/ Story: Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Hiroyuki Oki /
A brick hotel in warm, earthy orange hues rises above the lush orchards and bountiful farms of Ben Tre, a charming coastal city on the Mekong Delta two hours’ drive from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Once a sleepy little town surrounded by rice fields and coconut groves, Ben Tre is emerging as a destination for eco-tourism. New hotel openings tell the story of travel trends in the region where fresh water and shorelines merge with the ocean, astonishingly beautiful by any standards.
The Ben Tre Hotel is located on an oblong piece of ground measuring 28 by 128 meters, with the narrow frontage abutting on a major thoroughfare. As might be expected, the unusually long hotel building extends almost entirely over the rectangle-shaped land and still leaves plenty of room for lush lawns, side gardens, ample parking garages and service areas.
The hotel lobby lies upfront on the ground floor, while a restaurant is located at the midpoint of the elongated floor plan. To avoid a monotonous regularity in the design, the team of architects came up with zigzag design, featuring abrupt alternate left and right turns all the way to the end.
There’s a refreshing change every step of the way. For relaxation, an array of cozy nooks adds visual interest to the corridor designed to soak up the view of dense green orchard landscapes.
The long passage along the outside of the building, aka the “single-load corridor”, means that hotel guests can enjoy the utmost privacy since there’s no unit situated directly across. It’s a thoughtfully devised building access arrangement, whereby all the rooms are placed only on one side. The same applies to the stairs that are semi-outdoors for better ventilation and lighting.
To add a rustic appeal, the hotel’s external envelope is built of handmade bricks sourced from within the locality. Bricklaying with openings in the walls, aka the perforate façades, offers many benefits. It allows for the expansion and contraction of the bricks when temperature changes.
Plus, the perforate shell adds an aesthetic appeal to exterior walls and reduces the impact of outside noise, resulting in a more pleasant indoor environment.
/ Story: Kanamon Najaroen / English version: Bob Pitakwong
/ Photographs: Ernest Theofilu /
Here’s a narrow lot airy Indonesian home beautifully nestled in the south of Jakarta. Named “ACH House”, it’s simple yet strikingly contemporary in appearance. A brick façade in rustic reds adds visual interest and texture to the exterior. To create a calm and peaceful living space, the house plan is divided into two parts with a lush courtyard in between that increases natural ventilation and daylight streaming into the interior.
The south-facing property gets the most natural light during the day, plus heavy rainfall that varies with the seasons. To deal with the problem, the architects rose to the challenge by creating a perforated façade of red bricks laid at a 45-degree angle to keep the heat out and let fresh outdoor air into the home.
In the meantime, tiny vents in the wall let trapped moisture escape into the air and evaporate. This enables the building envelope to withstand wear and damage over a long period of time, while the classic color and texture blends with nearby concrete walls in cool-toned whites.
Walk in the door, and you find the home made up of two buildings separated by a lush center courtyard with a swimming pool. It’s a layout that strikes the right balance between the south-facing front building that holds service areas and a carport, and the building at the rear that provides quiet, more secluded living spaces.
The center courtyard offers many benefits. Among other things, it lets natural light and breezes into the home, thereby reducing heat trapped inside, a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect.
ACH House is a well thought out two-story home. The first floor has all the service spaces located in the front building; they include a carport, storage, washing and laundry, plus a domestic employee’s lodging. At the same time, the building at the rear contains children’s rooms, study room and bedroom for houseguests.
The second floor holds the main living areas easily accessed via a flight of stairs on the left side of the house plan. The front building has a prayer room and the primary bedroom with a bathroom en suite.
On the other side of the pool, the building at the rear holds a roomy sitting space with a kitchen and dining room. For added convenience, all the upstairs living areas can also be reached via an outdoor ramp on the right side of the house plan.
Taking everything into account, it’s an airy Indonesian home that embraces the beauty of simplicity. The house is built using materials readily available in the locality.
There is one exception. Its gable roof is adapted for use in a new environment. It’s made asymmetrical for good reason. The steep pitch roof facing outward provides excellent water drainage, sending rainwater straight to the front yard and backyard gardens below.
