What do you think you’d get if you combined the Ryerson student union building, the Ryerson DMZ, the TIFF Light Box, a traditional shopping mall with a huge food court, a Loblaw’s, an apartment tower, an office building, the U of T Bookstore and a bunch of other stuff that I’ve forgotten to mention.
If you put all of that stuff together, you’d get a place called Samyan Mitrtown, which is a huge multi-building complex, built, owned and operated by Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. This university is very much like our University of Toronto. It is very old. It sits in the central core of the city, and it’s widely seen as the best university in Thailand. It has significant assets, particularly when it comes to land. It has leveraged those assets well, with Samyan Mitrtown being the latest in a long list of projects.
I visited Samyan Mitrtown the other day and was blown away by the facilities. The name of the complex comes from the community name in which it’s located. The complex has all of the features that I mentioned at the top of this entry. The building was full of students and non-students. One of the interesting aspect of the building’s design was the fact that even though the main education/shopping/exhibit/entertainment zones are huge, the complex does not use traditional air conditioning. The building is naturally ventilated and has systems to move air around creating a comfortable interior without a huge electrical requirement. During my visit, the outside temperature was about 35ºC but the interior was about 25ºC. And the building was packed with lots of warm bodies.
Chulalongkorn University has accomplished a few interesting things that other universities have not quite managed. It has leveraged its land assets and become its own developer in the process of creating the project. It has retained ownership of the project and done some very clever deals with operators who run the grocery store and the food hall. (This is Thailand, so the food choices in this building are huge.). It has created a subsidized housing building and a world class startup incubator and co-working office building. They even built a really cool link into the city’s subway system so that car access would not be as necessary. (That’s an energy saver.)
The folks running this very large and well respected university seem to have done a great job at linking education and business in a way that seems pretty sustainable and future facing.
By the way, the first photo in the set above was taken at night from a nearby high-rise that I’ll report on in another entry. It shows the entire complex which, as you can see, is very large. Sorry about the fuzziness of this photo. My camera isn’t so hot in the dark