Interior decorator Pauline and nationally known architect Somrit Soonthornrungsi have spent their lives in this mid-city house. Once it had a flooding problem downstairs; that plus termites and general deterioration meant it was continually under repair. At first they thought to build a completely new house, but out of nostalgia and time constraints decided to do a major renovation instead.
“Our daughter grew up here and was upset that we were going to demolish it, so I thought, ‘why not combine old and new?’ The result was a balanced, harmonious creation with a courtyard for breezes to pass through,” said Somrit.
As we look in from the front door the original house is on the right, across an open courtyard with planted walkway, and the second-floor verandah connects to the new house on the left. The old house is of wood and masonry, with mortar stripped to show the traditional brick. Downstairs is Somrit’s small workshop and a bike storage space, with the floor raised higher to avoid flooding from street level. The new section of the house is connected, but quite different because of its steel-frame construction. On the ground floor there is the company office.
The second floor is Pauline and Somrit’s main living area, connecting to the old house through the courtyard. There is a living room on the right before the large indoor kitchen, which retains its original makha wood flooring but was repainted black to match the black synthetic wood of the exterior, for an informal, natural feeling to complement the green view of plants and trees outside the glass walls.
Their daughter’s room, set up like a New York loft apartment, is on the third floor. At two points a mezzanine stairway connects the central porch to the rear verandah, from which you can clearly see the 2 floors of the old house. They all lived in the house during construction of a new, steel-framed gabled roof over the old one, which was finally torn out when construction was finished, leaving the kitchen ceiling to follow the new roof angles.
“The roof is a special black version of Shera’s “U-Slate” line. I’ve loved black since childhood, said Pauline. “When I was a kid I wanted to paint my bedroom black, but my parents wouldn’t let me!” The chic interior design work has black everywhere. The large kitchen is in tribute to both her mother-side relatives and her father, who love to cook. Besides the big kitchen pantry counter being a great place to socialize, it’s also good for informal dining.
Pauline selected furniture and décor in a “mix and match” style controlled by color, some items primarily functional and others reflecting personal style, combining old and new, cheap and expensive.
“It’s comfortable because this really reflects our way of life: the house isn’t built for show,” said Pauline’s father, “and we don’t want to be climbing up and down a lot of stairs in the day. Since coming here we’ve confined business matters to downstairs, and it’s a comfortable walk up to the second floor. The longer we’re here, the more we like it. Looking back, the old house seems stuffy, not a lot of open windows. Our lives changed after the switch.
“At first we thought the courtyard would be too small, but in the end, it worked out great!”
Once light and wind directions were figured in, design principles were applied to open the structure up, and the house clearly became more than brick, cement, wood, and steel, a happy combination of old and new narratives.
Somrit added “It’s impressive. Once the rooms were finished, furniture in, lights and water on, our home came to life anew. It’s a great comfort.”
To have more space for his three children, M.L. Varudh Varavarn (Vin) of Vin Varavarn Architects built this modern house amid a garden on a quarter-acre property in the heart of Bangkok’s Chidlom District.
“Children need a place with trees to run and play,” was Vin’s first thought in keeping all the original trees for the garden. Each room looks out on this great play area. “When we built the place we’d just come back from living abroad in a town house. There wasn’t really enough space for the kids there, so we made this home more about the kids than ourselves,” he told LivingASEAN.
One primary building material was 20-year-old teakwood from Vin’s mother’s plantation in Kamphaeng Phet, much of which had been eaten hollow by wood boring beetles and couldn’t be sold to a lumber yard.
“We figured wood like this might give an interesting look. Talking with The Jam Factory contractor Subhashok gave us some ideas. We wanted something that didn’t look too slick, but had unique character and was durable. Wood, concrete, and steel were our main building materials.”
With porous teak, it’s best to cut the wood into narrow boards, sort out the more porous ones, then use the different types in different parts of the house. Wood with no holes is used for flooring. Even though you can see into the sapwood on some, porous wood panels can be used for latticework, folding doors/windows, and ceilings, which are not usually touched by people, and they can be patched where called for.