In the meantime, the reasonable pitch roof facing inward allows rainwater to flow away gently onto the center courtyard garden, an easy hack to protect against flooding.
The design team wraps it up nicely. Despite its narrow frontage to the street, ACH House is made for calm and peaceful living. It’s very well composed to form a beautiful whole with all the spaces and functionality needed to fill the heart with happiness.
Plus, there’s a sense of open-air space that comes from having a lively green center courtyard and balance in interior design. Together they work in tandem to provide the peace of mind for whatever the future may hold.
/ Story: Wuthikorn Sut / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Hiroyuki Oki /
Here’s a beautiful good-sized home with exposed brick walls in subdued orange. It sits peacefully nestled among lush greenery in Nha Be, a suburban district of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. By design, it’s the perfect home size for four sisters who recently decided to come home to care for their aging Mom. A nice place for their family reunion, the brick home is filled with real warmth and memories growing up together back in the day.
Connecting Home and Garden
Designed to fit a long piece of property, the rectangular house plan holds five bedrooms plus a roomy communal space that’s the heart of family life. The architect puts the face of the building closer to the road which passes in front of the house leaving just enough room for a small front yard.
Like so, it allows a huge space for the backyard garden devoted to trees and shrubs and an outdoor sitting room.
Inside, the spacious room shared by all family members lies front and center on the house plan. To bring fresh air into the home, all the rooms are connected to the outdoor spaces in front and back of the building.
Overall, it’s a design that lets the earthy, woody scents of nature permeate the air. Up front, healthy green foliage transforms the communal area into a calm, pleasant place enlivened by plenty of natural light streaming in through generous openings in the walls.
On one side of the floor plan, a flight of stairs connects to the second floor and continues to the room just below the roof that acts as a buffer against the sun and heat. The absence of vertical risers between the treads of the staircase creates visual and spatial continuity, plus good air flow in the interior.
Overhead, a shaft of sunlight streams through the rooftop skylight making the home feel bright and airy all day.
Brick the Material of Choice
The two-and-a-half-story brick home, including the room under the roof, is built almost entirely of bricks for the best indoor climate. Needless to say it’s designed for healthy living.
The first floor is a perfect example of communal space with plenty of room for a generous sitting area, dining room and kitchen. It speaks volumes for a culture of caring and sharing that’s the essence of humanity.
For practical reason, Mom’s open-concept bedroom is on the first floor. It’s protected from the sun’s harmful rays by perforated brick walls that form the outer shell. The inside is clear of anything that might be a tripping hazard.
Meanwhile, the four sisters each have their own bedrooms on the second floor. They are equal-sized rooms connected by a balcony overlooking the communal space on the first floor. At the very top, the space under the roof becomes a devotional room for traditional veneration of the family’s ancestors. It has a quiet sitting area with a view of the surrounding landscape.
Taken as a whole, the natural environment is pristine thanks to an irrigation canal that runs past the back of the property. Both sides of the waterway are covered in greenery growing luxuriantly in the wild. It’s easy to get why the architect puts in a backyard garden here, a clever hack that blends perfectly into the lush landscape.
The house is built strong using concrete frame and concrete floor slab construction, while the external envelop is made of bricks in assorted orange hues fired the old-fashioned way. Perforated brick facades enable interior spaces to benefit from natural daylight. Gaps between bricks in the house’s exterior walls admit light and fresh outdoor air into the home.
A material of choice, the vintage style bricks can absorb humidity from the nearby water body, which translates into interior thermal comfort all year round. Plus, they effectively filter out dust and pollution in the air.
Apart from protecting against heat and glare, brick walls add a touch of timeless elegance to the home. Perforated facades double as privacy screens that prevent people from looking in and keep the home cool without air conditioning.
The light that shines through is more diffuse, while holes in the brick walls act as engine that drives natural ventilation. Plus, brick walls require little to no maintenance, and they look like new after many years later.
