Being over 100 years old, the great majority of significant urban centers in Southeast Asia could comfortably be put under the category of hybrid modernized traditional cities. That is to say they have grown out of old townships, and developed into cities of a new breed, characterized by the symptoms of a developing society. In the pre-modern era the pace of change was gradual. But with the new modern eco-political conditions the urban centres have taken on different functions. The changes have been noticeably of leap-forward growth in the last ten decades or so. Contrary to their traditional specificities, these explosive changes have been increasingly shaped by the similar forces, i.e. the capitalist economy on the one hand and the centralized politics on the other. As a result the cities from different backgrounds have assumed a number of common attributes. Curiously they have become more alike, not in terms of their physical aspects, but of their underlying logic.
Some of their characteristics, which are increasingly problematic, could be highlighted as follows: First there are two principal parts of the cities in question, namely, the old and the new. Secondly the cities have gone through radical transformation to accommodate modern transport systems, housing arrangements, and other infrastructures, etc. Thirdly, the cities have become more and more like magnets pulling people and resources, often at the expenses of the peripheral areas. Fourthly the residents' ways of life are under the dictates of the cities rather than the other way around. Fifthly the cities are seen more as ‘polluters' and not ‘solvers'. Sixthly, since different groups have different demands on the city, conflicts arise over to whom the city should serve or what are its priorities becomes a serious question.
These attributes, which are common among cities in this region, have direct bearings on the problems of urban coherence, and hence wrestling with the concept of urban coherence itself.
This presentation aims to conceptualize hybrid modernized traditional cities with an emphasis on the changes galvanized by the urban transport and its related issues. As a city of rapid growth, Chiang Mai could typify those main attributes, and therefore is privileged as a case study. A proposed case is to serve both the purpose of a comparative study, and as an empirical board from which a set of theoretical considerations could spring.
Dr. Chaiyan Rajchagool
Chiang Mai, Thailand