This steel-frame box-shaped house uses cement walls as artifice: for instance, the wall of rough concrete next to the parking area creates a vertical play of light and shadow on garden stone surfaces. Meantime, the living room’s big brick walls are surfaced with concrete poured in different concentrations, creating gray stripes in gentle contrast to the rough harshness of the concrete itself.
The house plan visually connects interior and outdoor spaces in a number of places: coming in the door, we first encounter an interior court with a tree, then walk around into the living area, dining space, and large open-plan pantry flanked on both sides by gardens, seeming to switch character back and forth between being indoors and outdoors. By the tree court is a latticed staircase of wood and steel leading to the 2nd floor, where we find a living area, children’s activity room, and all the bedrooms.
“The kids have been happy here, and feel more like staying at home, so we’ve achieved a nice level of success,” added M.L. Varudh. Before the evening came we got to see all 3 of Vin’s children as they got back from school to run, play, climb, and have fun, laughing and smiling, sometimes in the children’s activity room.
Alexis Dornier is a German architect who nearly ten years ago moved to the village of Mas in Bali to build a vacation home. To properly house his furniture and art works gathered from all over the world, he combined modern building techniques with an ancient Javanese architectural style known as joglo. Based around four pillars supporting a tall roof, in olden times joglo architecture indicated the owner’s social status.
/// INDONESIA /// Story: Patsiri Chotpongsun // Photography: Sitthisak Namkham
“This house was primarily designed to showcase the ancient art of joglo wood construction. Functionality was figured in afterwards,” said Alexis. “A modern steel support framework in the middle of the house adds a new element to the architectural tone, providing added support and making the house unique, but the essential artistry of the joglo structure was unaffected and remains essentially unchanged.”
Joglo architecture lends its character to two prominent spots in the house while also supporting well defined modern functionality. The first is where the multipurpose room connects to the living room, showing off the joglo high ceiling. Next to that is a display spot for outstanding works of art, where a grand piano is set. Both spots are bordered by clear glass walls looking out on the incomparable verdant green of the surrounding jungle vegetation.
As it opens into the spacious, high-ceilinged dining room, the kitchen also shows off the joglo architecture. Above is a unique and exciting mezzanine walkway of clear glass where skylights allow natural light to shine in below. A person walking here gets a close-up look at details of artistic work carved into the joglo wood, perhaps experiencing something of the past joy archaeologists have felt in making new and priceless discoveries.
“Hidden beneath this spacious living room, connected to it by a three-dimensional walkway with views in all directions (a spiral staircase reaching down from the mezzanine) you will find two large bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, as well as another living room. On your journey up or down you’ll see beautiful art works and striking views inside and out.”
Before moving into this 3-storey Chaeng Watthana townhouse, Architect and university instructor Bhradon Kukiatnun really put his heart into the design and décor to bring about a conversation among people, animals, and things, partly intentional, part by impulse. Here are imperfections that are either blemishes or beauty marks, depending on our viewpoint.
Bhradon’s business is booming, but designing his own house raised a tremendous number of new questions, not the least of which was how the new living space would accommodate his eleven cats!
“Three years ago I bought this place new, and it took 2 years to fix up. First problem: organize storage space to hold the tremendous amount of personal stuff needed in my life while still keeping the house orderly. Then, I didn’t want a typical town house atmosphere, but neither should it be jarringly different. Part of the answer is this new façade, using a type of latticework found elsewhere in the project that fits my personal lifestyle.
“There’s more than meets the eye in that front view: a lot of the functions are hidden,” explained Bhradon, as most town houses add a roofed-over carport in front. “To really express myself I had to go back and look at fundamentals with flexibility and an open mind. The space in front is limited. Would I rather have a carport there, or a garden? OK, garden: so I designed a garden where I could park the car! Quite different from having a carport decorated with plants.”
The design called for no structural alterations, but space was apportioned differently. The ground floor holds the living room, dining area, and pantry; second floor, a small bedroom and a workroom; third floor, the master bedroom. “Inside you might mistake a door for a wall, or vice versa: my overall concept was to focus on highlighting specific points, making them fit in by hiding some elements. In the living room, the TV wall is highlighted by hiding its functionality in a wall; the use of covering elements gives the feeling of being in a cave.”
