Blog : DESIGN

Stalk Jakarta, the Tree-Hugger Bar: A Restaurant and Bar That Cares about the Environment

Stalk Jakarta, the Tree-Hugger Bar: A Restaurant and Bar That Cares about the Environment

/ Jakarta, Indonesia /

/ Story: Kanamon Najaroen / English version: Bob Pitakowng /

/ Photographs: Mario Wibowo /

As its name suggests, Stalk Jakarta, affectionately known as the Tree-Hugger Bar, has environment protection as its front-and-center concerns. It’s a design that integrates the relationships between all things as the primary framework before additional tasks can be taken. The result is an enchanting restaurant and bar amid an oasis of lush greenery in a busy area of the city.

The building is roofed over with a tensile fabric cover supported by membrane structures resembling the coming together of five huge bell marquees. There are openings at the apexes to let tall trees grow through reaching up some 30 meters into the sky.

Stitched together so that they become a whole, the five bell tents work in tandem to protect the place of business underneath from severe weather. At the same time, tree crowns and overhanging branches cast shadows on the fabric cover, creating visual interest with contrast in design.

From a distance, a combination of huge bell marquees rises among the treetops creating a visual blend with the natural surroundings and buildings in the background.

The completely tented restaurant space may seem incompatible with other buildings in the neighborhood. But from the parametric design perspective, it’s a sustainable architectural approach that makes sense in every possible way.

In essence, it’s about trying to minimize any negative impact on the environment. And in this particular case, saving all the existing trees on the premises is of the utmost importance. It’s a noble thing to do to leave the trees where they have always been and let them thrive.

From the look of things, it’s thoughful and unique design that puts Stalk Jakarta, the Tree-Hugger Bar, in a class of its own. It’s the product of step-by-step planning that results in a situation, in which each side benefits in some way.

The restaurateurs get the perfect space they need to do business, while the trees get a new lease on life. On the whole, completely tented design provides a commercial space that’s eye-catching, while shady tree canopy ideas make customers feel calm and peaceful away from noise and distractions outside.

Stitched togethered so that they become a whole, bell-shaped tensile fabric tents have openings at the apex to let trees grow through the roof keeping the restaurant space in shade.

In the big picture, it reflects the design team’s vision of creating a piece of architecture that’s inextricably linked with the environment and the circumstances that form the setting of a place. Especially for Stalk Jakarta, it’s the team’s intention to try out new design possibilities to ensure the viability of the project.

They also plan to share their experience with business property developers with a way to reduce negative effects on the environment and, at the same time, maintain the existing state of affairs and physical features of the land. In this way, property value in the central business area will not be negatively impacted.

A drawing of the first-floor layout shows the welcome area leading to clearly defined VIP rooms and semi-outdoor dining rooms embraced by lush greenery. / Courtesy of RAD+ar
The open concept second floor holds a restaurant and bar in nature’s peaceful embrace. / Courtesy of RAD+ar

 

A side elevation drawing shows spatial relationships between shade trees, tensile membrane structures, and restaurant spaces. / Courtesy of RAD+ar

Stalk Jakarta, the Tree-Hugger Bar, consists of two floors. The first floor holds a number of drinking and dining rooms for private parties, aka VIP rooms. To get conversation going upon arrival, there’s a spacious welcome area decorated with plants with an inverted bell-shaped canvas roof serving as the focal point in the room.

From here, the dining hall on the second floor can be accessed via a ramp that winds around the upside-down bell curve at the center.

A ramp winding around the inverted bell-shaped fabric roof cover provides access to the upstairs dining hall.

The second floor contains a restaurant and bar, 750 square meters in extent. It’s roofed over with a combination of huge tensile fabric tents with openings at the apexes to allow shady trees to literally go through the roof reaching up for the sky above.

The thick fabric cover and the canopy of the tall trees protect the restaurant interior from heat during the daytime. In a way that arouses interest, overhanging brances cast shadows of the fabric cover creating a light and shadow play that changes in length and direction over the course of a day.

After sunset, beautiful chandeliers turn the dining hall into a well-lighted place with easy listening music provided by a live band.

An intriguing combination of color and texture makes the VIP room feel warm and welcoming.

Return to the first floor, and you find several VIP rooms clearly defined and separated from one another for privacy. Metal wall panels hammered to look like water surfaces and sandy soil add visual interest to the rooms.

At a glance, it’s a sight that evokes pleasant memories of a journey deep into the forest where the sun shines dimly and slightly, thanks to strategically placed lights in the interior.

An intriguing combination of color and texture makes the VIP room feel warm and welcoming.

All things considered, the high tension membrane roof cover comes in handy for the team of architects at RAD+ar to create an outstanding piece of parametric architecture. It looks the epitome of elegant design and an interesting amalgam of the built environment and the lush green surroundings.

What makes it the perfect rendezvous is the open concept layout that provides good natural ventilation, keeping the interior cool and calm with the sound of leaves rustling in the wind.

Without unsightly solid walls, the restaurant and bar space feels bright and breezy, thanks in part to the tensile membrane structure that performs two functions simultaneously, as fabric roof covering and semi-outdoor enclosure.

In the fewest possible words, it’s the best example of design that’s good for people living in the big city, and good for the environment, too.


Architect: RAD+ar (Research Artistic Design + architecture) (radarchitecture.net)

Lead Architects: Antonius Richard Rusli


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The Đạo Mẫu Museum: A Window into Vietnam’s Folk Cultures in Times Past

The Đạo Mẫu Museum: A Window into Vietnam’s Folk Cultures in Times Past

/ Hanoi, Vietnam /

/ Story: Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Trieu Chien /

Greetings from Soc Son, a village near Hanoi that’s home to a museum nestled in an old orchard. Known as Đạo Mẫu Museum, it stands on 5,000 square meters (about an acre) of land surrounded by lush woodlands and rolling hills. In recent years, the area has attracted many travelers, thanks to beautiful scenery and unspoiled landscapes.

