In visit backed by Thaksin, Gehry looks at extending the Otop brand to architecture

Art November 18, 2013 00:00

By The Nation

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Pritzker prize-winning architect Frank Gehry was in Bangkok a couple of weeks ago to discuss with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ways of discussing on enhancing Thailand's Otop products through architecture and design

According to the Royal Thai Government, the premier expressed her gratitude to Gehry for taking the time to share his experience and points of view with Thai entrepreneurs, adding that they could adapt his knowledge of architecture to their products. Yingluck also told him that his creativity in design could make Thailand’s Otop products more modern while still symbolising Thai culture.

Gehry was most impressed by Chiang Mai province saying that, in his view, Chiang Mai is a beautiful city and with a redesign could become even more attractive to tourists. He cited his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, as an example of just one particular building turning a city into a must-visit place.

Invited by ThaiCom and Voice TV, both financed by Yingluck’s older brother, the self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Gehry visited Bangkok with Peter Arnell, CEO of Omnicom’s Arnell Group, a US packaging design and branding firm.

Before meeting with the premier, they hosted a discussion on Voice TV with Punsak Winyarat, the head policy adviser to the government. Voice TV reported that an audience of more than 1,000 attended the event.

Arnell and Gehry offered suggestions on the packaging design and branding of a wide range of Thai goods for export, mostly products produced by small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as those under the One Tambon One Product scheme.

Yingluck earlier confirmed that the government will push for exports of SME and Otop goods to the world market, and that the “Thai Cuisine Feeds the World” initiative initiated by the previous Thaksin-led government would be put to work.

Thaksin had met with Arnell and his team in Italy to discuss the Yingluck government’s scheme to have the Thai export goods designed, packaged and branded to the extent that they be comparable to those made in Italy or France.

China’s Xinhua blog quoted the former premier as saying, “Thailand’s future generations need to be prepared for an era of creative economy. Thai products would sell like hot cakes only if they were made on a par with world standards of quality and design.”

He added that with such commercial activity prices of Thai export goods would certainly increase, thanks to such commercial creativity and stressed that he had hired Arnell and his team at his own expense.

Yingluck and several members of her cabinet were in Switzerland, Montenegro and Italy in September to promote trade, investment and tourism between Thailand and the European countries. Thaksin commented that Montenegro, where he used to reside in self-exile several years ago, is a potential new market for Thai export goods.