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 (

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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 (

Landscape Architect: Top Form Design Studio

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

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

/ 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 (

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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 (

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 (

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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 (

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

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RAY CHANG, SOAR DESIGN STUDIO: A Life Inspired by the Spirit of the East, the Beauties of Nature and Traces of Time

RAY CHANG, SOAR DESIGN STUDIO: A Life Inspired by the Spirit of the East, the Beauties of Nature and Traces of Time

/ Taichung, Taiwan /

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

/ Photographs: Courtesy of Soar Design Studio /

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio grew up in a peaceful environment set amid the beauties of nature in Taiwan, an island at the junction of the East and South China Seas. He developed an interest in the Truth of Nature, finding moral strength that lies beyond the realm of capitalism and the increasing globalization of the world economy. It’s a conscious cognitive process that, in a gradual way, enabled him to formulate new thoughts and a sense of perspective different from that of his contemporaries. These qualities are often manifested in his architectural masterpieces and other designs influenced by Eastern philosophy. Obviously they embrace the beauty of change in nature in an era characterized by a whole range of pursuits of certainty in uncertain times.

Through the years Ray Chang has won acclaim for his architectural works, among them the Golden Pin Design Award, one of Asia’s most coveted prizes for best designs. With that being said, he’s one of Taiwan’s up-and-coming, young architects to watch, especially in the residential, commercial, restaurant and café design category.

He founded the Soar Design Studio in 2012, a year notorious for many bad events on a global scale. Amid tumultuous times, Ray even asked himself what was it exactly that he had a passion for.

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio
TERRA Bean to Bar
Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio
Wild House
Ri Ri Chun

The following are excerpts from an interview we did recently with Ray. It touched upon his thoughts and philosophy, the attitude and theory he held that guided his many successful designs. They evoke the image of a real architect questing after truth, one inspired by the beauties of nature and the deep meanings it brings. Here’s a glimpse into this thought.

Q: When it comes to creating a design, you often draw an analogy between man-made structures and the workings of nature. Where did you get this idea from?

A: “Living in the countryside, of course nature was part of my growing up. I believe it’s possible to make architecture blend perfectly into its natural surroundings.

“There are plenty building materials and designs all around waiting to be discovered. We only need to pay attention to detail. Focus on feelings and how you react physically and psychologically as you reconnect with nature. And those good feelings should come naturally to you.

“I tried to free myself from the constraint of Western style architecture, preferring instead to pay attention to the ideas and designs that give great aesthetic pleasure from the point of view of Eastern philosophy. To put it simply, I tried to think outside the box, trust my instincts, be honest with my personal ideology and give special importance to the circumstances that form the setting of the project site.”

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio
TERRA Bean to Bar
TERRA Bean to Bar

Q: You said that you wanted to free yourself from the constraint of Western style architecture. Why is that so?

A: “Western style architecture is a branch of knowledge founded on scientific thinking, a set of reasoning processes which is a big help in terms of construction. But we need to have our own design guidelines. In the Eastern world, it’s a crossover between architecture and spirituality. It’s a concept that has implications in design. We focus on feelings, and we listen to our hearts.

“I have a Western style architecture foundation from which I cannot escape. But at least I can make a difference by integrating the two approaches so as to create a successful design. I grew up in a rural area where works of architecture were few and far between. It was a learning environment that made me think differently and hence design things in my own way.

“It’s neither the Japanese style nor the Chinese style. But, taken as a whole, it’s something that epitomizes Eastern philosophy. It’s about making appropriate adaptations to merge into the natural environment, rather than trying to dominate or control it.”

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio
Life in a Treehouse / “It’s this house in the woods that enhanced my childhood experiences. At the time, all I ever wanted was a fun place to live, and this house came in handy to give me the inspiration going forward, a home in nature’s peaceful embrace.”

Q: Is that the reason why you became interested in “Wabi-sabi”, a Japanese aesthetic concept, and the Truth to Materials approach to architecture.

A: “I think “Wabi-sabi” is about natural simplicity. It’s the concept of impermanence and the transience of life.