Đạo Mẫu Museum
Dominated by a boundary wall and towering structures covered in reclaimed clay tiles, the welcome area is a garden path leading to the main museum area at the far end.

The Đạo Mẫu is a museum and a home in one. Xuan Hinh, the owner/artist who created it, lives on the project, which conveys a great deal about his unwavering commitment to preserving the architectural heritage and folk traditions unique to this part of the country.

Among them is the traditional veneration of deities of Vietnam’s folk religion that’s gradually disappearing from modern society.

Đạo Mẫu Museum

By definition, the term Đạo Mẫu is Vietnamese for mother goddesses, or deities in folk religion treated with reverence and adoration since the dawn of time.

It’s part of the ancient Vietnamese belief system that seeks communications with supernatural beings, especially the goddesses or female deities and a fascinating aura of mystery that locals adhere to and observe in everyday life.

It’s not clearly understood how such belief systems came into being. Only that female deities were worshipped for thousands of years since the earliest times. This is especially true across Southeast Asia, where female divinity is mostly concerned with the life-giving and nurturing aspects of nature.

Understandably, the power of nature is personified as a woman symbolizing a creative and controlling force, and hence the term Mother Nature as we know it.

Đạo Mẫu Museum

Long story short, it’s the line of thought mentioned above that inspired Xuan Hinh to join forces with ARB Architects, an architectural practice based in Hanoi, in creating an architectural masterpiece in this regard. It serves as a vehicle to express ideas about the preservation of the folk culture that’s rooted deeply in the belief systems about the force of Mother Nature.

Đạo Mẫu Museum

The result of all this is a group of towering structures covered in vintage clay tiles reaching for the sky through the void of space among the fruit trees on the property. The idea is to avoid coming into contact with surrounding lush foliage and let nature permeate.

Philosophically, it’s a reflection on the importance of the need to live a conscious lifestyle and make the world a better place for all living things.

Đạo Mẫu Museum

An opening in the boundary wall covered in old clay tiles provides a pleasing view of the old orchard.

The Đạo Mẫu Museum has two parts. First, the welcome area is a long garden path that runs along the boundary wall marked with towering structures at intervals. There are five of them in all that serve as the focal points to get people’s attention.

A drawing of the floor plan shows the old orchard up front and the museum/residential area with a water pond at the rear. / Courtesy of ARB Architects

The rustic garden path leads to the main area consisting of a place of residence and a museum at the rear of the property. There are service areas and smaller buildings nearby. The old house where the owner/artist lived previously now provides space for collectibles connected with the veneration of Đạo Mẫu, the female goddess.

Elsewhere, new buildings merge into the darkness of the fruit orchard. Or it can be said that the trees blend beautifully with the built environment. Either way, it looks the epitome of a perfect picture, in which all things in the universe are inextricably linked.

Đạo Mẫu Museum

Đạo Mẫu Museum

Đạo Mẫu Museum

More so than anything else, every square inch of the towering structures and boundary walls is covered in vintage clay tiles in varying shades of earth tones. They are reclaimed construction materials that the owner/artist had kept in his collections over many years.

The tiles were recycled from much older homes across the Northern Region of Vietnam, more than one hundred of them in all. He collected them over time when the old homes were either renovated or dismantled as a result of the increasing globalization of the economy.

Đạo Mẫu Museum

 

For Xuan Hinh and the design team of ARB Architects, the discarded objects are priceless works of art. They are man-made artifacts whose value cannot be determined, plus they provide a reflection on the ways of life of the people of Vietnam in times past.

It’s the opportunity to adapt them for a new use, thereby upcycling them into something of higher quality and value. And from the cultural perspective, it’s about showing respect for the past, celebrating the present and inspiring the future.

Đạo Mẫu Museum


Owner: Xuan Hinh

Architect: ARB Architects (www.facebook.com/arb.architects)


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The Pusayapuri Hotel: Redefining U-Thong Architecture from a Modern Perspective

The Pusayapuri Hotel: Redefining U-Thong Architecture from a Modern Perspective

/ Suphan Buri, Thailand /

/ Story: Phattaraphon / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Anupong Chaisukkasem /

It was a journey back in time as we visited U-Thong, home of the Pusayapuri Hotel that has become a new landmark in the western part of Suphan Buri Province. The town in itself is rich in history, having been the origin of the Ayutthaya Kingdom dating back more than 2,000 years. It became a district of Suphan Buri during the reign of King Rama V in 2448 B.E. (1905), formerly known as Chorekhe Sam Phan and later renamed U-Thong in 1939.

Pusayapuri Hotel U-Thong

The Pusayapuri is the brainchild of EKAR Architects, a Bangkok-based architectural practice led by Ekaphap Duangkaew. The design thinking process took Ekaphap and his team to U-Thong countless times, during which useful data were collected culminating in a piece of contemporary architecture that’s worth remembering and unique in its own special way.

Sharing his work experience with us, Ekaphap said: “The thinking process that went into designing this hotel came as the result of systematic investigations into the town’s history.

“U-Thong was an ancient state that flourished in this part of peninsular Southeast Asia a very long time ago. Most people seem to have overlooked important facts about it. So, we reached out to connect with the locals and got to know a lot about its history through seeing, hearing and visiting places.”

Pusayapuri Hotel U-Thong

“There are museums containing relics that provide an insight into the history of U-Thong, among them a stone Buddha image carved into cliff face that has become a tourist attraction. It’s the work of local artisans,” Ekaphap continued.

