Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture

Conference Keynote
Kotchakorn Voraakhom

Conference Keynote
Kotchakorn Voraakhom

The CELA welcomes Kotchakorn Voraakhom to the 2024 Annual CELA Conference as the Day One Keynote Speaker.

 

Kotchakorn Voraakhom is an internationally celebrated landscape architect.  A World Economic Forum Global Commission on Nature Positive City, TED Fellow, Echoing Green Climate Fellow, Atlantic Fellow and BWM Foundation Futurity Fellow, Voraakhom currently chairs the Climate Change and Biodiversity Working Group of the International Federation of Landscape Architects. In 2019, she was featured on Time magazine’s “Time100 Next” list and in Time’s “2050: The Fight for Earth” issue, as one of 15 women leading the fight against climate change. The following year, she won a United Nations Global Climate Action Award and was named to the BBC’s annual 100 Women list and to Bloomberg’s Green 30. Voraakhom was also awarded designer-in-residence for the Pulitzer Arts Foundation and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.  Voraakhom is Founder and CEO, LANDPROCESS and Porous City Network, Thailand.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Chulalongkorn University in 2002, Voraakhom attended Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, earning her master’s in landscape architecture in 2006. She launched LANDPROCESS in 2012—a year after that her family’s Bangkok home was decimated by record-setting floods. A Bangkok native, Voraakhom grew up in a dense urban area where the principal signs of nature, as she described in a 2018 TED Talk, “were these sneaky little plants trying to grow through the crack of the concrete pavement.”

Landprocess, which is dedicated to helping cities navigate climate uncertainty, soon won the competition to design the 11-acre Chulalongkorn 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.

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Voraakhom explained 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.”

The rooftop farm for Thammasat University, which was completed in 2019, combines green roof technology with cascading earthen terraces that absorb, filter, and purify rainwater while growing food for use on campus. The Chao Phraya Sky Park, completed in 2020, is a model of adaptive reuse, built on what had been the central viaduct for an abandoned electric train project. Other major projects include Chong Nonsi Canal Park (2021), Padung Krung Kasem Canal (2022), and Bangkok’s ongoing, city-wide planning effort for “blue-green” infrastructure that incorporates both water- and plant-based solutions to address climate change. She is now a visiting fellow at Perry World House, University of Pennsylvania, and teaching at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in exploring landscape architecture-based solutions to working with the water-based city she calls home.