During our conversation Ando, Bhradon’s first adopted cat snuggled up as if to join the group. “I learned a lot from raising cats,” he said, “they don’t think like people. Sometimes our human knowledge drowns out our instincts. But a cat! It wants to sit, lie wherever, just does what it wants. This allows single things to have more than one function: TV cabinet or sitting place? Or, for us, a storage spot. Think outside the box.”
We urban-dwellers all long for nature. Bhradon answered this with a garden area in the rear of the house: “I think gardens nourish the psyche, so I put a little green in the house, along with a small guppy pond, and it’s a perfect spirit-refresher.
“I like the ‘wabi-sabi’ way of design; the beauty of imperfection, of real life. Real life involves rust; it involves injuries. Can’t eliminate these, right? Recently my cat Kuma died, and I miss her every day. But through the sorrow of loss we see the beauty of living. Being natural is to be incomplete, and we have to live with the things that happen.” As Bhradon’s speaking voice gradually softened, an unspoken conversation brought into focus the future of the house, the man, and the cats, and whatever might lie ahead for them.
This home is hemmed in by factories, but its clever design leaves one feeling unconfined, almost as if outdoors, with landscaping inserted right into the house interior and its sporty swimming pool. Mitigation of unpleasant outside sounds and scents is an even higher priority than the outward appearance of the house.
Advanced ideas and innovations from the West work best in Asian countries when adapted to localities and geographic conditions, so those innovations take on unique personalities of their own. Vernacular architecture usually speaks directly to comfort and realities of local ways of life. In a traditional Thai house, for instance, one central concept is to have an open interior space, often with a high-ceilinged open thai thun area below the house that blocks the sun and catches the seasonal breeze.
Speaking to architect Surat Pongsupan of Greenbox Design the owner of this house said, “I want comfortable living Thai-style, with an open tai thun and such good ventilation that air conditioning is hardly needed.”
The owner’s close connection to the factory business and his desire for a short commute resulted in this closed-in location, where the architect’s ingenuity resulted in a truly striking design.
To counter the closed-in feeling, the house has entryways on two sides, one the drive into the front from the factory buildings, the second a walkway across the canal in back. Just strolling through the house is pleasant: I designed a semi-open space where the landscaping actually reaches into the pool and the house itself. Bedrooms, closets, and service areas, generally not use in the middle of the day, are positioned to block the house common areas from the factory environment. This was a first priority, and the appearance of the house followed from that.
House orientation takes into consideration directions and force of sun and wind in the humid tropical climate. Walls to the west and south are opaque; There are two levels of roofing with a gap between facilitating heat insulation and ventilation. The four-sided, gable-free roof is lighter, slighter, and more open than usual, and skylights are used to bring morning light into bedrooms, a nod to the early-rise lifestyle of the owner.
“The general house plan puts the living room in front, with a high ceiling. I placed the living room next to the garden and pool, with a full sliding glass wall opening up a horizontal view and drawing fresh air in. Ceilings in kitchen and dining room are high and open, giving the feeling of the traditional tai thun, as these rooms are used for every meal and common family activities. These rooms also open out onto the garden and swimming pool.”
Upstairs, a clear glass wall offers a view all around the house. The corridor connecting bedrooms shades the pool below, making for comfortable midday swimming.
There is an overall impression of harmony. Primary colors are gray-white and a soft, warm natural wood color. Indoors gets a lot of sunlight, but trees give it a fresh green tint, especially the brush cherry tree planted the middle of the house.
The owner, Ms. Aim, said, “we like being contemporary, but also being Thai. The openness of kitchen and pool are great. The soft sound of running water is sweet. My husband likes to listen to songs, has speakers all over the house, making for a relaxing atmosphere. It’s good for the kids to become accustomed to living with nature, which is why we emphasize the value of these common areas so much .”
We call our home “Viva House,” with the hope that all living here will have long and happy lives.