“Other places of interest include ruins of dome-shaped brickwork structures erected as Buddhist shrines in the past. Not many of them remain to be seen today. It’s these historic sites built of bricks that inspired us to try and revive old brick masonry to all its former glory. One of the results of all this is evident in the façade of the Pusayapuri Hotel in U-Thong.”

Pusayapuri Hotel U-Thong

In essence, it’s about building a hotel façade with the power of telling a story about life in U-Thong in former times. Thanks to their understanding of architectural heritage, the architects were able to create a new hotel that stood out from the rest in terms of color, texture and design, and yet no old-fashioned bricks were used.

Pusayapuri Hotel U-Thong

The Pusayapuri is built using innovative materials including glass reinforced concrete, or GRC, that’s lightweight but tough making it an ideal material to use on a variety of structures. It can be dyed to resemble brickwork or concrete surfaces.

Sections can be prefabricated from the factory to enable quick and easy assembly on site. Plus, GRC helps reduce weight on building foundations, saves construction time, and is unaffected by environmental conditions.

Pusayapuri Hotel U-Thong

In the case of the Pusayapuri, the GRC façade sections arrived ready to be installed on site as soon as concrete frame construction was completed. It’s a dry construction system that’s suitable for all buildings or portions of buildings such as balconies with a variety of window bench seating designs. On the outside, they perform a dual function as façades and awnings used to protect against sun and rain.

Pusayapuri Hotel U-Thong

The Pusayapuri’s 56 spacious guest rooms provide a comfortable retreat in a historic town style setting. All of them are designed to create a light and airy atmosphere. Where appropriate, guest rooms are taken out to create a void of space for lighting and ventilation.

Pusayapuri Hotel U-Thong

Pusayapuri Hotel U-Thong

Pusayapuri Hotel U-Thong

The void of space starts from the first floor all the way to the roof top resembling a well-lit staircase when seen from a distance in the nighttime. Together, they ventilate the building by drawing fresh outdoor air inside and force warm air to exit through rooftop vents. The hotel loses some rooms, but it gains comfort from good ventilation. Plus, it’s a feature that adds rustic appeal to the overall design.

Pusayapuri Hotel U-Thong

The Pusayapuri presented both challenges and opportunities even for the experienced designers at EKAR Architects. The team was tasked with creating a hotel with the power of storytelling about the history and architectural heritage of U-Thong, plus turning it into an important landmark in the lives of all concerned.

What makes it original and unique is the hotel façade that bears the imprints of time and a civilization of years gone by — a masterpiece that creates a sense of calm in architecture and indoor thermal comfort. Swing by the Pusayapuri next time you sojourn in this part of Thailand.

Pusayapuri Hotel U-Thong


Architect: EKAR Architects (ekar-architects.com)

Landscape Architect: Top Form Design Studio


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Blackbird Hotel: Hotel in Bandung Enlivened by a Round Honeymoon Suite Trio

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/ Bandung, Indonesia /

/ Story: Phattaraphon, Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Nilai Asia /

Blackbird Hotel in Bandung remembered for its modern white building has undergone exciting expansion by adding a trio of unique round shaped rooms to its vibrant Indonesian country garden setting.

Blackbird Hotel Hotel in Bandung

The new extension, aptly called “The Drum Rooms” for its likeness to a set of percussion instruments, is the pride of the Blackbird Hotel located in the major West Java city about 3 hours’ drive from Jakarta, the capital.

Occupying 200 square meters of land inside the hotel compound, the trio of round shaped rooms offer opportunities to discover stimulating new experiences in travel, comfort and relaxation in the form of innovative design in synch with the rhythm of nature.

Blackbird Hotel Hotel in Bandung

Blackbird Hotel Hotel in Bandung
A river rock path winds among the trees and round shaped rooms set on the ground, standing back to back for increased privacy.

Built of wood in varying shades of brown, the three of them sit beautifully ensconced amid lively green surroundings. They are viewed as a unit apart from the nearby main hotel building.

Marketed under the name The Honeymoon Suites, the new extension project was quite a challenge event for experienced builders. It was built while the Blackbird was operating normally. Like so, every precaution was taken to ensure that nothing would impair its ability to perform business functions.

This was achieved by avoiding wet construction, such as poured cement or concrete, at the same time focusing on dry construction, which included materials such as wood and steel framing preassembled in the factory.

The new extension now stands out from the rest thanks to the unique building envelope made of timber in a beautiful mix of brown tones. The wood used in the project came from many different sources.

Blackbird Hotel Hotel in Bandung
Multiple pane skylights illuminate the bathroom upstairs while a louver window allows fresh outdoor air into the room.

Blackbird Hotel Hotel in Bandung

For good ventilation, louvered wall panels let air flow freely into the room and illuminate the interior space during the daytime. Each of them has a bedroom with bath on the first floor. The second floor holds another bathroom with a bathtub under multiple pane skylights with a view of lively green treetops and blue skies.

For harmony, unity and variety, the extension project also contains penthouse suites built of timber in complementing shades of brown.

Blackbird Hotel Hotel in Bandung

There is more. Besides the round shaped room trio, the extension project also includes two penthouse suites at the top of the main hotel building. Built of timber and steel framing to avoid impacting ongoing business operations, they come complete with a food preparation area, living room, and a small balcony plus a semi-outdoor Jacuzzi bathtub.

From a distance, they add visual interest to the white hotel building and prove a perfect complement to the round shaped room trio on ground level.

Blackbird Hotel Hotel in Bandung
The louvered walls of the penthouse suite serve as engine that drives natural ventilation.
A beautiful array of large windows connects the penthouse bedroom with the vibrant natural environment.
Blackbird Hotel Hotel in Bandung
Redefining bathing experience, the bathroom lies illuminated by a round-shaped rooftop skylight mimicking a Jacuzzi bathtub below.

