to redraw the zones and update the requirements to respond to Bangkok's rapidly changing urban condition. (6) However, all the three revisions have kept relatively intact the contour and color of Rattanakosin as Bangkok's only preservation zoning district, suggesting how stable it is as a spatial arrangement in the midst of a city that is anything but stable (Figure 5).
However, the light-brown Rattanakosin as a historic district is a rather recent invention. Before the first zoning map of 1992, there had been earlier landuse plans and proposals, including the Litchfield Plan in 1960, the Metropolitan Plan in 1973, and the Metropolitan Plan in 1975. (7) In all these three plans, the area that is now designated as a unified historic district, a homogeneously light-brown surface, was in fact zoned as a mosaic of disparate landuse types of different zoning color codes: commercial, recreational, and institutional (Figure 5). In fact, Rattanakosin did not exist as a boundary or a self-contained zone at all. Instead, these plans portrayed the area to reflect the preexisting intermixed nature of buildings and spaces that had long characterized Bangkok's intramural settlements. Similarly, the piece of Thonburi situated across from the Grand Palace was not as yet annexed as part of the Rattanakosin historical sphere. It is important to also note that the light-brown color code did not exist in the Thai landuse zoning taxonomy at that point in the modernist 60s and 70s, suggesting that the Thai intersection between zoning and historic preservation is rather recent. The Grand Palace itself was color-coded as "blue" or an institutional landuse in the same way as every other government building. Now depicted as a monolithic zone of historical landuse, what is now thought of as Rattanakosin was once not bounded, but porous, and was not uniform, but very mixed in use. In this sense, as far as zoning is concerned, the Rattanakosin historic zone as a light-brown monolith is a post-1982 consciousness. While the modernist spirit of Thailand's first zoning era assumed the city to be a site of objective landuse classification and functional segregation, the zoning regime after Bangkok's Bicentennial Celebrations in 1982 introduced a classification of historical value.
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Maps as a way of seeing: Geometry and geography
These official maps see, construct, and anticipate space in a simplified way, using simple geometric descriptions. Let us recall that the purpose of these maps is to kamnod boriwen or to designate a legal area of control. In Thai, the term is more definitive than its English equivalents of area, region, or quarter, as the term boriwen often connotes a perceptible boundary. According to the Royal Institute Dictionary, the official dictionary of the Thai language, boriwen means phuenthi phainai khet thi kamnod wai, or the area within a designated boundary. (8) It is perhaps more revealing to understand that the term derives from the Sanskrit word parivena (([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])) that means monastery. (9) In this specific sense, a boriwen is then not just any area, but a geometric area, a coherent spatial entity whose bounds are identifiable. It is in this sense of the word that the legal boundaries of Rattanakosin, the Thonburi-across-from-Rattanakosin, and the Extension of Rattanakosin are officially sanctioned.
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In order make the spatial bounds of these boriwens knowable, mapping vocabularies are deployed in order to make these boundaries fixed and unmistakable. First, in all of the four ordinances, thoroughfares such as roads and streets are mostly commonly used as a visible marker, a convenient system of reference in delineating the zones and subzones. For example, Chao Fa Road is used as a northern boundary between Inner and Outer Rattanakosin. Second, where visible geometries such as roads are not readily available as a marker, artificial lines are drawn. For example, the centerline is drawn to bisect the waterway to objectively divide the otherwise fluid, elusive thing into zones of regulation. In this way, once the Chao Phraya descends and flows past this part of Bangkok, it gets cleanly split into two zones such that the right half of the waterbody belongs to the historic city of Rattanakosin (Figure 1(a)) and the left half to the Thonburi-across-from-Rattanakosin (Figure 2). Similarly, the left half of Khlong Ropkrung is part of Rattanakosin (Figure 1(b)) whereas its right half is part of the outside world (Figure 3). While the former is considered a historic area, the latter squarely is not, despite the two being of the same canal.