River Festival 2019 The Fifth Annual Celebration of Thailand’s River Culture Illustrating the Concept of “River Consonance”
Every river has an amazing true story to tell. To celebrate our beautiful and fulfilling culture and heritage, ThaiBev is happy to support the tourism industry’s River Festival 2019 scheduled for November 9-11 in Bangkok. Now in its fifth year, the landmark event recognizes the importance of the ASEAN Cultural Year 2019. Everyone is invited to experience the charms of civilizations situated beside the river at 10 cultural heritage waterfronts along the Chao Phraya River during the three-day period. They focus on the concept of “River Consonance”.
The Thai Beverage Public Company Limited, or ThaiBev, is assisting with this effort in close cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Royal Thai Navy, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and a network of business partners. Together, they are able to draw on prior experience to make the fifth edition of the River Festival a continuing remarkable success for 2019.
This year, the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s ASEAN Affairs Department also joins forces. Its contribution to the “River Festival 2019” supports government policies that are aimed at making Thailand a center of cultural tourism and engaging with worldwide audiences. The show is timed to coincide with the ASEAN Cultural Year 2019 proclaimed to raise public awareness of the identity, diverse culture and heritage of the Region.
The driving forces behind this year’s celebration include Mr. Itthiphol Kunplome, Minister of Culture; Mr. Suraphon Svetasreni, President of the River Festival 2019; and Mr. Kamolnai Chaixanien, Senior Vice President of the Thai Beverage Public Company Limited; as well as main sponsors from the private sector and partner networks. Details of the River Festival 2019 and the “River Consonance” concept were given during a press conference at Wat Kalayanamitr.
The city’s main tourist attractions during the festival period include spectacular light and sound shows, retail businesses, and nighttime entertainments in outdoor venues of historic significance. The 10 truly amazing places to visit are Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Wat Prayurawongsawat, Wat Kalayanamitr, Yodpiman River Walk, Tha Maharaj, Asiatique the Riverfront, Lhong 1919, SookSiam@ICONSIAM, and Wat Rakhang (Temple of Bells) that was built during the Ayutthaya Period.
The ornate shrines and vibrant street scenes are located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. They are some of the most visited destinations among pilgrims as well as foreign tourists and locals. During the three-day festival, visitors can enter the five temple grounds and pay homage to the Buddha at night. Or stop and take a moment to admire the beauty of the Chao Phraya River from all 10 riverboat piers.
If you’re into music, know that 11 universities across the capital are giving performances in various genres from popular music with wide appeal to classical. They are Chulalongkorn University, Thammasat University, Srinakharinwirot University, Silpakorn University, Kasetsart University, Ramkhamhaeng University, Dhurakij Pundit University, Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University, Rangsit University, Bangkok Thonburi University, and Bangkok University Rangsit Campus.
Experience the charms of Thai culture and Thai identity at venues of historic significance on the bank of the Chao Phraya River. No better time than now. Soak yourself in the concept of “River Consonance” during the River Festival 2019, scheduled for 9-11 November 2019, 17.00-22.30 hours. For updates please visit www.riverfestivalthailand.com and facebook/riverfestivalthailand
The River Festival 2019 is an annual cultural celebration, which is now in its fifth year. Data collected from previous years indicated that participating retail businesses could generate incomes for local communities amounting to more than 2 million baht in three days. Each year, the event attracted more than 200,000 visitors, both foreign and local. Exit interviews showed more than 90 percent of visitors came away impressed about efforts at fostering the progress of Thailand’s culture through greater awareness of its heritage. To sum up, it’s a festival that contributes significantly to the betterment of society and culture, as well as the future of the tourism industry.
Highlights of this year’s River Festival
It’s an opportunity to come in contact with pop stars, among them Sinjaroen Brother, Praw Kanitkul, Nont Tanont and other celebs, who give concerts at Asiatique. While there, find out what the concept of “River Consonance” means to you, and what kind of music is the happening thing. Step in for a surprise. Plenty of music to enjoy both on the boat and on the piers, plus performances by the CU Band and CU Chorus from Chulalongkorn, and the TU band and TU Chorus from Thammasat. Not to mention country music by up-and coming bands from Kasetsart, Srinakarinwirote, Ramkhamhaeng, Dhurakij Pundit, Suan Sunandha Rajabhat, and Bangkok Thonburi universities. There’s also jazz and international by Silapakorn. That pretty much ensures that fun is had by all.