Taken as a whole, they evoke admiration through size, color, texture and well-thought-out design. And the result of all this: a beautiful piece of modern architecture amid nature’s peaceful embrace. A unique travel experience, no doubt. Swing by the Blackbird next time you’re in Bandung.


Architect: RDMA (www.rdmadesigns.com)


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The Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster: Rice Granary Adapted for a New Use as Café amid the Rice Fields

The Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster: Rice Granary Adapted for a New Use as Café amid the Rice Fields

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand/

/ Story: Ektida N. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Rungkit Charoenwat /

Here is a café and roastery with an ear-grabbing name. The Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster stands in the middle of the rice fields of Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim District. A metamorphosis of purpose, it’s performing a new function as café with panoramic views of the stunning mountain landscape. The brand may be hard to say, but it certainly holds the attention of listeners while its rustic appearance merges into the farmhouse vernacular symbolic of the Northern Region.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster

The room of this Chiang Mai café in itself has only 21 square meters of space. At the outset, that was a difficult situation that tested the ability of the design team at Yangnar Studio, a homegrown atelier based in Chiang Mai. But they stepped up to the challenge by creating a functional business space, in which everything on the premises was fused into a single entity.

And the result of all this? A piece of vernacular architecture worth remembering. It’s a wholesome destination for coffee lovers that fits right into its surrounding farmlands and the reality of simple life in the countryside.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster
Built by locals using local building materials, the small coffee shop merges beautifully into farmland vernacular.

To begin with, the project owner wanted an oasis of calm where customers could sit back and relax as they enjoyed a good cup of coffee with nothing to obscure the view of the landscape. The design team responded with a three-part plan, including a small coffee shop at the front, followed by a cozy sitting area under a bamboo pavilion, and a restroom building at the farthest end.

Here, a 360-degree-view that changes from season to season can be seen all year round. Like a wallpaper from nature, it’s a design that seeks to connect more closely with the natural world for lighting and ventilation. Hence, there’s no need for air conditioning, which translates into huge savings and contributing in its small way to a sustainable future.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster
Going in the reverse direction, slat wood wall paneling is installed on the inside while supporting vertical beams or columns are on the outside.

In terms of design, the coffee shop gets its inspiration from old rice granaries commonplace in this part of the country. The interior holds a coffee bar service/ordering area complete with an assortment of bakery goods. Nearby, a west-facing bakery room provides insulation against hot afternoon sun, thereby keeping the bar and customer seating area cool and comfortable.

Plus, double height ceilings add a light and airy atmosphere to the room. From the outside, what looks like a two-story building is in fact a cross ventilation system which relies on wind to blow cool outside air into the room through one side, while warm inside air is forced out through rooftop vents and outlets on the opposite side.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster
Extended eaves overhanging the exterior walls offer protection against too much sun and rain.
The building’s external envelope crafted of bamboo splits creates a more open and airy atmosphere in the room, plus it protects against humidity damage.

The little café amid the rice fields is built by artisans skilled in traditional carpentry using timber and other natural ingredients readily available in Chiang Mai, except for the load-bearing foundations that are made of poured cement or concrete to protect against soil moisture damage. As is the case with rice granary construction, slat wood wall paneling is installed on the inside while supporting vertical beams or columns are on the outside.

Apart from retaining much of its architectural heritage, the reverse exterior walls add visual interest that merges with a massive gable roof designed for sun and rain protection. In the fewest possible words, it’s a picture of modern countryside ideas blending together beautifully into one cohesive whole.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster

To make customers feel comfortable, this Chiang Mai café amid the rice fields has patio and outdoor furniture that can be set up anywhere under the bamboo pavilion canopy. It’s a relaxation room that conveys a great deal about the humble origins of mankind and their responsibility towards nature.

To reduce the chance of exposure to harmful substances, the bamboo shades and blinds are not chemically treated to extend their longevity of life cycle. It’s a design based on the belief that everything changes and everything will be replaced when the time comes.

A drawing of the floor plan shows functional spaces in relation to the trees and shrubbery thriving on the property.

The same applies to the method of construction that’s simple and straightforward. Take for example the bamboo pole footings that are wrapped in plastic bags for protection against humidity damage. Or the overhead black mesh rolls that create diffuse light and protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays. They, too, get changed from time to time to ensure customer comfort and satisfaction.

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster
For a full view of the landscape, the three buildings are set in a direction parallel with the elongated plot of land.

Architect: Yangnar Studio (www.facebook.com/Yangnarstudio)

Lead Architects: Dechophon Rattanasatchatham, Apiwat Chainarin

Construction Supervisors: Rungroj Tansukanun, Metee Moonmuang

Builder Team: Yangnar studio builder team, Yaiwood


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MA Architects Office: Integrating Natural Features in Workspace Design

MA Architects Office: Integrating Natural Features in Workspace Design

/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam /

/ Story: Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Paul Phan /

Overcrowding conditions in Ho Chi Minh City have given rise to both challenges and opportunities for the design team at MA Architects, a homegrown architectural practice in Vietnam. Back in the day, their office was on rental property with little to no room for flexibility. Albeit equipped with air conditioning and modern conveniences, the small workspace was lacking fresh air and ventilation, a far cry from the environment conducive to a relaxed atmosphere and creativity.

Coconut fiber coverings shield parts of the roof for best interior lighting and insulation.
The front façade in cool-toned gray stands sandwiched between a vacant lot and a tall building on the street corner.

Because of that, they decided to break out of the confined space into a home of their own. The new office stands sandwiched between two properties, a tall building on one side and a vacant lot on the other. Its front yard landscape is infused with green foliage.

Thoughtfully devised, the design atelier with an awesome cool gray façade is open to plenty of sunlight and fresh outdoor air plus trees and shrubbery. And the result of all this: a workplace ambience free from disturbance, one that’s good for staff’s ability to create and stay focused on their tasks.