“Take for example a piece of architecture that I created back in 2016. It was a renovation project aptly named the “Old House in Wabi-sabi”. As I was working on it, I discovered it took on a life of its own. It had a rich history judging from the traces left behind through time and the power of storytelling that came with age. Together they became my front-and-center concerns.

“I refrained from applying new principles to it, but preferred instead to let inspiration happen during the designing process. Long story short, it’s this project that introduced me to Wabi-sabi, the traditional Japanese aesthetics.

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio
The Old House in Wabi-Sabi

“I’ve always been fascinated by the Truth of Nature, which is the core concept of Wabi-sabi. It’s one of several abstract ideas from Eastern philosophy. There are also Chinese belief systems governing how people think and behave, among them a thought credited to Laozi, literally “The Old Master”, and the ancient Chinese text Zhuangzi that deals with the philosophical problem of change.

“Overall, they combine to give me a foundation or moral principles guiding my thoughts and my work.

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio
The Old House in Wabi-Sabi
The Old House in Wabi-Sabi

“Precisely, I’m not in business to build structures or spaces that will last for all eternity. That’s not for me. Rather, I want to create something that’s beautiful in its time.

“So, whether I’m working on an old house or a new one, it’s of the utmost importance to reconnect with nature. When humans are linked with the natural environment, it calls to the conscious mind the image of Wabi-sabi, a piece of architecture that accepts the natural cycle of life. It leaves behind the traces of time that act as a catalyst of change.

“I use the word “complete” to describe the subtleties of change effected on the surface of an old building material. The same textural subtlety cannot be produced again on a new material. Each trace of time is unique and can never be repeated. And that’s the power of storytelling that captivates me.”

Q: Does the context of a project, physical or cultural, have any significant impact on your design? How?

A: “To answer that, I’d rather use the term “neighborhood” or “community” rather than the word “context”.

“In modern urban planning, the original circumstances that form the setting of a place are long gone. Plus, the real estate market has expanded at a faster pace now than ever before. New landmark buildings have mushroomed everywhere. I’ve always thought that the term “neighborhood” or “community” would be more appropriate for the present circumstances.

“Locality” is another word that I’m interested in. In fact, we should pay attention to the “landscape” and try to understand the characteristics of the “people” and their ways of life. This will give us a better understanding of cultures and social interactions in a locality.

“It’s synergy and a sense of belonging that I experienced growing up in rural Taiwan, where neighbors came together, talked together and good times were had by all. Well-thought-out architecture, such as shops, restaurants, café, et cetera, can play a role in bringing back those fond memories.

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio
TERRA Bean to Bar

“I adapted an old house making it suitable for new use and created a welcoming atmosphere in which authentic Taiwanese tea was brewed and served the traditional way. It connected with nature for health and well-being according to Eastern philosophy.

“While doing that, I spent time in that old house every day to get the feel of the place and everything about it from sunshine to surrounding lush green fields. Inspired by the location and the house interior, I changed the floor plan almost weekly until I found the right balance.”

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio
Zhao-Zhao Tea Lounge
Ri Ri Chun / A neighborhood restaurant gives off charming Taiwanese vibes. It’s a design that reflects local culture that seeks reconnections with nature through well-thought-out plans and the use of simple materials. It won the coveted Golden Pin Design Award 2022 in the Spatial Design category.

Q: Your designs are mostly residential and commercial spaces. Will you follow the same principles in doing larger projects?

A: “I’ll give you an example. We’re in the process of developing a large-scale project, the initial phase of which involves transforming a neglected area of grounds into a public park. A tall building will come after that. In Taiwan we have to wait a year or two to catch up on some paperwork and get everything legally approved. While there’s no construction going on, the unused grounds transform into an open public space for people in the neighborhood.

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio

“It’s filled with plants indigenous to Taiwan with a small teahouse in a peaceful country setting. The teashop provides reflections on the Wabi-sabi concept that finds beauty in imperfection and change taking place over time. As soon as construction gets underway, the teahouse will move out to serve a new purpose as school building in a remote area. Every step of the way, people are aware of the cycle of change taking place in the community.”