Backyard Garden Made for Relaxation
One of the house’s outstanding features is the backyard garden with an outdoor circular bench capable of seating several people. Built of bricks in subdued shades of orange, it’s the family’s favorite meeting place in the morning and evening.
Because it’s round, it creates more space for family members to come together face-to-face, talk together, walk together strengthening the bonds of sisterhood and relationships made in heaven.
/ Story: Wuthikorn Sut / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Triệu Chiến /
Though we cannot count on the weather to be calm and delightful at all times, it is quite possible to bring physical ease, well-being and relaxation into the workplace, even without air conditioning. And this brick office named “Premier Office” has proved to be the case, thanks to clever passive cooling techniques and greenery giving off friendly vibes.
Handsomely nestled within a calm Ho Chi Minh City neighborhood, the building offering rental office spaces boasts the timeless beauty of brickwork in masonry construction.
Not only do bricks blend nicely into the surrounding landscape, but they also provide interior thermal comfort by absorbing moisture to some degree.
When wet, they dry out by evaporation thereby keeping the ambient temperature pleasant during the daytime.
The seven-story building with a parking garage below ground level offers vacant office spaces for lease that let tenants do their own setup and decorating.
Unlike the usual design offering the same old same old typical of everyday commercial real estate, the rental business spaces at Premier Office are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and configurations, each of which is unique in its own special way.
As the architect intended, the new office block centers around the concept of climate-responsive design whereby forms, functions and nature blend together into one perfectly coordinated business property.
There is a courtyard-like open area at the center that affords an airy and bright atmosphere on every floor. It’s an architectural feature that goes together well with building facades made of ventilation blocks.
By design, the breathable envelope doubles as a passive cooling system that draws fresh outdoor air into this brick office and dissipates excess heat into the sky by rooftop ventilation.
For the health benefits of natural light, the building envelope is constructed with spaces in between bricks. These little openings in the wall work in tandem with the skylight over the courtyard-like area at the center.
Together they create interior thermal comfort by admitting a defused light to illuminate the room, meantime protecting it from the sun’s harsh glare.
It’s a clever hack to promote well-being, by which only the indirect light filtered by brick walls and surrounding trees is allowed.
The architect believed that by integrating physical comfort in the design of this brick office, it would double as second home for many tenants working here.
To avoid invading people’s privacy, the business space for each and every tenant is easily identifiable and clearly defined by a brick masonry wall.
Even with that, all the rental spaces appear bright and airy, no doubt, a nature-inspired place in which to conduct business.
Their retirement home epitomizes the “new life” many dreams of. One such is Lisa Thomas, former manager of a famous hotel chain in Thailand who retired and moved with her mother to Ratchaburi.
“It was love at first sight. Our first arrival in Ratchaburi was, like this, in the rice growing season. I love the inexplicable green of rice paddies: somehow it always brings me a peaceful feeling.”
Lisa’s first impressions resulted in her choice of Ratchaburi Province as the site of this family home, but there were other reasons: convenience of being only two hours from Bangkok, good public utilities, and, importantly “the green horizon, without the view of skyscrapers from our old condo.”
Helping to bring Lisa’s dreams to reality were Research Studio Panin Architects Assistant Professor Dr Tonkao Panin and Tanakarn Mokkhasmita. Their design began with their listening intently and paying attention.
“We’re satisfied if we can manage to translate the everyday morning-to-evening life of a homeowner into each angle and corner of our house plan.
“Houses spring up gradually, resulting from our conversations with the owner. Solutions come from knowing how to step back and fully understand what we are listening to.”
This design answered fundamental home needs including functionality of use; features gradually added to support the owner’s natural habits, and principles of comfortable living such as “cross ventilation,” which allows air to move freely through the building.
A half-outdoor deck set in the middle of the house greets entering visitors, also capturing breezes from all directions as they transit from outside to inside.
More than simply a stop on the way in, it’s a comfortable space for the owners to relax.
The building of this retirement home is laid out to follow the contour of the property, along a natural irrigation canal. To echo this locational context, a swimming pool is set parallel to the canal.
The house faces west, but the problem of day-long heat is addressed with a basic structure of steel-reinforced concrete and an extended deck that widens to match the reach of the sun.