The hallway holds a reception room that’s light and airy.

Bringing the outdoors inside, the office holds workspaces set on concrete slabs along one side and a strip of sand earth for in-ground gardening on the other.

The small, 100-square-meter office space is nestled in a peaceful city neighborhood. It occupies the full extent of a rectangular shaped lot measuring 5 by 20 meters.

The building has a narrow frontage to the street. Its external envelope is built of brick masonry plastered to form a smooth hard surface. In front of it, a small earthen terrace hemmed in by lush greenery provides a neat appearance.

An isometric drawing shows three principal dimensions of architectural features with elements of nature integrated in interior design. / Courtesy of MA Architects
An architectural drawing shows the positioning of natural elements in relation to upstairs and downstairs rooms. / Courtesy of MA Architects
In cross section, a side elevation drawing illustrates cross air flow patterns through the workspaces and under the roof. / Courtesy of MA Architects
Flashback: A photo collage shows stages of construction in chronological order. / Courtesy of MA Architects

Downstairs, a spacious workplace lies connected to a woodworking shop in the back of the building. The meeting room is upstairs that’s open to allow plenty of natural daylight and cool breezes into the interior.

Overhead, the trusses that support the roof are made entirely of timber covered by transparent corrugated roofing materials for best indoor lighting. Where appropriate, sections of the roof are protected by dry coconut fiber coverings for insulation from the sun’s harsh glare.

A woodworking shop occupies the back room, from which a staircase leads to the second-floor meeting room.
The woodworking shop lies on the earth floor with a kitchen and bathroom at the farthest end.

Because when it rains it pours in the Tropics, it makes perfect sense to plaster the entire building envelope. The hard and smooth surface goes to work protecting the building from extreme heat and wet weather all year round.

Although relatively small in size, the office interior crafted of wood is impressive thanks to an open-concept, well-ventilated layout. While dry coconut fiber coverings over the roof make the interior feel cool and dry, the uncovered part works like a skylight turning indoors into a well-lighted place.

Besides light and wind, the architect also integrated other elements of nature in the design, among them earthen floors that cover parts of the ground level. Only the workspace and kitchen floors are made of concrete slabs for ease of use and safety.

Nearby, earthen floors add a warm, natural feel to the interior with plenty of room for growing plants in-ground. As the architect puts it, being in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city, anything that brings a touch of nature, however small, is priceless.

The second-floor meeting room is open to natural daylight and connects to the trees.

A building material of choice, earthen flooring makes it possible to fill the interior with healthy green foliage along the entire wall. Earth and sand absorb and release some moisture, which contributes to a relaxed indoor ambience.

At the same time, vegetation in the front yard and decorative indoor plants both in ground and in containers go to work in tandem keeping the new office building cool and cozy just like home.


Architect: MA Architects (www.facebook.com/mastudiovn)


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Lung Vai School: A Rammed Earth Schoolhouse Trio amid Mountains and Rice Terraces

Lung Vai School: A Rammed Earth Schoolhouse Trio amid Mountains and Rice Terraces

/ Ha Giang, Vietnam /

/ Story: Ektida N. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Son Vu, Trieu Chien /

Lung Vai School stands in a small village and namesake located in the northernmost corner of Vietnam. Only 55 households of the Hmong tribe live in this mountainous terrain on the Vietnamese border with China. The natural environment is pristine, but it’s hard to get there from anywhere. Public utilities, such as water and electricity are virtually nonexistent, not to mention schoolhouses of standard sizes and qualities capable of meeting children’s learning need.

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School
A trio of school buildings stand on a mountaintop. Circular roofs merge into the farmland vernacular and rugged terrain.

This school construction project was undertaken by AA Corporation, an interior design and furniture manufacturing industry in Vietnam. It cost 2 billion Vietnamese dongs to build, roughly 80,000 US dollars.

Its primary objective: bring educational opportunities to minority Hmong children. The schoolhouse complex performs a dual function as center of learning for kids and a venue for cultural activities in the area.

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School

The project consists of three adjoining buildings situated a stone’s throw from the village on a mountaintop. It offers a breathtaking panorama of the landscape covered in the morning’s blue haze. The schoolhouses with circular roofs call to the mind an image of wild mushrooms shimmering in the sunlight amid a dewy meadow.

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School

The trio includes one schoolhouse for the kindergarten, one for elementary school classrooms and the other housing the teacher’s office, plus other facilities such as bathrooms, kitchen and multifunctional spaces supporting school activities. The schoolhouse project covers 250 square meters of land, perfectly adequate for the student populations at Lung Vai and neighboring villages.

From afar, the curved roof buildings prove a perfect complement to their natural surroundings. They are put together in a way that the roof of one building overlaps another to create coherence in architecture.

It’s a passive design strategy that goes to work facilitating the traffic between rooms, keeping the schoolhouses in shade and driving natural air circulation all day long. Like so, nothing disrupts the workings of mother nature.

In cross section, a side elevation drawing shows spatial relationships between rooms and how rainwater is harvested and carried to an underground storage tank.

In terms of the language of architecture, there is a distinct synchronization of smoothly drawn curves that twist and turn as they converge at the mountaintop. All the elements of design blend together into a cohesive whole.

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School

There is wisdom in challenges. Because the project is tucked away in a remote location, transportation is difficult to put it mildly. It was a dilemma that tested the ability of the design team at 1+1>2 Architects. And yet they rose to the challenge by successfully completing the project in only six months.

The secret to a mission accomplished lies in using building techniques and materials readily available in the area in perfect proportions, in particular rammed earth construction.

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School

Building with rammed earth or mud brick brings many benefits. It’s friendly to the environment and capable of reducing the ambient temperatures. Plus, it’s durable even in extreme weather conditions.