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio

Q: From then till now, are there any serious challenges preventing Soar Design Studio from achieving its goal?

A: “We established a business offering our design styles in the midst of uncertainty in the real estate market. Like everything else, starting is often the hardest part. There were some clients who didn’t get what we’re trying to achieve. But things have gotten much better lately. We got a lot more work coming in thanks to our ability to get the message across and present our concept and our belief to a wider audience.

“By the way, I’m still a paper-and-pencil man who prefers drawing by hand to using apps. It’s great to begin with hand drawing for it helps me think and discover new, exciting possibilities. The computer comes in next to finish the job. It’s the main tool to get things done and communicate with others. I’m trying to find the right balance even as I speak.”

Ray Chang of Soar Design Studio
Soar Design Studio Office

Q: On the design principles that embody Eastern philosophy. How are they catching on among the Taiwanese? Are they well received by the young generation?

A: “They seem to be popular with small social groups outside the mainstream of Taiwanese life. Nowadays, Western cultures still have an influence on the perception of beauty among most people.

“The clients who come to us are mainly those who appreciate beauty from the Eastern perspective. By participating in competitions at the international level, we have been able to create greater awareness of Eastern concepts through our well-thought-out designs.

“In reality, we may not be able to keep Western influences out of designs created by Taiwanese architects. I think that Taiwan being an island is at an advantage. We have long-established cultures and distinct identity of our own, but everything is changing fast. The question is: how can we begin to carry on work at preserving our design principles amidst challenges?

“I’m really pleased that young generation architects have made local values front-and-center concerns in their designs. So Taiwan can expect unique and interesting phenomena in architecture in the foreseeable future. I hope that we’ll be able to strike the right balance between Eastern and Western values.”

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Supawut BoonmahathanakornSupawut Boonmahathanakorn, Jai Baan Studio: Striking a Balance between Human Needs and Nature Conservation through Thoughtful Environmental Design

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 (

Lead Architects: Dat Dinh

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

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/ Bangkok, Thaialmd /

/ Story: room Books and Living Asean Editorial Staff /

/ English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Baan Lae Suan Fair Press Room /

A collection of inspiring quotes and flashbacks to the room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023,
at the Baan Lae Suan Fair Midyear, BITEC Bang Na, Bangkok.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

The latest architecture event “room X Living Asean Design Talk 2023” took place last Sunday 6 August. Convening a group of well-known experts from three countries, the annual conversation was on the theme of “URBAN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs.”

It’s the star of the show at this year’s Baan Lae Suan (home and garden) Fair Midyear.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

The panel included M.L. Varudh Varavarn of Vin Varavarn Architects Ltd., Bangkok; Supawut Boonmahathanakorn of JaiBaan Studio, Chiang Mai; Japanese architect practicing in Vietnam Shunri Nishizawa of Nishizawa Architects, Ho Chi Minh City; and Antonius Richard of the design atelier RAD+ar, Jakarta, Indonesia, with Bangkok’s Deputy Governor Sanon Wangsrangboon as special guest speaker.

Chana Sampalang, President of ASA (The Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage), officiated at the opening of the room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023 on Sunday 6 August at BITEC Bang Na, Bangkok.

The Design Talk centered around the shared interest in design that’s friendly to the environment and conducive to social development in both urban and rural areas.

And the Deputy Governor of Bangkok came in handy to touch upon the subject of official policy tools and collaborations with various efforts at developing public spaces and improving the quality of life for people in Bangkok.

Essentially, the conversation is about building strong networks that will enable us to stay tuned to things happening in the city and communities across the country.

It’s seen as a confluence of ideas between architects and people from different disciplines inspired to create a sustainable future together.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

The conversation event started with Bangkok’s Deputy Governor Sanon Wangsrangboon, who spoke on “Urban Development Policy: Thoughts on response from and interactions with residents from different backgrounds.”

He shared a great deal of careful thoughts and his vision of a “livable city,” which he defined as one capable of accommodating people from all walks of life.