The operative language used in area demarcation is the rationality of mapping, and this rationality, I argue, comes to endorse a particular way of seeing. Basic mapping vocabularies--those of dots, lines, and polygons--are invoked to rationalize land into zones or boriwens to be governed, such that a zone is formed once two or more points meet (banjop) on the map. Once formed, these geometric shapes warrant a certain kind of truth. The production of the Extension to Rattanakosin is one illustrative example. To call something an extension of something else presupposes the existence of an established core, from which everything else extends and radiates. For the core and its extension to be conceived and perceived as such, I propose that they must engage in at least three conditions. First, each of them has to be internally coherent and identifiable as an entity. Second, each of them has to be externally discrete and distinguishable from one another. Third, the temporal relationship between the core and the extension is such that the core precedes the extension. Viewed from the ordinance maps, the relationships between Rattanakosin and the Extension convincingly fulfill these propositions. That is, the two areas are constructed on the maps--the 1982 and 1987 Ordinances, and the 1999 Ordinance, respectively--as coherent internally and discrete externally. As for their temporal relationship, Rattanakosin was considered the historic core, to which the Extension was later appended as an insulating buffer in the larger scheme of urban development control. It is in this patchwork-like manner that the districts of Bang Lamphlu, Charoen Krung, and Chinatown are rendered a plausible extension of Rattanakosin. The Extension, let us argue, is a geometrical truth depicted on, and made possible by, the planimetric view of the ordinance maps. With Rattanakosin situated at the center and positioned as the historic core, everything else--Thonburi or Chinatown--is by consequence constituted outside of, or peripheral to it. The Extension is a Cartesian extension resulting from the Rattanakosin-centered way of seeing.
The mapping spaces produced through the Rattanakosin-centered worldview--e.g. the Thonburi-across-from-Rattanakosin, the Extension, and the light-brown Rattanakosin--are synchronic, ahistorical renditions. These geometrical truths, whose existence is validated by the maps, are fragile as they do not hold up well against Bangkok's historical development. Here, I problematize in turn two geometric truths in the official maps: the core-extension relation (Rattanakosin as central) and the internally coherent, light-brown core (Rattanakosin as whole). First, despite cartographically depicted as such, Rattanakosin is hardly the oldest, isolated historic core decoupled from Bangkok. Instead, the vast field of historical Bangkok is one of many overlapping historical geographies that had long developed in tandem: the landscape of court and palaces, the Buddhist temples and their surrounding residential communities, the trading district of the Chinese, the port economy, and the outlying agrarian villages. Historical Bangkok is not made up of concentric rings of the core and the periphery, an applique of sewn patches, but of overlapping boundaries of various historical settlements.
Chinatown is a counterexample of the core-extension relation. Various sites and structures as urban built archives (Pairaudeau, 2014) across Chinatown can attest to the long established presence of Chinese communities and their spaces in Bangkok. First, and perhaps the greatest irony, the current site of the Grand Palace, the heart and soul of Rattanakosin, used to be a Chinese trading settlement since the 17th century before the inauguration of Bangkok as the capital in the late 18th century. In transferring the seat of the capital from Thonburi on the left bank to the right bank of the Chao Phraya River, the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, King Yodfa, had the Chinese settlement relocated to where it is known today as Sampheng (Naengnoi, 1991: 88). In its place, the Grand Palace was built along with the Temple of Emerald Buddha. Today, the remaining trace of Chinese communities in this area is the small commercial neighborhood of Tha Tian located right outside the Grand Palace (Sirisrisak, 2009). Once relocated to a new marshy location east of the city wall, a Chinese marketplace quickly formed by 1790, as evidenced by dense rows of Chinese-style buildings still in existence in Talat Noi (Kulachol, 2003, 2003-2004: 2). The name Talat Noi, or "small market" in Thai, gestures at the existence of the more prosperous, larger market of Sampheng, which is now all but redeveloped. Nonetheless, the origin of Sampheng lane, the main spinal pedestrian lane that runs through the heart of Chinatown can be traced back to the late 18th century, the very time Rattanakosin was founded (Nmngnoi, 1991: 88). Another built structure that helps anchor the established presence of Chinese space in Bangkok's history is the Leng Buai la shrine north of Sampheng. The shrine bears an inscription plaque stating that it was built in 1658 or over 100 years before the establishment of Bangkok as a capital itself. (10)
Related to the multiplicity of Bangkok's historical spaces are their multiple historical times. The historical time that underpins the cartographic construction of the core and the extension is the sequential, linear time, in which the core is assumed to have formed ahead of the extension. It is in this order that the relationship between Rattanakosin and its Extension is expressed: the latter in succession of the former. However, the aforementioned historical existence of Chinatown exemplifies simultaneous local histories that defy the sequential core-extension formulation. In urban morphological studies, Marshall (2009) proposes that the city is akin to a forest made up of competing and collaborating ecologies, rather than a tree that grows and extends under one logic of growth and decay from the center outward. He critiques metaphors and analogies commonly used to describe the city's growth such as "urban expansion," for it assumes wholeness and unidirectionality of urban growth. Bangkok is one such forest of ecologies. To assign Chinatown as an extension of the historic district as if the city had historically spread out in a smooth, centrifugal fashion is, therefore, a view strictly from the map and is thus a flawed perception of the temporal relations between historical geographies. As a way of seeing, the Ordinance Maps privilege sequentiality at the expense of simultaneity, and exclude a possibility that there can have been, too, other historicities outside the cartographic bounds of historicalness, thus suppressing the simultaneously existing historical settlements under the static mapping plane.