The opening of Pier 10
To celebrate a very important year marked by the coronation of a new sovereign, H. M. King Rama X of Thailand, a new riverboat pier is officially opened on the Chao Phraya River. The pier at Wat Rakhang has since been renamed “Pier 10”. The new call sign coincides with proclamation of 2019 as the ASEAN Cultural Year and the fact that the ASEAN Region has 10 members. The 10-pier system bodes well for the future of river traffic in the inner core of Bangkok, which is home to the longest river bend running through the capital.
To reiterate the importance of 2019 as the ASEAN Cultural Year, more VIP Cruises up and down the Chao Phraya River will be added for pleasure. Representatives of the international community will be invited to participate in various promotional activities, offering them the opportunity of experiencing the charms of Thai culture and interacting with members of the local community, from temples to schools to people’s homes. The heart of the matter is a multicultural neighborhood that’s home to three religions, four beliefs, and five ethnic groups who coexist peacefully in harmony at “Ka Dee Jeen”, a midtown area in Thonburi. The activity is cohosted by the Supatra Group.
Something of interest to the media is the “Unseen Cruise Tour”, a series of activities at Wat Rakhang Pier. Begin the day with a photo contest aptly titled “One Shot Knockout”, which is scheduled for November 10 from 07.30 to 14.00 hours. At nightfall, enjoy outdoor movies featuring two of the best of Thai cinema, น้ำตาลไม่หวาน (Sugar Not Sweet), and เกาะสวาทหาดสวรรค์ (Paradise Island) that were part of the exhibits at the Bangkok Art Biennale 2019.
The journey is incomplete without a visit to Lhong 1919 and Asiatique, two famous riverboat piers on the south bend of the Chao Phraya River. Plenty of activities and fun you can do for enjoyment. From here, you can travel on to SookSiam@ICONSIAM and take part in the celebration of its first anniversary. Along the way, collect rubber stamps as proof of having visited all three riverboat piers, and you can enter for a chance to win a “Happy Pouch” from the River Festival 2019.
You may also like: … The River Festival Lamphun.
The best event you can’t miss is the Loy Krathong Festival, which is happening at the same time as the River Festival in Lamphun. The venue for dual celebrations is the bank of the Kuang River that’s a lifeline of this beautiful northern city.
The River Festival Lamphun offers the opportunity of experiencing Lanna culture that’s renowned for exceptional northern hospitality. During this time, the street is full of locals and visitors as the crowd gathers to pay respect to Phra That Hariphunchai Temple, home of the gilded stupa that’s the heart and soul of Lamphun town. By night the sky is aglow under floating lanterns during the “Festival of a Hundred Thousand Lights”.
What makes Lamphun famous is the rich riparian ecosystems and forests that thrive within the city. Art lovers shouldn’t miss the art market where pieces are bought and sold through fairs and exhibitions in art shops. The festive season is a paradise for those looking for good deals on local products. Be spoilt for choice when it comes to authentic northern food prepared by locals as well as up-and-coming young chefs. By and large, it’s an immersive experience to enjoy in the lead-up to Loy Krathong Night on 11 November.
Don’t miss out on it! The River Festival Lamphun is happening on 7-11 November on the bank of the Kuang River from 17.00 to 22.00 hours.
Highlights of the BaanLaeSuan Fair 2019 On Living Transformed
Though it seems the world is turning faster and everything changes, the past will continue to influence the present. The same applies to design innovation and technology that are changing how we live and making our life better. Together, they bring advantages to life in ways you never imagined!
“Living Transformed” is the theme of the BaanLaeSuan Fair 2019 that’s happening from 18 to 27 October at Challenger Halls 1-3, Impact Muang Thong Thani. It’s a show about living improvements you want to see in the world, from the choice of building materials to the combination of knowledge and method. It’s about you! There are plenty of creative new ideas to make use of what you already have and transform it to best answer your specific lifestyle needs.
More than 1,000 retail businesses and exhibitors are participating. To give you an idea, here are some highlights of the Yearend Edition of the BaanLaeSuan Fair 2019. Don’t miss out. Put this on your calendar!