It’s the place where residents live together in harmony. In other words, it’s the type of surroundings where people participate in creating sufficient open spaces that lead to improved quality of life.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

Sanon plays a part in furthering policy objectives and collaborating with multiple agencies working towards common goals. Front and center are projects aimed at improving the public spaces deemed crucial to the quality life of people in the city.

Apart from providing all the conveniences, a good city must offer the opportunity for people to live together happily. A “Livable City” can be defined as one that’s open for everyone to participate in the development process.

When people feels a sense of involvement and affiliation to a place that’s suitable for them, they have high hopes of making it better both for themselves and for others.

The next speaker, M.L. Varudh Varavarn of Vin Varavarn Architects, Thailand, touched on the subject of “Public Architecture and solutions to the problems brought on by the gap between people in society.”

He emphasized that architects had an important role to play in helping to reduce social inequality. They had the knowledge and skills in the art and technique of designing and building and they could use them in the best interests of the people.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

M.L. Varudh and Vin Varavarn Architects have won acclaim serving clients across a wide range of industries. Lately his focus has shifted towards designs that help solve problems in the society.

They ranged from schoolhouse planning thoughtfully devised to deal with earthquake risks, to low-cost housing opportunities for overcrowded city neighborhoods.

All of them speak volumes for the principles governing Vin Varavarn Architects’ ideas and design strategies.

Essentially, it’s about creating the right design that’s capable of bringing about a change for the better for the people and the society as a whole.

And then Shunri Nishizawa, of Nishizawa Architects, Vietnam, talked about “Residential Design in Response to the Prevailing Climate and Limitations in Different Contexts.”

He sent a strong message about the need to create living spaces that harmonize with the circumstances that form the setting of a place. Upon reflection, the relationship between man and nature is impossible to disentangle.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

Shunri Nishizawa has practiced in Vietnam for over 15 years. He believes that an architect is duty bound to have a complete understanding of the context surrounding a project being developed.

This can be anything from humans and animals, to plants and the natural environment, plus the cultural context and so forth.

All of them must be treated with equal respect if we are to create a piece of architecture that adds a good complement to the surroundings.

Nishizawa Architects’ finest works to date have made living with nature front and center.

Besides harmony with the natural surroundings, the designer group attaches special importance to choosing only materials that are right for the context of a place. That’s the role of an architect the way he sees it.

Sharing similar opinions was Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, architect and founder of Jai Baan Studio, Chiang Mai, who touched upon “Rewilding the built environment: Interweaving urban and rural designs through non-human life.”

He laid greater emphasis on biophilic design that called for rewilding the built environment and the restoration of all aspects of the physical world.

At the very center, the health of the natural environment is as important as that of humans, perhaps even more so.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

Supawut and Jai Baan Studio are renowned for their nature-inspired design, effort at environmental conservation and ability to connect with a sizeable proportion of the rural population.

Through multiple collaborations with property owners, Supawut is able to promote a good understanding of the connectedness between man and nature.

He gets his message across to the public that “time” is of the essence when it comes to restoring the natural environment to health.

His outstanding works include a project that transforms unused land into a green oasis in the city. It’s achieved by rewilding, a process of reintroducing native trees and plants, thereby creating natural habitats for birds and other organisms native to the Northern Region.

As “ambassador” speaking on behalf of nature, he proves the point that the relationships between humans, animals, and ecosystems are inextricable.

Last but not least, architect Antonius Richard of RAD+ar, Indonesia, spoke on the topic of Different aspects of design in response to the environment and surrounding circumstances.”

He shared many useful techniques to incorporate natural elements in contemporary design. Plus, it’s a discussion alive with insights into design features unique to Tropical regions.

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

Mr. Richard spoke on the topic of integrating elements of nature in architectural design with respect to circumstances unique to Indonesia.

For the most part, his works deal with experiments undertaken to test the performance of new design in real life situations.

His experience encompasses a wide range of designs, from small projects such as cafés and restaurants, to homes and offices, to big projects such as commercial spaces and mosques that are designed to accommodate a large number of people.

