BANGKOK — As Bangkok’s shiny new building currently wins attention and plaudits, there’s at least one person unhappy about it.
Seven years after MahaNakhon was announced, its showy debut Monday night brought it to the attention of Srisuwan Janya, a nativist activist who just learned foreign forces were behind its pixelated design.
Srisuwan, who campaigns for fierce native protectionism of industries and ownership, announced Tuesday he will file a complaint with the state ombudsman accusing authorities of negligence for allowing Ole Schereen, one of the world’s most relevant architects, to play a role in the building, because he is German.
Srisuwan cited a law forbidding foreigners to engage in certain professions, which includes architecture.
Schereen, who used to manage Asian projects for the legendary Rem Koolhaas, is the principal of Büro Ole Scheeren, which designed the 77-story spire on Naradhiwas Road.
Regulations first adopted in 1979 reserved 39 occupations for Thai nationals. It was later replaced by the 1999 law still in effect today. Most of them involve handicrafts, but some include labor, engineering and architectural work. Schereen and his firm were the named architects since the project was announced by Pace Development in 2009.
The high-rise complex is one of many iconic buildings comprising the Bangkok skyline which were designed by foreign architects, usually operating as “consultants.” Cosmopolitan architecture has been a borderless industry, with big firms from Europe, the United States and Asia designing buildings on each other’s turf.
But Srisuwan doesn’t see it that way. As head of his own group called the “Safeguarding the Constitution Organization,” Srisuwan said his next target is campaigning against entrepreneurial expats who might illegally own any businesses in the kingdom.
“Both case involve neglect by two government agencies, the Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Commerce,” he told Matichon.
His announcement quickly became a joke online since it spread Tuesday.
“Don’t forget that many important palaces were also design by hired foreigners,” wrote Facebook user Nitilak Chaipan on the popular Drama Addict page. “If you want to have an issue then wake the ghost of royal artisan Tamagno up and imprison him.”
Tamagno, born in Italy as Mario Tamagno, was an architect employed by the government in 1800s. He was one of two Italians to design many buildings deeply linked to the country’s modern identity, such as the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and Hua Lamphong rail terminal.
Others were surprised by the news – not Srisuwan’s complaint, but that certain professions were off-limits to foreigners.
“I just learned today that architects are a controlled career in Thailand,” wrote Facebook user Hank JT. “Lucky enough they don’t have such laws in some other countries, otherwise Thai architects could not make their name known.”
While most netizens focused on Srisawan announcement, one of the top comments was more interested in his job title.
“Do we have a Safeguarding the Constitution Organization? I see we always tear it apart like a toy,” wrote user Ramil Pongkaitkong.
Clarification: The occupational protections enacted under a 1979 law were updated under a 1999 version still in effect today.