Far and away our favorite part of Bangkok (and potentially Asia) was the Thailand Creative and Design Center. Located on the 6th floor of the Emporium Shopping Center at Phrom Poeng Skytrain Station, the TCDC is a gem and little oasis of creativity in the heart of Bangkok.
Funded by the Thai Government, and populated by a hip bunch of Thai Design students, the TCDC is a multi-attraction affair. They have a permanent exhibition highlighting design achievements from 10 countries, Spain, France, England, Italy, Thailand, Brazil, USA, Japan, Denmark and the Netherlands. They have a temporary exhibition every month, a gift shop with neat “designy” gifts, an excellent coffee shop with yummy espresso and tasty treats, and the piece de la resistance: the library.
The Permanent Exhibition
Upon walking into the Permanent Exhibition, you start off with a short video discussing “What is Design?” and extolling the aim of the exhibition, which is to showcase the design personality of each of the 10 countries and highlight how their unique cultural outlook shapes their design perspective. Continuing on, there’s a long chronological chart mapping out the design advances over the years –broken down by country.
Then each country has a section with important design landmarks coming out of those countries. You can see what I mean from the pictures. The part I loved was how each countries section, was put together in such a way as to suggest an atmosphere for that country. An ambiance was presented that embodied the feel you get when you think about each of the countries. I appreciated how clever each of the presentations were, and how well thought out the stylization of each country was.
The Temporary Exhibit
When we first came to the TCDC, the temporary exhibition was featuring the couture designs of Fernanda Gattinoni.
The Coffee Shop
The coffee shop, with the clever name of Kiosk, was a joy to behold too. With an obligatory black Vespa in the corner, and a stenciled chalk menu. All the food and drinks were yummy and well made and featured quality ingredients.
The very best part of the TCDC is the Library. It houses a huge collection of books on all types of design subjects. They had the large sections for Painting, Interior Design and Fashion of course, but I even saw such niche subjects as Business Card Design, Logo Design, and Lighting Design. I spent a few hours pouring over Illustration and Fashion Illustration books.
But it’s not just the fact that they have collected a vast wealth of information on design, all in one area that impresses me. The Library has many ingenious features, is logically structured and well laid out. Not only do they have books, but they have a huge magazine collection (only design titles mind you) and DVD collection. There’s an extensive textile library adjoining as well called Material Connexion. They have a page scanner, where you can scan the pages from books you need/like directly onto your USB stick. There are many little spots to curl up with your book, but there are even more clean, well-lit desks where you can spread out your books, your sketchbooks and your computer and really get some work done. There is free wifi for members, and a wide range of membership options (reasonably priced). Entry is free for foreigners and tourists for their first visit, but you can also buy a 10 consecutive day pass. They had a mini-exhibition inside the library, at that time featuring the “Design Evolution of the Water Bottle”. They also have a lecture series, and the upcoming lecture at the time was by Thakoon Pachigul, creator of Thakoon (seriously-for those of you who don’t know, a hugely popular fashion label).
The atmosphere was charged with people who are passionate about design. You look around and see people working in Photoshop on their computers, or sketching out designs for furniture design class. The wealth of information about Design that surrounds you is so uplifting, you can ride the surrounding creativity into a great work flow. And, it’s wonderful to take a pause from work or writing and dive into a book for a little inspirtation break.
If we lived in Bangkok, we would probably use the TCDC as an office location because it was a great place to focus and work, but the atmosphere was inspiring at the same time. It didn’t hurt that you had access to a nice coffee when you needed a break.
If you care about design, art or creativity at all and you find yourself in Bangkok, I implore you to visit the Thailand Creative and Design Center. The only thing that I don’t like about it is that there isn’t a sister location in San Francisco!