Pleasant to look at, a mixture of sand, clay and other ingredients gives a rich warm color of earth hues that allows the schoolhouses to blend perfectly into the natural world around it.

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School
A clever hack to brighten the hallway, the void of space between the top of rammed earth walls and roof trusses is filled with transparent polycarbonate boards.

Rammed earth walls are capable of supporting the loads applied to them up to a certain limit. For strength and durability, the schoolhouses also contain parts made of other materials, such as steel framing supporting roof trusses.

Steel is chosen for speed of construction and overall robustness, especially where the distance between columns increases. Plus, it’s perfect for building a great variety of roof shapes and styles.

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School

Large windows and generous wall openings above rammed earth walls allow natural daylight and cool breezes into the interior.

Taking everything into account, it’s design that pays attention to detail in facilitating indoor traffic flows and interactions between rooms. This is evident in there being four entry areas conveniently linked to stairs and ramps leading from one floor to the other, as well as the internal traffic routes connecting all the rooms.

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School

The schoolhouse floor is raised slightly higher from natural ground level, adding visual interest to design. The hallway leading to classrooms is built wider than average to provide space for built-in bench seating on the side. And there’s still plenty of room left.

Other useful architectural features include the extended roof overhangs that keep the classrooms cool in the summer and dry in the rainy season. Priceless!

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School

Lung Vai School Rammed Earth School


Architect: 1+1>2 Architects (112.com.vn)

Lead Architects: KTS Hoang Thuc Hao, KTS Tran Hong Nam, KTS Nguyen Hanh Le


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Sep’on Heartfulness Center: A Stylishly Chic Boutique Hotel with a Narrow Frontage

Sep’on Heartfulness Center: A Stylishly Chic Boutique Hotel with a Narrow Frontage

/ Nha Trang, Vietnam /

/ Story: Phattaraphon / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Duy Nhat, Le Ba Loc /

Here’s Sep’on Heartfulness Center, a small-capacity boutique hotel built on an elongated rectangle in Nha Trang, a coastal town in the South of Vietnam. Even with a narrow frontage to the street, it offers 600 sq. m. of accommodation spaces with views of the city landscape. The design-driven wholesome destination conveys a great deal about truth-to-materials architecture, which holds that everything is used in its natural form — unadorned, unpainted, neither polished nor hidden.

Sep'on Heartfulness Center

Named “Sep’on Heartfulness Center, the boutique hotel project is the brainchild of 324PRAXIS, an architectural practice based in Ho Chi Minh City. Their main mission: overcome every challenge on the project site and come up with a small stylish hotel, one that’s full of character and suitable for an urban environment.

The result is a five-story building that’s graceful and chic in appearance. Its front façade is made attractive by small balconies accessible from guest rooms on the upper floors. Enclosed by twisted wrought iron balustrades, they give good views of the cityscape, admit fresh air and add natural light to the interior.

Sep'on Heartfulness Center

Sep'on Heartfulness Center

Such is the elegance of design that’s also found in several places throughout the five-story concrete building. The ground floor contains a semi-outdoor sitting room and coffee bar decorated with greenery that has become a popular meeting place among locals and tourists.

Hotel rooms on the upper floors are accessible via metal staircases attached to the rear of the building. They are built outdoors to give the appearance of a more open engineering structure, thereby showcasing the true nature of building materials.

Sep'on Heartfulness Center

Sep'on Heartfulness Center

Site Plan Courtesy of 324PRAXIS
Ground Floor Plan to 2nd Floor Plan Courtesy of 324PRAXIS
3rd Floor Plan to 5th Floor Plan Courtesy of 324PRAXIS
Section Courtesy of 324PRAXIS

The same open-concept design applies to the roofed platforms and passages along the outside of the building. They are suited to serve several purposes, from outdoor sitting rooms and cityscape viewing spots to yoga workout class and room to practice meditation. It’s a calm and peaceful place to take a breath of fresh air and enjoy views of the city.

Sep'on Heartfulness Center

Sep'on Heartfulness Center

Sep'on Heartfulness Center

Even with its small capacity, the hotel is able to provide a variety of accommodations ranging from suites to deluxe rooms and duplexes consisting of two apartments. They share one thing in common — a design that faithfully represents the principle of truth-to-materials architecture.

This holds that any building material is used in a way that’s the most appropriate, while the method of construction is unhidden. Besides taking in views of the cityscape, it’s about bringing the outdoors into the room, thereby creating a comfortable ambience filled with fresh air and natural light.

Plus, furniture is kept to a minimum to ensure the room is uncluttered, safe and right for simple living.

Sep'on Heartfulness Center

Taking everything into account, Sep’on Heartfulness Center is a boutique hotel beautifully made to fit the circumstances that form the setting of the coastal city neighborhood. Despite the challenges and limitations, the design team at 324PRAXIS is able to create a place for board and lodging that’s stylishly chic. It’s a charming place to be next time you sojourn in this part of Vietnam.


Architects: 324PRAXIS (www.324praxis.com)

Lead Architects: Dat Dinh

Design team: Nguyen Ngoc My Ngan, Vo Ngoc Khanh Chi


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Kaew Khum Oey Garden: Rewilding Strategies Turn Unused Land into an Oasis of Calm

Kaew Khum Oey Garden: Rewilding Strategies Turn Unused Land into an Oasis of Calm

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Lily J. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Courtesy of Jai Baan Studio /

Imagine what to expect as urban areas relentlessly expand into the outskirts of a city. More basic physical infrastructures are needed. As to be expected, they have a significant impact on rivers, canals and natural water bodies. Not to mention new roads that traverse a vast area covered with forest and agricultural land. Some see it as a welcome change. For others, it’s a rude awakening for its potential to have an effect on the ecosystems. Precisely, there’s a good chance it could afflict harm to existing “Ecological Corridors.”

