If you are interested in design based on local needs, local materials, and local traditions, you will find vernacular building exhibitions well worth a visit.
/// Thailand ///
Five show pavilions are open now at Architect ’18, the ASEAN’s largest building technology exposition organized by the Association of Siamese Architects (ASA). It’s happening on May 1-6, 2018 at Impact, Muang Thong Thani.
Other attractions range from a photography display by Vernacular Built Environment and Cultural Heritage Studies Group, and exhibitions by various architectural firms, to retail businesses, and seminars featuring distinguished speakers from Thailand and abroad.
The expo’s must-see events include a show pavilion by Boon Design, which presents building techniques using materials readily available in a locality, such as plastic crates for fruit transportation filled with clay.
Designer Boonlert Hemvijitraphan said: “Traditionally, earth has been a material of choice for home building while plastic crates come in handy as byproducts of the industry. The choice of materials is often dictated by availability in a particular area. Homes can be made of anything, whether it’s earth or wood, so long as they are adapted to suit local needs and requirements.” Like so, a vernacular house in Southeast Asia may appear dim on the inside because there are only a few openings. Lace fabrics on the windows tell stories of clever adaptations to suit local weather conditions.
The building techniques differ from country to country across Southeast Asia as illustrated by the photo exhibition by the Vernacular Built Environment and Cultural Heritage Studies Group. Its members include Isarachai Buranaut, Kullphut Seneevong Na Ayudhaya, Somchai Chuechuaychu, and Surapong Jamniyom.
Of course you have heard of the oldest and most famous places in world history. But, do you know that one of Google’s main ambitions is to inspire you to see them in a fun and simple way?
/// Photo: Google ///
With Google VR and drone footage, the multinational technology company lets you experience virtual reality of 25 historic sites in 18 countries across the globe — from Bagan, an ancient city in central Myanmar, to Thailand’s former capital Ayutthaya, to the ruins of Pompeii in southern Italy, and Al Azem Palace in Syria, which dates back to the days of the Ottoman Empire.
Also enjoyed by many is Google Arts and Culture, an online platform through which people can access images of artworks and exhibits hosted by participating museums. For the education of future generations, Google is partnering with CyArk, a non-profit organization dedicated to making historical and cultural heritage sites accessible to the public. CyArk uses laser light technology to crate 3D representations of sites of outstanding universal value.
For now, join us on incredible adventures to some of the most famous heritage sites in the ASEAN. Appreciate peace and tranquility in Bagan, an ancient city in Myanmar, and experience virtual reality of Wat Phra Sri Sanpet in Ayuttyaya, Thailand. The temple ruins were used as backdrop for scenes in one of many Hollywood movies filmed in Thailand. (https://artsandculture.google.com/project/cyark)
Perfected over time, the chaise lounge paired with triangular-shaped pillows offers a fascinating glimpse into Thai culture. As time goes on, the design is sliding into obscurity. The chair with a lengthened seat for leg rest and reclining differs from the European-style sofa in that the former is a short-legged, backless couch. The absence of a backrest is compensated by a set of wedge pillows.
/// Thailand ///
The Thai-style chaise lounge is a traditional appraoch to reclined seating. One way of sitting comfortably in one is to sit with your feet up. The wedge pillows serve both aesthetic and functional purposes and can be made from a variety of textiles. The traditional chaise lounge set is designed for side-lying and semi-reclining positons.
Reviving interest in the design that’s quintessentially Thai, designer Ath Supornchai has debuted a chaise lounge set that mixed strong traditional values with the Thai Modern concept. Winning enthusiastic praise at this year’s International Furniture Fair Singapore, the sofa set called “KIRI” is selling under the brandname “Mobella”. It is also furniture of choice in the reception room at Line Chat App’s Thailand office.
The new IKEA store in Johor, Malaysia was dubbed Southeast Asia’s largest when it opened for business four months ago. That’s about to change as the candidate for the top spot will open in Thailand in a matter of days.
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The world-renowned, Swedish-founded furniture retailer will launch its newest, largest store in Southeast Asia in Bang Yai, Nonthaburi on March 15. It will be the country’s second IKEA store that’s geared towards meeting the needs of people in Nonthaburi as well as outlying districts in Bangkok’s Northwest.
The newest retail establishment in Bang Yai spreads over a surface of 50,278 square meters, compared to 46,700 square meters at the IKEA Tebrau store in Johor. The Malaysian store was opened on November 16, 2017.