Second, Rattanakosin as a light-brown whole belies Bangkok's morphological history in at least two ways: form and contents. First, the form and formation of Bangkok's settlements is along rivers, irrigation canals, and waterways, (11) giving rise to the river- and canal-side settlements that still can be seen today. The monocentric-city model that is akin to the medieval European city departs remarkably from the sprawling city that had characterized Bangkok's early urbanization. Second, the landuse contents of what we now call Rattanakosin have never been internally coherent, orderly, or light-brown as the zoning map sees and wishes to prescribe, as earlier documented by the older versions of the zoning maps (Figure 5). Against the government's attempts at recreating a sacred city and enhancing its vast, monumental vistas, Rattanakosin was as much a popular, residential city (Herzfeld, 2006). Since there was no distinction between home and workplace in early Rattanakosin, the rulers' residences also functioned as their workplace. Therefore, formed around the palace or the residence of the nobility was a residential community of the entourage, servants, and attendants. As a new palace is built for the princes and their consorts, soon would follow an urban settlement of residential and market spaces (Askew, 1996, 2002; Naengnoi, 1991; Sirisrisak, 2009). This led to a sprawling pattern of palace-led urbanization within and outside the city wall. Although walled and moated like the medieval European city, the spaces within the wall were remarkably different. The Southeast Asian city was never densely built up, but lush, garden-like with large areas reserved for plantations, orchards, and farms (McGee, 1969; Pregrill and Volkman, 1999). The geography of early Bangkok was not intensely urban, monocentric, and monochrome, but sparse, riparian, and speckled in land uses.
Pictorial elegance, cartographical deletion, and historiographical violence
There is a pictorial elegance to the shape of Rattanakosin. The oval contour that resembles an egg or a diamond is compellingly legible, believable, and thus "makes sense." Over the years, the shape has been reinforced through the commonly rehearsed imaginaries of krung Rattanakosin, or Rattanakosin City, and ko Rattanakosin, or Rattanakosin Island, (12) elevating the exceptionalism of this particular image of spatial isolation. It is reproduced in official plans, tourism brochures, mass media, everyday parlance, and popular culture as a device of common identification and as an appropriate perimeter of intervention. As a tenacious Thai imaginary, Rattanakosin Island is taken as given, as a boundary that is agreed upon, natural, and problem-free. Despite being a situated knowledge located in a particular way of seeing and mapping, the Island has come to circulate as a universal knowledge, parading as the historic core of Bangkok that is distinct and solitary.
The pictorial elegance of the isolated island does have a hegemonic potential. As far as zoning is concerned, it reduces Bangkok's urban history by forcibly containing it within a boundary that eclipses Bangkok's other historical geographies. First, by designating Rattanakosin as the authoritative historic district, the maps alienate and peripheralize pre-Rattanakosin historical geographies such as that of Thonburi, recreating but one part of Thonburi as Rattanakosin's buffer strip, trivializing the rest by cartographically deleting it from the official preservation purview. Second, by taking Rattanakosin as a point of departure, as the fixed historical epicenter of Bangkok, from which everything else radiates, the maps demote other historical spaces to the status of geometric extensions, accretions, or dependents of the larger life, thus omitting other spatial histories that may have been both independent or constitutive of that of Rattanakosin itself. As earlier argued, the core-extension depiction strays significantly from Bangkok's morphological history. Such historical interpretations narrowly conceived by pictorial representations quite violently monopolize a singular claim to historical significance. The maps limit other possible intersections between cartography and historical geography that may better align official representations and human settlement histories, and thus allow the former to reveal rather than conceal the latter. In its current conception, the geometric coherence, visually compelling as it is, stifles histories.