Jai Baan Studio

What are “Ecological Corridors,” anyway? The term refers to both natural features of Earth’s surface and landscape planning strategies designed to prevent or reduce the effects of habitat loss.

Be it natural or man-made, they provide habitats crucial to the survival of indigenous florae and faunas great and small. Simply put in plain language, they are natural homes to plants, animals, birds, insects and other living organisms.

Jai Baan Studio

It’s for this reason that a property owner in Chiang Mai decided to create an open public space that’s central to the physical and mental health of both humans and animals. She started out with 12 Rai of land (slightly shy of 5 acres) of her own that’s part of a housing development on the outskirts of the city.

Named “Kaew Khum Oey Garden,” the green space project connecting Chiang Mai people with nature is undertaken by the homegrown design atelier Jaibaan Studio.

Jai Baan Studio

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, architect and founder of Jaibaan Studio, said that for a long time the 12-Rai plot was left largely undeveloped after much of the upper layer of earth had been excavated to fill a strip of land designated for road building.

It lies environed by more than 30 housing developments without a single open public space. That’s reason enough for the owner to put in good quality parklands complete with bike trails, jogging trails and workout spaces for the community to enjoy.

Change is a good thing. The green is open to people of all ages, plus it’s thoughtfully devised to connect with existing ecosystems in the surroundings.

To create an oasis of calm that allows public access, the designer has been meticulous about its appearance and made spaces available for commercial activities, including room for the restaurant business.

It’s a thoughtful consideration since it’s the business that will generate the incomes needed to fund the upkeep of the park, thereby freeing the property owner from burdensome responsibilities in the long term. Plus, it helps to operate within budget.

With respect to landscaping, the designer further improves the visible features of the land by putting in trees and small plants indigenous to Thailand’s North.

Ironically, some of the species are less commonly known even among locals. As the growth of urban sprawl continues, neighborhood greenery matters. That’s the way he sees it.

Hence, the restoration of the area to all its former glory becomes his front-and-center concerns. Besides giving local residents the opportunity to reconnect with nature, he treats it as a design laboratory in which the flora and fauna and other living elements native to the area are incorporated in the design.

Jai Baan Studio

As the designer of Jai Baan Studio puts it, the park doubles as nature conservation, a restoration of the natural environment in which native plant species take precedence over any other consideration.

Trouble is that nowadays the garden market is awash with excessive amounts of decorative plants, including species imported from abroad.

Because of that, most landscape developers across the country have elected to integrate foreign imports in the design despite the kingdom’s rich and diverse native florae. As the imported tree species become more popular, nurseries and garden markets comply.

Subsequently, the landscape designer is compelled to act according to demands. And before you know it, there aren’t many native plant gardens around anymore, let alone the nursery business that produces them.

To solve supply chain problems, the landscape designer builds his own nursery, one that’s specialized in native species production to fulfill the park’s specific needs.

He crosses the hill and sifts through the water collecting specimens of native florae and faunas needed to repopulate the area, literally starting from scratch. A job very well done, he’s succeeded in breathing new life into what was once a neglected piece of ground.

Some of the more commonly known species he reintroduces to the park includes herbal species, such as

(1) Ngu-khiew (พันงูเขียว) or Brazilian tea (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis);

(2) Tri-chawa (ตรีชวา) or squirrel’s tail (Justicia betonica);

(3) Kraprao-daeng (กระเพราแดง) or Red holy basil (Ocimum tenufiorum);

(4) Ho-rapha (โหรพา) or Thai basil (Ocimum basillicum var. thyrsiflora); and

(5) Fai-duenha (ไฟเดือนห้า) or Butterfly weed (Asclepias curassavica). The list goes on.

Jai Baan Studio

Kaew Khum Oey Garden is by no means a one-off project. It’s the designer’s finest work to date. So the information about the native florae used here will be stored in a repository of data for future landscape developments similar to this one.

The data will also be made available for public access in time to come with a view to stimulate demands, thereby encouraging the nursery business to fulfill the emerging needs for indigenous plants in the future.

For a carefree, laid-back vibe, it’s the designer’s intention for the project to be nothing out of the ordinary, a public green space that operates without too much control or intervention.

As he puts it, “There may still be parts of it that aren’t arranged neatly or in good order here and there, but hey, that’s perfectly normal if we wish to restore an area of land to its original uncultivated state.

“After all, we have different notions about beauty in the 21st Century. Wouldn’t you agree that there’s a sense of beauty in imperfections, too?”

Jai Baan Studio

It’s the different conception of beauty that brings our attention to “Rewilding the Environment,” the term used to describe the return to a state of being unorganized or leaving it alone again, naturally.

By design, it’s a far cry from the impeccably manicured garden. Rather, it’s one rich in the flora and fauna of the Northern Region, including insects. It’s a design that views human users as inextricable parts of nature.

So if you’re looking for a place to relax, lean back and chill, Kaew Khum Oey Garden is the place to be. It’s made with the user in mind. And that’s precisely the message that the design atelier Jai Baan Studio tries to communicate.


 

Designer: Jai Baan Studio (www.facebook.com/Jaibaan)


Find out more about nature-inspired landscape architecture and ideas for a possible course of action toward environment-friendly design similar to the above-mentioned project at the upcoming room X Living Asean Design Talk 2023.

It’s an opportunity to meet up Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, architect and founder of Jai Baan Studio as well as a panel of experts from three ASEAN countries.

This year’s conversation event is on the theme of “URBAN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs.” The Design Talk is scheduled for Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside Baan Lae Suan Fair Midyear 2023.

Admission is free. Just a friendly reminder, seats are limited. Registration is recommended.