Eaves and verandahs have a steel framework that nicely frames the surrounding scenery.
“Without Lisa’s daily life here, the house would have no meaning,” the architect added.
“It awoke different levels in this space both from the perspective of form and in the actual space itself.”
The location of this retirement home is in harmony with the nature of her life. In the everyday living areas – kitchen, dining room, living room – a high ceiling is called for.
Louvers are set in narrow dividing panels between doors and windows for good ventilation throughout the day, bringing air into the central entrance hall and on into Lisa and her mother’s bedrooms in back, upstairs and downstairs.
“Time is the important thing now,” added Lisa.
“I just want to use my time in the right way, doing what makes me happy, and part of that is returning to live with my mother, bringing back the feeling of life as a kid. The house is a safe space, recalling things that are engraved in my heart forever.”
And it also memorializes the friendship felt by architects for the homeowner in a house that has created lasting happiness.
Right in the middle of a field in Ang Thong Province stands a single-story house that has become a community point of interest.
Owner Chamnan Chatchawalyangkul says, “At my age, I really needed to make this happen while I was still strong enough to get around.
“I don’t want to be a burden on my kids when I’m not so capable anymore, living in a cramped room with them worrying about me all the time.
“I needed to plan in advance to have a house where I can take care of myself. And the house will eventually belong to the kids anyhow.”
Chamnan’s design is spare and open, with excellent ventilation. With everything on the same level, each room is accessible by wheelchair.
One special place is a karaoke room for him and his friends. Architect Jim (Teerachai) Leesuraplanon tells us:
“Chamnan said he’d always lived in a rowhouse, a limited, safe space. Some people might want a house in the middle of an open lot to be open all around, but I think about safety, too.
“This is why we put the brick wall in front, and the iron bars, barriers that still allow light and air to pass through. I’d summarize the design I had in mind with the three words ‘balance,’ ‘blend,’ and ‘believe,’ expressing a balanced life, cause and effect, and faith.”
Standing in a rural field with a road in front, the house opens out on a rubber tree orchard in the rear.
Simplicity is the foundation of the design: a balance between vertical and horizontal lines and surfaces, no nooks or ridges to collect dust, and elemental materials such as concrete, wood, metal, brick, and gravel.
A metal frame lifts the roof at an angle to break the force of the wind. The floor is raised above the ground, facilitating maintenance work on utility systems beneath.
The front wall is a striking display of BPK brick, a local Ang Thong material, laid in a unique arrangement to create beautiful patterns of light and shade, with an additional layer of sliding glass windows for safety.
Around the house is laid a path of river gravel, so someone in the house can easily hear a person walking outside.
The big central living room is a great place to relax, but the real heart of this single-story house is the big porch.
When the folding doors are opened, the room opens up, and it’s much like an old-time Thai house, with the added benefit of a great view of the gorgeous rubber forest, just as the original design envisioned.
/ Story: Foryeah!/ English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Nantiya Busabong /
The houses in this area all looked the same when parents brought the owner of this newly renovated house here when he was a child; now he has renovated their home into a hip, modern brick house with 200 square meters of usable space on a property of 400 square meters.
“After studying abroad I lived in a condo for years, but modern urban life is too full of needless accessories, so I finally came back to this house for its serenity and privacy,” said Roj Kanjanabanyakhom, the owner and architect of his own home.
“I like peace and quiet, listening to music, watching movies, and that’s enough.”
An architect himself, he was the designer and construction supervisor. Since the house was in an old condition, there were a lot of problems: leaks and seepage, rusty pipes, etc., even asbestos tile, now recognized as carcinogenic.
The structure of the house had to be almost completely torn down to its basic frame: pillars, beams, and a couple of walls.
Striking improvements were made to suit Roj’s lifestyle in both the new building at the front and the old house at the back. The newly built structure at the front consists of bright orange brick walls with ventilation spaces below.
A former open “tai thun” (the space beneath the stilt) area, half the ground floor, became his own bicycle maintenance shop, with the other half a carport.