The geometries of historicalness have a far-reaching effect beyond skewing the historiographical role of space. Quite far from the strictly semiotic realms of maps and drawings, the Rattanakosin boundary also serves to warrant subsequent technical practices such as zoning codes that have serious consequences on the livelihoods of many. Let us recall that, as arguably the most important urban planning device of Bangkok, the zoning map is the one piece of paper that organizes relations between humans and space. Inheriting the shape of Rattanakosin and faithfully believing the stable, solid line that bisects old and new Bangkoks, the zoning map dictates contrasting material consequences on the built environment of the two areas through three zoning techniques: height control, floor-area ratio (FAR), and density zoning. First, the maximum height is capped at 16 m in the historic district, and 37 m in Chinatown. (13) Second, zoned as a central business district, Chinatown has the FAR factor of seven, meaning that the total developable floor space of a given building is up to seven times the building footprint. By contrast, a few hundred meters west of Chinatown, Rattanakosin is capped at three to four, or half the development intensity allowed in Chinatown. Third and perhaps the most controversial, in an attempt to encourage development around transit stations, the latest zoning map permits large-scale residential, office, and commercial development of greater than 10,000 [m.sup.2], on the condition that such development is located within a 500 m radius of a mass transit station. In Rattanakosin, development projects of such scale are entirely prohibited regardless of their proximity to the transit station. Once in effect, these three zoning techniques are invoked and exploited by the landlords who seek to evict the long-time tenants and turn their properties into a more lucrative development. (14) One of the most tragic eviction cases is of one store owner whose family has settled in Chinatown for over 100 years, who committed suicide following the eviction order that had come upon him as a short notice. (15) Perhaps unintended but authorized for certain, eviction exemplifies but one material consequence made possible by the new zoning regime despite its many arbitrary conditions. The abstract zoning map does act upon concrete, lived space, channeling redevelopment frenzies into some areas and diverting them away from others.
However, contrary to the abstract space that the zoning map seeks to prescribe and divide, historical urban space is much less clear-cut and constantly misbehaves in face of the official will to contain it within boundaries and categories. Another great irony is the commercial districts of Wang Burapa and "Little India" Pahurat that are located in the historic district. The zoning acknowledges this instance of landuse diversity within Rattanakosin by designating these areas as "preservation-2," as opposed to the general "preservation-1," acknowledging the more bustling, commercial activity of the former that is nestled within the high-key heritage landscape of the latter. Therefore, while Wang Burapa and Little India, or even the backpacker district of Khao San, enjoy the natural status of a historic area because they happen to be in the light-brown Rattanakosin, the immediately adjacent, albeit extramural Chinatown is relegated to a commercial zone on the basis of the solid-line boundary. An immediate corollary is that while Wang Burapa and Pahurat are protected under the auspices of Rattanakosin zoning that more or less stifles expansion and alteration, Chinatown is positioned as a growth district fully exposed to redevelopment and speculation.
The elegant contour of Rattanakosin is a geometry that is convenient but inelastic. Such inelastic convenience, I suggest, results from the facile act of drawing hard-and-fast lines and assigning permanent colors upon human geographies that are anything but fast and easy. The inelastic convenience is, therefore, fragile and fraught with contradictions, inside and outside. The flatness and smoothness of the light-brown color betrays the textured urban life within Rattanakosin that is characterized not only by the historic and the artistic, but also the popular, for the Island is not only peppered by the palaces and temples, but inhabited by everyday people and their everyday geographies. Similarly, the thin, yet sharp line decouples without difficulty the thick histories of Chinatown and other areas now relegated as Rattanakosin's Extension, ejecting them from Rattanakosin's very culture hearths.
Conclusions: Double silencing
In calling for a wider definition of historical heritage, Hardy (1988) makes a useful distinction between conservative heritage, one that is made to support status quo, nostalgia, and a noble past, and radical heritage, or the kind of heritage that explores the underlying social relations, the "histories from below," or a more social historical geography (Butlin, 1987). It is easy to dismiss Rattanakosin City/Island as conservative heritage, concluding that it is a spatial manifestation of the royalist ideology. However, this would ignore the very tools that flesh out the ideology, overplaying the symbolic currency of ideas while downplaying their technical execution. The production of historical heritage is not only about communicating a certain ideology and value, but also the very instruments that makes possible such communication.
This article makes a case for the intersection between historic preservation and cartography, exploring how the latter is used in service of the former. I argue that what is now known as Rattanakosin emerged from the state practice of law and mapmaking. The language of the abstract maps has a territorializing effect on concrete land as it pins down urban space, partitioning it into invariably fixed fields of governmental intervention. In particular, the lines and the colors of the maps have been used to demarcate and domesticate historicalness. However, such facile service of enlisting lines to invoke history is contested and filled with arbitrary conditions, because demarcation as a thin, swift stroke on the map often cuts across the thick spaces and lives of many. Geometry purports to mimic geography but ends up mocking it.
