In the Khlong Toei neighborhood of Bangkok, houses are packed in tight. The district is densely populated and one of the poorest in the city; vacant lots between the buildings sat untended and unused.
These often-asymmetrical lots, though, were some of the only public spaces where the district’s kids could gather and play. The neighborhood lacks the wide-open spaces necessary to build traditional fields for soccer, the most popular sport in Thailand.
Recognizing this, a real estate development firm, AP Thailand, teamed up with the digital agency CJ Worx to launch the Unusual Football Field Project, which transforms oddly shaped lots into soccer pitches that defy the rectangular norm, but are still completely functional.
The partner agencies decided to scrap tradition, and began cleaning up and repainting smaller lots, which they transformed into L-shaped and zig-zag fields. The agencies claim that Bangkok’s are the world’s first non-rectangular soccer pitches.
By designing outside the box, the project encourages more inventive solutions to underutilized space—an attitude that’s informing other cities’ approaches to creating play opportunities, too. CityLab previously wrote about a pop-up initiative in New York that encourages kids to create their own playgrounds with throwaway supplies like cardboard boxes and trash cans. And 50 U.S. cities were recently awarded grants through the nonprofit KaBOOM! to install small-scale, innovate play structures in underserved spaces. The projects, including sidewalk mazes and bus stop swing sets, mirror Bangkok’s approach to re-imagining disused spaces as opportunities.
In Bangkok, the unusual fields seem to have won over the neighborhood kids. In a video produced by AP Thailand, one teen describes seeing the pitch for the first time. “At first I thought: ‘How are we going to play on this field?’” he says. “It seems to be twisted and distorted; it just felt strange when I played. But it just takes a different perspective.”