The IKEA Bang Yai store is partially solar-powered. Its solar arrays comprising 4,548 photovoltaic cells mounted on the rooftop are capable of producing 1.5 megawatts per year, or about 13% of the building’s electricity needs. It is LEED certified for quality and achievement in green building features.
Unlike other IKEA retail establishments, the Bang Yai store has cashier stations on every floor. The new design enables shoppers who are short on time to get in and out of the store faster.
IKEA’s world largest store is located in South Korea. Opened in December 2014, the IKEA Gwangmyeong has 59,000 square meters of business space. The chain retail establishment has six stores in Southeast Asia — two in Singapore, three in Malaysia, and one in Thailand. The Bang Yai store will be number 7 in the region.
The tree-filled beauty of the great outdoors makes for a relaxing place to live, which is why so many want this. Among these is the Norateedilok family, who made the dream a reality with this single-story modern-style house in a verdant forest of rubber trees.
Architect/Owner Nat (Rakchai Norateedilok) built this house for his mother, who wanted to be near her grandparents in Phatthalung Province. Here is a place near the rubber orchards she loves which she can call home and where she can socialize with friends of her generation.
“There used to be a rice storehouse here,” said Nat. “The rubber orchard was planted later, and the trees had grown big and beautiful, so we decided to build the house here. Also, the front area is near the original main house kitchen, so there was no need to build a new kitchen. Stucco walls and a slanted black steel roof give it a smooth, simple look. The house’s 43 square meters hold a bedroom, bathroom, and living room.
“This house is on a ‘footing-style’ foundation. I put free-standing, unattached posts in the earth before adding floor beams and posts; this helps create good air flow. I pretty much left the interior planning to Mom’s preferences, so the design is for simplicity and ease of use.”
The location, in a rubber plantation, made choice of construction materials an important consideration. Nat primarily used concrete and real wood to give the house a look to match the surrounding environment. Synthetic wood was used where necessary, which also helped with the budget. Construction was done by local builders in only 4-5 months, so Nat was able to supervise the work himself and ensure the budget not exceed 700,000 baht.
Nat’s mother was in charge of the interior décor. In selecting furniture she kept the number of pieces to a minimum, just what was necessary to be able to relax in a clean, orderly place and feel close to nature. The resulting house is wonderfully livable and comfortable.
Despite the omnipresence of the Internet in society today, there seems to be a disconnect between the impact of pollution and access to the information needed to protect public health. Strange as it may sound. According to a 2017 estimate by the environmental tech company Plume Labs, only 0.246% of the earth has access to that vital information.
/// ASEAN ///
As air pollution levels rise from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok to Yangon, and Phnom Penh to Jakarta, it’s wise to stay abreast of the latest developments. There are many websites and apps that measure the concentrations of both PM2.5 and PM10 and other pollutants. Here are three useful apps to check air quality wherever you are.
– Air Quality: Real-time AQI App –
The Real-time AQI app for Android and iOS shows air quality information from more than 10,000 monitoring stations in over 60 countries, including mainland China, Korea, Japan and countries across Southeast Asia. It provides, among other things, data about the concentrations of smaller airborne pollutants (PM2.5) and larger particulates (PM10). The former refers to extremely small particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter or about 3% the diameter of human hair.
Updated hourly, the same information is linked to the developer website http://aqicn.org along with data on harmful gases and other readings such as temperatures, pressures, and humidity. The site also publishes visualized maps and protective mask recommendations from the global independent campaign organization Greenpeace. Get to know three types of masks to protect you from PM2.5 that ordinary surgical masks cannot. Whether it’s on the mobile app or the website, good infographics are worth a thousand words and a good place to start researching.
– Plume Air Report App –
Plume Air Report on the iPhone is a reporting and forecasting app that tracks real-time air pollution levels for every city in the world. The environmental tech company (website https://plumelabs.com) is the maker of “Flow,” a mobile personal air tracker that measures harmful pollutants indoors and outdoors. Real-time data including air quality indices, temperatures, UV levels, winds, and humidity are updated hourly along with pollution forecasts for the next 24 hours and statistics for the past 7 days. Flow makes it possible to track harmful air pollutants even in cities without AQI monitoring stations. The device is open for pre-order. Check the website for availability.
– Air Quality: AirVisual App –
AirVisual is a real-time and forecast air quality app that provides AQI indices for over 70 countries worldwide. Available on both Android and iOS, the free app gathers information from more than 9,000 locations via global networks of government monitoring stations and AirVisual’s own sensors. By giving historical, real-time, and forecast air pollution data, AirVisual is a pocket guide to avoiding harmful airborne particles. The AirVisual Earth Map is a good place to start tracking pollution levels and weather conditions with hourly updates.