Regardless of size, they share one common feature – a strict adherence to sustainable living ideas and design that’s compatible with the environment. It’s the quality that has served as the signature of Mr. Richard and his group of architects, designers and thinkers from day one.

More about architecture and design for better living, plus ideas for a sustainable society and conserving the environment, known collectively as the “Betterism” concept, are waiting to be discovered. Follow us and room Books for more!

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

room x Living Asean Design Talk 2023

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Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, Jai Baan Studio: Striking a Balance between Human Needs and Nature Conservation through Thoughtful Environmental Design

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, Jai Baan Studio: Striking a Balance between Human Needs and Nature Conservation through Thoughtful Environmental Design

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

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

/ Photographs: Courtesy of Jai Baan Studio /

For Supawut Boonmahathanakorn of Jai Baan Studio, it’s easy to get why humans crave the touch of nature in their lives. It shows in what they’ve been doing all along — from ecotourism that combines travel with conservation, to an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city that happens from time to time. Why not? Out in the country the atmosphere is salubrious and the natural landscape pristine. Priceless!

But from the opposite point of view, what’s generally regarded as good also has the potential to inadvertently do harm to nature.

Not to mention the uncontrolled urban growth that can lead inexorably to unwelcome change in such a way as to impair the values and normal function of a rural community.

That’s where the designer group Jai Baan Studio led by Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, comes into play. Interestingly, they are determined to pursue a goal in creating designs that strike the right balance between satisfying basic human needs and protecting nature from harm, thereby adding to its ability to replenish.

To them, it’s a quality achievable through well-thought-out planning, a conception of design that prioritizes wisdom, prudence and function over form that brings aesthetic pleasure.

room and Living Asean have the honor of presenting Supawut Boonmahathanakorn of Jai Baan Studio. It’s a group of architects, planners and thinkers specialized in design that expresses our common humanity and the need to reconnect with the natural environment.

Mr. Supawut will be one of our guest speakers at the annual room X Living Asean Design Talk 2023. The event will take place on Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside Baan Lae Suan (Home and Garden) Fair Midyear 2023, BITEC Bangna, Bangkok, Thailand.


Supawut Boonmahathanakorn

Q: What’s the basic principle of Jai Baan Studio? In other words, what’s important in the course of action you’re pursuing?

A: We regard restoring nature as the most important endeavor of our time. In doing so, we make every effort to “rewild” of the environment, be it built or natural.

We look for effective ways to restore balance in nature, thereby bringing the ecosystems back to health. In essence, it’s not about designing just to satisfy basic human needs alone. There are other things worthy of consideration, too.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Adishtan House / Here’s a thoughtful residential design that strikes the right balance with nature. It’s not devised as a response to homeowner needs alone. Rather, it’s a house plan that speaks volumes for everything that Jai Baan Studio stands for, an approach that takes the totality of the circumstances into consideration.

In the past, when people built something, they seemed to have a worldview that’s different from ours in this day and age. Back then, people didn’t separate things into different parts as is the case with works of architecture at the present time.

Their perspectives on life are evident in structures that conveyed a great deal about who they were and their relationship with the context of a place. Likewise, that’s what inspires us with a vision to pursue a wide range of contemporary design.

Among other things, we look at creating commercial spaces that are responsive to customer needs. At the same time, we look for design that strikes a balance between human needs and nature conservation. That’s important to us.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Adishtan House



We feel that the world is at a crisis point in history, a period characterized by mass extinction events brought on by the loss of habitats across a wide geographic area. It’s a time of intense difficulty that we are facing.

Yet, we feel that architects, designers and thinkers have a role to play in bringing public attention to the danger in a more perceptible way.


This is because the Earth’s surface, as we know it, has undergone transformation in so many ways. At the same time, human impacts on the environment continue with no end in sight.

Intentionally or not, the spreading of urban developments has had tremendous negative effects on the surroundings, both urban and rural.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Homjai House / By finding a balance between basic human needs and the context that forms the setting of a place, the architects at Jai Baan Studio are able to produce a home plan consistent with community values in society and the natural surroundings.