On the second floor is a hobby workshop, and above that a roof deck where support pillars are capped with metal plates in anticipation of future additions.
At the back, the 2.4-meter outside wall of the old house was demolished and replaced with tall glass windows all around for a spacious feeling.
Bedrooms on the second floor were removed to create a “double space” area, and a projector was set up behind one wall for full-size movie viewing.
“There were some difficult structural and material design limitations in the old house,” said Roj.
“Parts of the old roof weren’t able to support much weight, so besides replacing the asbestos with double Roman tile we used metal purlin trusses instead of wood.
“To avoid joint problems where the new roof meets the old gabled one, we used steel-reinforced flat slab concrete, which will be able to hold the weight of future additions.
“Sometimes it’s easier and cheaper just to tear everything out,” he continued. “But I renovated because I wanted to preserve the memories here,” said Roj with a smile.
And so here’s a home filled with remembrance, ready to bring present and future memories into the mix.
/ Story: Monosoda / English version: Peter Montalbano /
/ Photographs: Nanthiya Bussabong /
Mountains, streams and forests in Mae Rim District embrace the open-air vacation home of a Bangkok metropolitan lady who has chosen tranquil Chiang Mai Province over big-city distraction and confusion.
Three years earlier, this was just a holiday home for Lady Ying (Supapa Sanitwong). At that time, Prince Dighambara Yugala was in charge of it, and at his suggestion Lady Ying came to see if she should try living here permanently.
“Before, the house was surrounded by jungle. I explored a little each day, and found a nice view of the mountains. When the brush and grass was cut down, I found the river practically surrounded the house! Right then I fell in love with the place.”
Lady Ying bought the estate for her residence, naming it “Ironwood,” and put in a new building as lodging accommodation for visiting friends and family. Later, a hotel was added for guests wishing to experience the natural world of northern Thailand.
The name “Ironwood” refers to the Ceylon ironwood tree (scientific name: Mesua ferrea), also known as “Bunnag” in Thai. “This is a monument to my great-grandmother Jamreun (Bunnag) Sanitwong Na Ayutthaya, wife of Suwaphan Sanitwong in the reign of King Rama V. She’s not well-known, but is always in my thoughts,” she recalled.
One of Lady Ying’s neighbors here is famous sculptor Jamnian Thongma, whose building design talents helped make her dreams come true. There are two zones on the premises, one in front and the other at the rear.
The front area holds two buildings; on the left, a reception lobby, with Lady Ying’s private residence above; on the right, a dining room and catering area. A walkway connects the buildings. The rear zone holds a riverside guest house.
Lady Ying walks us up the white metal spiral stair to her space on the second floor: a comfy, airy little studio with classic décor and a great view of the mountains.
The bedroom connects directly to a spacious bathroom; the kitchen is separated, and from there a stairway leads down to a greenhouse garden. The Ironwood grounds are shady and pleasant, landscaped by Siriwit Riwbamrung and Jaturong Khunkong of the Little Tree Landscape.
The rooms contain antique decorative items collected over several decades: wooden screens from Burma, handmade chandeliers from Italy, mortared columns from India: many remarkable masterpieces arranged to produce a multicultural atmosphere by interior decorator Sorasak Chatrakul Na Ayutthaya.
Taken as a whole, the vacation home has a remarkable mix of a natural setting and cultural atmosphere, with universal narratives everyone can understand. It’s a place that gives a sense of peace and tranquility, just waiting to be experienced.
Architect: Sorrasak Chatkul na Ayutthaya, Jamnian Tongma
/ Story: Wuthikorn Suthiapa / English version: Peter Montalbano /
/ Photographs: Sitthisak Namkham /
This box-shaped house uses architecture and coordinated interior design to tell stories of the present and the past.
The house is located in the Petaling Jaya district of Selangor, Malaysia. This is a district of single homes, but with little space to put up a large house.
Still, architect Dr Tan Loke Mun rose to the challenge of house owner Kenneth Koh and tore down the former structure here to build a new 3-storey box-shaped house in its place.