A product of state maps, the elegantly shaped Rattanakosin has firmly become a normalized worldview. However, as earlier argued, elegance is violence. The two cartographic constructions of Rattanakosin as Central and as Whole sanction a double silencing. By orienting Rattanakosin as the historical center or the core, the zoning maps render other spaces off the map. And in doing so, the zoning maps risk eclipsing a host of historical geographies outside the official bound, not only trivializing their histories into subordination but also leaving their very concrete, lived space to laissez-faire speculation. Similarly, Rattanakosin itself is far from being whole. The practice of light-brown zoning entails a great degree of homogenization, treating an area as if it were a fabric of one contiguous landuse. Within Rattanakosin, there is also presence of other lesser communities therein whose livelihoods are muted by the historical sanctity of the color light-brown.
By revealing its cartographic situatedness, we can disrupt the epistemic continuity of the knowable Rattanakosin, and thus begin to do better service and justice to Bangkok's much larger historical geography. Rattanakosin as central and as whole is contingent knowledge that is abstract description at best but, unfortunately, makes for extensive prescription at worst. Once flipped, the other side of the imposed tapestry reveals the dangling threads of history that are less elegant, more fuzzy, and thus troubling for the quest for administrative convenience. And it is the very silence, slippage, the less elegant fuzziness that have long been hidden under convincing coherence. Very much like noise that does not respect but spills over the imposed technocratic lines (Cidell, 2008), history, too, spills over.
Napong Tao Rugkhapan
University of Michigan, USA
I would like to thank Professors Rudolf Mrazek, James Scott, and Michael Herzfeld, and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on the early drafts of this paper.
Declaration of Conflicting interest
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
(1.) The districts covered include kwaengs Chanasongkram, Talat Yod, San Chaophosuea, Bawonniwet, Saochingcha, Ratchabophit, Samranrat. and Wang Buraphaphirom, all in khet Phranakon. Source: BMA (1987).
(2.) The districts covered include kwaengs Bang Yikhan (khet Bang Phlad); Arunamarin. Siriraj (khet Bangkok Noi); Wat Arun (khet Bangkok Yai); and Somdej Chaophraya (khet Khlong San).
(3.) Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning.
(4.) The districts covered include kwaengs Wat Samphraya, Ban Phanthom (khet Phranakon); Wat Sommanat, Ban Bat, Khlong Mahanak, Wat Thepsirin, Promprapsattruphai (khet Promprapsattruphai); and Samphanthawong, Chakkrawat, and Talat Noi (khet Samphanthawong). Source: BMA (1999).
(5.) This paper uses "Chinatown" to refer to the historically predominantly Chinese settlements and streets of Bangkok: Sampheng, Yaowarat, Charoen Krung, and Talat Noi.
(6.) The Thai zoning ordinance is a five-year legislation, at the termination of which a new revision has to be updated.
(7.) The first landuse zoning ordinance that was enacted is the one in 1992. However, before that, there were several landuse proposals and drafts such as Litchfield Plan in 1960, the Metropolitan Plan in 1973, and the Metropolitan Plan in 1975.
(8.) Royal Institute Dictionary (Photchananukrom Chabap Ratchabandittayasathan), Bangkok, Thailand.
(10.) Leng Buai la community committee publication. 2012. Bangkok, Thailand.
(11.) Sunait Chutinatharanont (personal communication, 2 June 2014).
(12.) The term "island" is not an appropriate description of the physical geography of Rattanakosin because, unlike the Island of Ayutthaya, Rattanakosin is not surrounded by rivers on all sides, but by dug canals.
(13.) Sixteen meters around religious sites, and 37 m for the rest of the areas. Source: BMA (1999).
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Napong Tao Rugkhapan, Urban and Regional Planning Program, University of Michigan, 2000 Bonisteel Boulevard, Ann Arbor, Ml 48109-2069, USA.
Napong Tao Rugkhapan is a PhD candidate in urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan. His research interests are the technical politics of urban design, planning, and zoning, cultural geography, and critical cartography.
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|Author:||Rugkhapan, Napong Tao|
|Publication:||Environment and Planning D: Society and Space|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2015|
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