The Main Entrance
The gate that allows access to the BaanLaeSuan Fair 2019 is an archway inspired by curved symmetrical stone structures belonging to the ancient past. Only this time the main entrance is made of expanded steel sheets, which are easy to find and used extensively as fabricating material. The mesh-like steel sheets can be folded many times over to create an interesting dimension. Parts of the arched structure are built of brick to communicate historical value and storytelling power.
BaanLaeSuan Printing and Publishing
Japanese gardens are very popular nowadays. Many people are attracted by them and keen to find out more about their wellness benefits. To satisfy your curiosity, BaanLaeSuan Printing and Publishing presents Japanese gardens with nice detailing in a special show called “Garden of Ideas”.
The exhibit showcases ideas for creating a Zen rock garden, modern Japanese garden with a tea corner, the art of growing ornamental bonsai, as well as stone lanterns and granite water basins. The design has been adapted to best suit the environment in Thailand but still retains distinctive Japanese character. Plenty of goods to be bought and sold if you are into Japanese gardens!
Whilst there, drop into one of the workshops offered by leading landscape architects and talk with some of the growers that have appeared in our magazines. Meantime, plenty of new books and other publications are available at special prices this time only. For more exciting activities, follow us at FB: The Book House, a division of BaanLaeSuan Printing and Publishing.
The magazine’s contribution to this year’s BaanLaeSuan Fair is a “Multifunctional Space” capable of having or fulfilling several purposes. Besides the innovatively designed multi-use room, “my home” also presents new ideas to tidy up laundry room at the rear of the house, as well as playground for kids and fun family room for art and craft. Whilst there, drop into one of “my home” workshops and get an update on new books and other publications at The Book House, a division of BaanLaeSuan Printing and Publishing.
The Show House
As time passes, we look back and realize things will never be the same again. It raises a question about the essence of our being and what we can do to live a fulfilling life. The first thing that springs to mind is a vision of the home in which we live.
The Show House at this year’s BaanLaeSuan Fair represents a new concept in residential design. Appropriately named “Living Transformed”, the exhibit is about findings ways to thrive in the midst of change. The house depicts a confluence of ideas about turning old stuff into cool new things. It’s a visible form of our being, our interactions and coexistence with the natural environment.
Here, home is redefined as a place where the old and new meet. As things change, people learn to improve what they have or adapt it for use in a new purpose. Through innovative design, they are able to breathe new life into old stuff, making their home beautiful again.
The Public Space, an exhibit by “room” magazine, is located at the heart of the BaanLaeSuan Fair 2019. It’s an open space designed to encourage dialog and welcome everyone in the community. Based on the “Living Transformed” concept, the main idea is about connecting people to people through ongoing social interactions and mixed-use planning.
The “room” showcase consists of a café, bookstore and movie room that blend together beautifully into one public square. It’s a design that conforms with human behavior in modern day society. Members of the public are free to enter, play or use the “cubes” any way they want. The symmetrical three-dimensional objects are scattered throughout the public space.
The Show Garden
The Show Garden is no doubt the BaanLaeSuan Fair’s main attraction. Aptly named “Living Transformed Garden”, the exhibit is the brainchild of Warawut Kaewsuk, a well-known landscape architect who has collaborated with BaanLaeSuan Fair several times in the past.
The show is about living in close touch with the natural environment. The fact is everything changes, even the things you have in your garden. Over time, people come up with creative new ideas to improve or transform them to serve new purposes. It’s something that happens all the time because everything flows and nothing stands still. There are lots of things in the garden that people can fix to give their home a fresh start and make it a great place to live.
Pet Friendly Zone
A new addition to the BaanLaeSuan Fair, the Pet Friendly Zone is designed to be exactly that – a rendezvous for pet lovers. It’s a garden filled with plant species that are safe for your pets, allowing them to play and socialize. A cool and restful place, the pet zone is located near a café and a bookstore, so you can sit down for a cup of coffee and enjoy a good read. Plenty of good books are offered at special prices this time only.