In Southeast Asia, notably Bangkok, Chiangmai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Jakarta, thick haze of air pollution isn’t going away any time soon. As the fight for clean air continues, it pays to be in the know and avoid places with high concentrations of PM2.5 and PM10. The mobile apps mentioned above are three of many technologies designed to get the message across in the interest of public health and safety.
Air pollution is just one aspect of the wider environmental and health problems in major cities around the ASEAN. It’s a wake-up call among city dwellers from Bangkok to Jakarta to Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.
The crux of the matter is the high concentrations of small airborne particles (known as PM2.5) that enter the body through the nose and mouth. They pose greater health risks than larger particles (known as PM10), which the body is capable of eliminating through coughing, sneezing, and swallowing.
Technically speaking, PM2.5 refers to particulate matters with a mass aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micrometers. They are capable of traveling deep into the body causing anything from mild symptoms such as nose and throat irritation to more serious conditions like lung and heart problems, even lung cancer.
To get the information across to the public, a monitoring system was devised. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a number used to communicate how polluted the air is in real time, and how bad it is forecast to become. AQI readings above 150 are considered to have direct impacts on the health conditions of sensitive groups of people.
While industrial pollution left cities across China and India in the smog, countries in Southeast Asia have become alert to the man-made problem and begun taking action to reduce PM2.5 levels. Let’s hope that it’s not too late.
A few weeks into the new year 2018, it was a terrible shock to find thick haze of air pollution blanketing the entire landscape of Bangkok Metropolis. The spike in PM2.5 concentrations that cut down visibility and posed a threat to public health was blamed on a mix of humidity and seasonal inactivity in the air flow.
The same also happened to Chiangmai in the northern part of the country, and the haze hasn’t fully lifted. While local governments called on farmers not to burn their fields in preparation for the new planting season in Chiangmai, Bangkok authorities were looking for ways to free up traffic snarls and reduce air pollutants from industrial plants.
In Jakarta, where traffic jams were just as bad, the need to reduce air pollution has been a hot topic for quite some time. Jakarta’s problems stemmed from rapid increases in vehicular emissions in the city and industrial pollution in the northern part of the city. A recent study showed that over 60% of the population of the Indonesian capital were facing increased risks in respiratory and pulmonary disease.
Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City were no exception when it came to air pollution from vehicular emissions. Motorbikes remained the most popular means of transportation nationwide. The country with a population of 92 million had over 45 million registered motorcycles. A 2013 study showed that high PM2.5 levels were linked to about 40,000 deaths, equivalent in seriousness to a 5% economic loss.
Going somewhere this Valentine’s Day? For inspiration, here are five heart-shaped lakes and islands around the ASEAN. Imagine waking up on the beach with crystal clear water, soaking up golden sun on the rice field, or escaping to the forest of luxuriant foliage found only in the tropics. Check out these places.
– Rih Lake / Myanmar –
Dubbed a hidden paradise, Rih Lake is off the beaten track. It’s located in Chin State bordering India and more than 480 km from Mandalay, the second largest city at the center of mainland Myanmar. The isolated, heart-shaped lake is surrounded by paddy fields and forested areas. The area is home to the Mizo people, who inhabit both sides of the Myanmar-India border. The lake, which is accessible from Rihkhawdar, a nearby tourist destination, is considered a pilgrimage site for Mizo people and the passage to their eternal home after death. Because it’s not easy to get to from within Myanmar, most visitors come here from the Indian side.
– Siit Lake / The Philippines –
Siit Lake is in Sulu, a province in the southern part of the Philippines. The heart-shaped body of water is 800 meters wide and 1.6 kilometers from one end to the other. The Sulu archipelago is part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindana0 (ARMM). The provincial capital, Jolo, is located on the island of the same name. The Sulu archipelago is accessible from Mindanao Island. Due to its remoteness, the lake is not easy to get to.
– Cocks Comb Island / Myanmar –
Located in the Andaman Sea, Cocks Comb is a small limestone atoll with a stunning heart-shaped lagoon in it. On a clam day, you can swim through a natural tunnel into the beautiful lagoon, also known as the Emerald Heart. The seawater is perfect for snorkeling and coral reef diving. Cocks Comb Island is accessible from Myanmar’s southernmost city of Kawthaung and Thailand’s Ranong Province. Many tour operators offer guided service from Ranong.