For more details: https://livingasean.com/special-scoop/room-x-living-asean-design-talk-2023-urban-fusion-rural-flourish-interweaving-urban-and-rural-designs/

Register to attend at: https://amarinfair.com/booking/room-x-living-asean-design-talk


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Tanatap Ring Garden Coffee Shop: A Design Experiment on the Interaction between Commercial Space and Nature

Tanatap Ring Garden Coffee Shop: A Design Experiment on the Interaction between Commercial Space and Nature

/ Jakarta, Indonesia /

/ Story: Baralee / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: KIE, Mario Wibowo /

Introducing a prototype of the small café well thought out as place for a rendezvous. Aptly named Tanatap Ring Garden Coffee Shop, it’s a work of outstanding artistry integrating restaurant space planning with nature to form a cohesive oasis of calm. The key elements of design include a sloping garden beautifully ensconced in a stadium-like enclosure. There’s a circular path at the top of the stairs for a leisurely stroll. At intervals, the paved path is marked with outdoor tarp canopies for protection from the sun. It sends out one important message — time well spent is time spent in the great outdoors.

Tanatap Ring Garden

The theme of an enchanted garden cafe is derived from a simple question. “What is it like if a piece of architecture behaves like it’s non-existent?” In this particular case, the centerpiece of the project is a lush tropical garden enclosed by a circular glass-block building envelope.

It’s home to a café space that lies hidden in plain sight, concealed by a grassy knoll that blends perfectly into the surrounding landscape. It’s a meeting place where people mix socially and interact with one another bringing youthful exuberance to this part of the city of Jakarta.

Tanatap Ring Garden

With respect to construction, Tanatap Ring Garden Coffee Shop is the result of three design strategies combined.

First of all, it’s well planned to blend with the healthy foliage of a tropical forest setting. This is evident in the preservation of all the existing trees on the property.

Secondly, the circular building envelope is designed to encompass all positive aspects of ornamental grounds where plants grow luxuriantly. Located at the center of the floor plan, the café covered by a grassy knoll affords a large room where people meet plus plenty of ample spaces for relaxation. A few steps away, remarkable garden design offers sensory pleasure and the opportunity of reconnecting with nature.

Lastly, it’s about enhancing customer experience by merging indoor and outdoor spaces bringing them together into a cohesive whole.

Tanatap Ring Garden

Tanatap Ring Garden

The overall effect is impressive. It’s a layout that strikes the right balance between the relative size of the project, the building materials used, and the impact of color, texture and natural light in the design process.

To reduce the harshness of the built environment, the building envelope is made of glass blocks that allow maximum daylight between spaces. They add aesthetic appeal to the place and blend well with the existing trees.

Tanatap Ring Garden

Tanatap Ring Garden

As regards functional design, walk into the café and you come to a counter bar occupying a central position. Carefully thought out design promotes ease of movement in every part allowing people to traverse through and around unhindered.

The circular glass-block wall that separates the interior from the garden is decorated with lush leafy plants. It’s marked at intervals with plain-looking sets of tables and chairs for customers. Nearby, a corridor creates smooth transition between spaces giving access to the yard on the outside.

Tanatap Ring Garden

The nature-loving café project is built amphitheater style. Like so, the commercial space is positioned at the center of landscape design. It’s a beautiful greenery-covered building adorned with tiers of outdoor seating set at intervals.

Meanwhile, the boundary along the outer circumference is filled with café seating situated directly below the concrete rooftop corridor made for a leisurely stroll. From here, a vista of high-rise buildings in Jakarta’s CBD can be seen in full view from afar. All things considered, it’s a piece of architecture devised from experience in tropical garden landscaping.

Tanatap Ring Garden

Tanatap Ring Garden

Tanatap Ring Garden

By design, Tanatap Ring Garden Coffee Shop is an experimental project involving new and innovative ideas for commercial space planning. In this particular case, it provides the opportunity of observing how users react to a less familiar environment. It’s implemented with a view to identify the furniture choice, seating arrangement and features in hardscape architecture that are right for business.

It’s a design that blurs the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces. The color green that fills the landscape has strong associations with nature, hence comfortable furniture and a conducive semi-outdoor environment make perfect sense.

Plus, it’s interesting to discover how well-planned open design can facilitate social interactions in everyday life.

Conceptual Diagram Courtesy of RAD+ar
Ground Floor Plan Courtesy of RAD+ar
Roof Floor Plan Courtesy of RAD+ar
Section Drawing Courtesy of RAD+ar

 

Tanatap Ring Garden

Tanatap Ring Garden

Aside from that, the recent outbreak of Covid-19 was also a factor that compelled the architect to undertake this experiment to determine how a commercial space with plenty of outdoor landscaping ideas performs in the ensuing days.

It’s exciting to see how new ideas in outdoor environment design play a role in enticing people to spend more time outdoors and live a lifestyle more closely connected with nature, one of many actions people can take to support sustainable living.


Architect: RAD+ar (www.radarchitecture.net)


More about nature-inspired designs similar to the above-mentioned are waiting to be discovered. It’s a chance to meet up with Antonius Richard, architect and founder of the architectural practice RAD+ar of Indonesia during the upcoming conversation event titled, “URABN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs”.

It’s a part of the annual “room Books X Living ASEAN Design Talk.” This year’s panel of experts is made up of four distinguished architects from three countries. The Design Talk is scheduled for Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside BaanLaeSuan Fair Midyear 2023, BITEC Bang Na, Bangkok. It’s an opportunity not to be missed. Mark your calendar!

For more details: https://livingasean.com/special-scoop/room-x-living-asean-design-talk-2023-urban-fusion-rural-flourish-interweaving-urban-and-rural-designs/

Register to attend at: https://amarinfair.com/booking/room-x-living-asean-design-talk


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