That said, it’s important for us to be able to speak on behalf of nature — living organisms, humans, animals, insects, plants, and let their voices be heard.

Mind you, the flora and fauna of the land have needs just like we all do. Hence, it’s good to do our share of the joint effort at restoring the balance of nature.

This brings us to the term “rewilding” the environment, which in essence is about restoring ecological systems to a stable equilibrium. That’s the message that we’re reaching out to communicate with our clients.

Homjai House


Q: How do you respond to the rise of urbanization and the consequences of land change in areas where you work?

A: Urbanization is a process that’s happening every day. We’re constantly making partial or minor changes to the city we live in.

Over time, it expands into outlying areas and small towns in the countryside. Even in the remote corners of the country, changes are taking place there, too.

Our office is located in Chiang Mai, but a sizeable proportion of the population is originally from Bangkok and other provinces across the country. They have come to call Chiang Mai home trying to fulfill their dreams of living in close touch with nature.

It’s an interesting phenomenon in which people feel a powerful desire to live a healthy lifestyle embraced by nature. They come in droves, and that’s what gives us architects new challenges.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Nunienoi Wetland / For the architects, designers and thinkers at Jai Baan Studio, animal needs are just as important as those of humans. For this reason, this wetland in Chiang Dao District of Chiang Mai is “rewilded” to its natural uncultivated state. The area is home to birds and animals great and small that are indigenous to this region.

The solution to the problems lies in whether we can find a balance between the form and function that people want on the one hand, and sustainability and quality of life on the other.

Suddenly, it dawns on us that our work can no longer be confined to landscaping design alone. Rather, it has to encompass all aspects of residential planning, environment improvement, and interactions with nature.

Therefore, it’s important to reach out and create an awareness among the residents. In doing so, we are able to offer the kind of thoughtful planning that’s clear and easy for building contractors to follow.

It’s a gradual process. Meanwhile, we must allow nature time to take its course and regain the ability to replenish.

Nunienoi Wetland

Q: In your opinion, how can design or your role as architect help toward community development, and society as a whole?

A: Let me answer in two parts.

First of all, we play an important part in communicating with the public in a respectful and subtle manner.

We don’t just tell people without explanation what good canal design should be and whatnot. Rather, we approach the task from a wider perspective, raising the issue of water pollution and how best to protect and restore the environment to health.

The same applies to other issues that involve public participation to resolve — from problems in the local economy, to impacts on ecosystems, to culture.

It’s about reaching out and talking to people, a role comparable to that of a diplomat, except we speak on behalf of nature. We wear two hats: humans who see things as humans do; and ambassadors of the environment that’s negatively impacted by change brought on by urbanization.

Done right, we can make our community a better place to live, together.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Mae Kha Canal / The Mae Kha Canal, a tributary that flows into the Ping River in Chiang Mai, is restored to a clean and pleasant condition. It’s a welcome change that bespeaks the resilience of nature and a joint effort at improving riparian ecosystems that shape the health the community.

Secondly, in helping toward community development, we collaborate with people from different walks of life.

Unlike old times, today’s architects often find themselves working jointly with people from different fields. Together, we look for an excellent, well-thought-out plan with help from a variety of knowledgeable sources.

It’s a conducive work environment, in which everyone is treated as equal regardless of economic backgrounds or points of view. Good design comes from a nexus of ideas that all parties bring to the table.

Above and beyond anything else, it’s about bringing people together and making success happen.

Supawut Boonmahathanakorn
Mae Kha Canal


Supawut Boonmahathanakorn is one of our guest speakers at the annual room X Living Asean Design Talk 2023. He will touch upon the topic of a balance between human needs and nature conservation. Plus, it’s an opportunity to keep abreast of the latest developments in design, architecture and landscaping. The event will take place on Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside BaanLaeSuan Fair Midyear 2023 at BITEC Bang Na, Bangkok.

This year’s Design Talk is on the theme of “URBAN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs.” Admission is free. Just a friendly reminder, seats are limited. Advance registration is recommended.

For more details:

Register to attend at:

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