Napong Tao Rugkhapan

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Hipster bars, urban change, and spatial conflict in Soi Nana, Bangkok, Thailand

In this exploratory research, I explore how Soi Nana, a small alley in historic Bangkok, Thailand, evolved from a warehouse area into a hipster district known for its 'hidden bars'. Beginning the early 2010s, old businesses began to move out, leaving behind a quiet streetscape. In particular, I address the role of architecture and urban design in producing a charming, nostalgic aesthetic, attracting in particular educated, stylish entrepreneurs and their clientele. Within a few years, Soi Nan became known as an alternative hangout spot popular among local and tourists alike. While some residents are contented with Soi Nana's new lease of life, finding themselves 'adapting' to the new environment, the new businesses intersect with the preexisting social geography of tenants, street prostitutes, homeless children, and mom-and-pops stores. The research is interested in the clashing of the two worlds and the spatial conflicts they produce.

Tao Rugkhapan is a lecturer at the School of Global Studies at Thammasat University, Thailand. He received a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Michigan. His research interests include critical cartography, critical heritage studies, and technopolitics of urban design planning.