The Plants Contest zone presents five categories of competition; cactuses, succulents, orchids, best plants for colorful foliage, and bonsai. Coming in from all parts of the country, they are reasons that illuminate the relationship between people and the art of gardening. Don’t miss out.
The above are outstanding parts of this year’s BaanLaeSuan Fair. “Living Transformed” is the name of the show. Make yourself available from 18 to 27 October, 2019. See you at Challenger Halls 1-3, Impact Muang Thong Thani.
Deep study of local architectural lore and analysis of locale-specific environmental and climatic conditions combined to create this house of fluid chic modern lines mixed into a look that clearly suggests the traditional Thai house.
/// THAILAND /// Story: Patsiri Chotpongsun, Sarayut Sreetip-ard // Photography: Soopakorn Srisakul // Style: Jeedwonder // Architect: NORMAL PRACTICE // Landscape Architect: Lana Studio
The owner wanted to provide his parents with a home where they could enjoy the ways of life of a new era. His first thought was to create a modern-style house with all customary functionality. Combining the good points of old and new, the result is a single-story resort-style house with a contemporary look and a relaxed atmosphere reinforced by a swimming pool.
With a usable area of 700 square meters, the house takes the shape of the letter “U,” filling a wide space the architect tightened up for the sake of intimacy: family members feel in closer touch with each other. The openness makes for good air circulation, yet acts as a divider between common areas of living and dining room and a more private side. The roof reminds us of a traditional gabled Thai house, but the gable is clearly steeper and higher.
“Thai gabled roofs come in many forms,” said the architect, “but if the gable faced any way but front it wouldn’t be pretty, since it would make roof look unbalanced. From the side the sharply-sloping “lean-to roof” offers a rectangle. The house faces south to catch the wind, but also gets sun there, so the gable has to provide shade, and the eaves extend further out. Especially at the end the roof rises even higher, providing more welcoming open space in front of the house, an eye-catching feature with a contemporary look that also provides needed functionality.”
The high gables not only help protect against southern exposure to sun, but also build a characteristic aesthetic of this home continuous with interior building design elements. The “U” shape leaves a space in the middle used as an open courtyard that holds the swimming pool and a gorgeous tree. Every point in the house looks out on it through the surrounding glass walls, connecting everyone with the courtyard and with each other.
From the exterior the architectural design flows inside into the interior in a play of shapes and lines. The interior ceiling opens up into the gable-shaped steel frame where the hardness of the steel is reduced with the use of wood, again reminding us that this is a Thai home. The furniture blends right in, shapes with a modern simplicity and a lot of wood in the mix adding to the sense of relaxation.
Brick is one of the oldest known building materials in the world. It’s been used for building purposes for thousands of years before Christianity. The fact that it’s made of clay has enabled brick buildings to make deep connections with the natural world in so many ways. More importantly, the structures built of small rectangular blocks derived from nature are endowed with the power of storytelling that provides a window on vernacular culture, the environment, and the way of life native to a locality. These qualities are manifested in outstanding works of architecture, the likes of which are obvious at this house in Da Nang, Vietnam that uses brick as the main building material.
/// VIETNAM /// Story: Patsiri Chotpongsun /// Photography: Oki Hiroyuki // Designers: Tropical Space by Tran Thi Ngu Ngon and Nguyen Hai Long
It all started with a family’s desire to renovate their home on a budget. A team of architects from the design firm Tropical Space soon came up with an idea inspired by termite mounds. They knew that the small soft-bodied insects built their homes by cementing masses of earth with saliva. Amazingly, they are quite capable of withstanding hot and humid climates for long stretches of time. For this reason, the architects designed the house walls to be built of bricks placed on top of each other with a break between blocks to create little ventilation holes that allow in light and drive natural air circulation. Designed for tropical living, the 140-square-meter box-shaped building wrapped in a perforate shell is going by the name “Termitary House”.