“Ground space was limited, so we built upward,” the architect told us. Building vertically involved careful division of space. The lower floors hold common areas: parlor/living room, dining area, kitchen, and conference/chat room. The 3rd floor is an attic, holding hidden utility systems next to a small living room.
The designers brought an “outdoors” mood to each part of this box-shaped house: there’s a “double volume” high, open space on the first floor; glass windows open to the garden atmosphere, and potted shade-loving plants bring it inside.
Gentle sunlight shining into the living space combined with a light breeze from a ceiling fan gives the feeling of sitting in a garden.
An effective play of space combines with the interior décor to bring out a timeless feeling that reflects its Malaccan legacy. The Chinese-style furniture, both traditional and contemporary, was made by Malaccan artisans.
Paintings tell of a land that lives on in the memory of the owner.
Significantly, the prominent terra-cotta tile facade is remarkable.
“In tearing down the old house, we discovered that the roof tiles were handcrafted, imported from Calcutta, India, so we set them aside to use this way for privacy and heat insulation,” added the architect.
“Their texture connects nicely with the other materials used here. This original house tile is long-lasting, looks great, has a timeless quality, and is a good choice in combination with the other main structural components of brick, concrete, and steel.”
The outer surface of this box-shaped house structure shows a wall of terracotta roof tiles that open and close to catch the light. The metal support structures reach out from the main building to form a pleasing pattern of connections between the inside and outside.
The look and ambience here remind us of a Malaccan row house, but in a modern context.
Effective combination of old materials and new in textures that suit its owner’s heritage gives this house a sense of being outside of time, and its memories will be passed on to the next generations who live here.
Ultimately, we don’t often find a big-city house that feels so bright, natural, and full of narrative.
A designer couple’s dream house stands amidst the idyllic farmlands of Vietnam countryside. Interior designer My An Pham Thi and her husband Michael Charrualt, who is also a 3D graphic designer, built their new home office using natural materials and creative building techniques. Basically, it’s a design that embraces the green building concept aimed at minimizing negative impacts on the environment. By mixing locally sourced materials with imagination and modern methods of construction, they were able to create an eclectic living space with a look that’s uniquely their own.
It’s a design choice that came at the right time as sustainable building was catching on in different parts of the country. Green construction provides many benefits, among them reduced waste, reduced cost and better air quality, and the list goes on.
This designer couple’s home out in the country conveys a great deal about that line of thought and the need to go green. They mixed local materials with imagination to create an environment-friendly home that’s cozy and warm without burning a hole in the pocket.
The fence wall in front of the house boasts the simplicity of raw concrete finishes with beautiful bamboo detailing. There are two gates made of wood in dark reddish browns that blend with the rural environment, at the same time, protecting the home from the outside.
As a feature that’s a source of pride, the house’s external envelope is crafted of bare brickwork that adds visual interest to the overall design. Where appropriate, perforate brick walls are installed to allow fresh air and natural light into the home, making the interior feel nice and dry.
All of this is achieved by using simple materials readily available in the locality, such as wood, cement, bricks and palm-leaf roofing. Together they give the house in the fields a beautiful indigenous flair.
In essence, it’s the love of the outdoors that inspires My An Pham Thi and Michael Charrualt to build their home out in Vietnam countryside. It boils down to the healthy lifestyle they cherish in their heart, a yearning desire to seek reconnections with nature. And this rustic country house in the fields is made for that.
Take a look inside. The ground floor boasts a specious living room with Chinoiserie furniture that connects to the dining room with a large table and Windsor chairs. It has the view of a side yard garden.
The second floor works as a home office with a snug bedroom tucked away in a quiet, more secluded area.
The master bedroom lies on the third floor that’s characterized by simplicity and a handful of essential elements unique to Minimalist style.
Here, time goes by so slowly, and the designer couple isn’t in a hurry to go anywhere. Their dream home is, in fact, a live-in experiment, in which different materials and various building strategies are being evaluated to determine how they perform in real life.
Should any issue arise, it will be dealt with one by one to arrive at the best solution. But one thing for sure, it’s a home with love and care.
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