– Dao Island / The Philippines –
Dao is a beautiful private island located in Busuanga Bay, Palawan Province. The 47.9-hectare (about half a square kilometer) island boasts crystal clear waters and pristine tropical forest. The crescent shoreline of the paradise island can be seen from the east side.
– Thung Thalay Luang / Thailand –
Thung Thalay Luang is an artificial lake designed to store rainwater in the Yom River Basin. Located in the north central province of Sukhothai, the large body of water features a small heart-shaped island with a beautiful Mandapa on it. The pillared pavilion for public rituals contains soil from villages across the province as the symbolism of love and social harmony. Accessible via a well-marked entry road, the island is a sight to behold from the air.
In Malaysia and Singapore, the popular noodle soup is known as “Yong Tau Fu”. In Thailand, it goes by the name “Yen Ta Fo”. Different names for the same good food!
Originally a part of traditional Hakka cuisine, the scrumptious noodle soup is enjoyed by many people across peninsular Southeast Asia. Particularly in Malaysia, it has pride of place among top 100 dishes with a national heritage status.
Yong Tau Fu has been among many big hits on the menu for hundreds of years. Its various recipes were brought in by the Hakka people, one of major groups who migrated into the Region from southeastern China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
As its name implies, the recipe is made of tofu stuffed with ground pork and then deep-fried to give it a distinctive crispy flavor. It is the perfect match for a bowl of soup, good with dipping sauces, and makes a delicious accompaniment for noodle. Nowadays near-original versions of Yong Tau Fu can still be found everywhere in Malaysia.
Meantime, the Thais like their Yen Ta Fo slightly different from the original. They treat it as a noodle dish that comes either with or without deep-fried tofu. Instead, the Thai recipe features fish balls, pleasantly crisp calamari, pig’s blood cakes, and tender shoots and leaves of water spinach. Some Yen Ta Fo joints offer pork-stuffed tofu, while others may do without it entirely.
The Thai version is distinguished by the signature pink soup that gets its color from fermented red bean curd. The Thais also like their Yen Ta Fo with a variety of condiments, including taro fries, shrimp balls, jellyfish, and wood ear, aka black fungus. Some like their Yen Ta Fo the Thai way in spicy chili soups. A lot of people confuse Yen Ta Fo with a similar recipe without the pink soup. Although made with the same ingredients, the latter is known as “Kuaytaew Khae”, literally Hakka noodle.
Traditionally, a Malaysian-style Yong Tau Fu begins with first-course meals consisting of a mix of crispy fries, such as tofu, purple eggplant, stuffed meals, and sweet pepper, aka bell pepper. It’s hard to beat a good dipping sauce to start with. Then it’s time to eat them with a soup and add noodle to complement a great meal. Yong Tau Fu is ranked among Malaysia’s top 100 dishes with a national heritage status, along with other big hits such as Nasi Lemak (a rice dish cooked in coconut milk with anchovies and hot sauces), Nasi Ayam (chicken rice), and Ketupat (rice dumpling in palm leaf pouch).
In Singapore, where Yong Tau Fu is a culinary success story, rice vermicelli is served on a plate along with a bowl of spicy soup called Laksa. It is recommended to try this with Chee Cheong Fun, a rice noodle roll that comes in either dry or wet versions. There are plenty of Yong Tau Fu joints to be found. The price is reasonable, but keep in mind the line is rather long. If you are patient, it will get to your turn. Enjoy your meal!
“ReGEN House,” Pankwan Hudthagosol’s home, was designed as a modern residence for a multigenerational family. Built on the same property as his father’s house, its concept echoes his father’s belief that the gift of warmth and closeness can show us how to think and live, and both welcomes and provides a foundation in life for young Mena, the newest family member. It began with a great design from EKAR Architects.
The four-storey building on about ¼ acre of land has an interior space of 1600 meters. Its L-shaped layout opens on a green courtyard facing the forest-like garden at “Grandpa’s” house, connecting views for the people of three generations.
The first floor holds a carport, maid’s bedroom, and rooms for swimming pool equipment and other services. The heart of the house is the second storey, where a wide balcony/deck taking up a full half of the floor space is used for family recreational activities. This floor is designed to give the sense of being at ground level, as it reaches out to a “green roof” planted with ground cover seemingly floating atop a gazebo rising from the garden below, and with a swimming pool right there giving the feeling of an old-time streamside home.