To protect from heat, the team of architects put in perfectly opaque walls on the sides exposed to intense sunlight. Meantime, the sides with less exposure to bright light had small openings built into the walls to promote air circulation, resulting in thermal comfort in the interior living spaces year round. The same applied to the house façade that’s its most outstanding feature. The vertical flat structure was made of bricks fired the old-fashion way and laid with air holes at intervals all the way across. The result is a breathing wall that allows in just enough light and a fresh supply of air. The light and spacious atmosphere lends a modern air to the home designed to be free from dust in summer and safe from inclement weather during the monsoon season. More importantly, it’s about privacy that comes with unique design.
It’s a house plan that prioritizes thermal comfort as well as functions. The staircase, storage room and bath are strategically placed on the east and west sides. During daytime hours they double as a layer of insulation to keep sunlight heat out. The hall at the center is spacious and well-lit, thanks to the skylight positioned directly above it. The area offers plenty of space for a sitting parlor, pantry and dining area as well as easy access to the bedroom, bathroom and small reading room on the mezzanine. Open concept design paired with perforated room dividers contributes to visual continuity that enables family to stay connected, happy and warm even on a busy day.
Breathing walls offer several advantages. By design, countless small holes in them let a moderate amount of light shine through, increase air circulation, and reduce interior temperatures to a comfortable level. Upfront, the vertical brick structure provides an awesome privacy screen that’s energy efficient and allows people inside to see out. Made from inexpensive local materials, it comes alive when good sunshine creates movement and a shadow play on the surface. And the show goes on day and night, thanks to the form, color and texture that give the brick wall its character.
The house walls are built of bricks placed on top of each other with a break between blocks to create countless small holes that allow light and air to enter and circulate freely. The resulting perforate shell contributes to physical ease and well-being in the tropical style home.
This story is from Modern Vernacular Homes Special Issue: Happiness Matters. (Available here in Thai and English)
Their retirement home epitomizes the “new life” many dream of. One such is Lisa Thomas, former manager of a famous hotel chain in Thailand who retired and moved with her mother to Ratchaburi.
“It was love at first sight. Our first arrival in Ratchaburi was, like this, in the rice growing season. I love the inexplicable green of rice paddies: somehow it always brings me a peaceful feeling.”
Lisa’s first impressions resulted in her choice of Ratchaburi Province as the site of this family home, but there were other reasons: convenience of being only two hours from Bangkok, good public utilities, and, importantly “the green horizon, without the view of skyscrapers from our old condo.”
Helping to bring Lisa’s dreams to reality were Research Studio Panin architects Assistant Professor Dr. Tonkao Panin and Tanakarn Mokkhasmita. Their design began with their listening intently and paying attention.
“We’re satisfied if we can manage to translate the everyday morning-to-evening life of a homeowner into each angle and corner of our house plan. Houses spring up gradually, resulting from our conversations with the owner. Solutions come from knowing how to step back and fully understand what we are listening to.”
This design answered fundamental home needs including functionality of use, features gradually added to support the owner’s natural habits, and principles of comfortable living such as “cross ventilation,” which allows air to move freely through the building.
A half-outdoor deck set in the middle of the house greets entering visitors, also capturing breezes from all directions as they transit from outside to inside. More than simply a stop on the way in, it’s a comfortable space for the owners to relax.
The building is laid out to follow the contour of the property, along a natural irrigation canal. To echo this locational context, a swimming pool is set parallel to the canal. The house faces west, but the problem of day-long heat is addressed with a basic structure of steel-reinforced concrete and an extended deck that widens to match the reach of the sun. Eaves and verandah have a steel framework that nicely frames the surrounding scenery.
“Without Lisa’s daily life here, the house would have no meaning. It awoke different levels in this space both from the perspective of form and in the actual space itself.” The location is in harmony with the nature of her life. In the everyday living areas – kitchen, dining room, living room – a high ceiling is called for. Louvers are set in narrow dividing panels between doors and windows for good ventilation throughout the day, bringing air into the central entrance hall and on into Lisa and her mother’s bedrooms in back, upstairs and downstairs.
“Time is the important thing now,” added Lisa. “I just want to use my time in the right way, doing what makes me happy, and part of that is returning to live with my mother, bringing back the feeling of life as a kid. The house is a safe space, recalling things that are engraved in my heart forever.” And it also memorializes the friendship felt by architects for the homeowner in a house that has created lasting happiness.