Blog : chiang mai

Maerim House: A U-Shaped Steel Frame Home Fosters Harmony with Nature

Maerim House: A U-Shaped Steel Frame Home Fosters Harmony with Nature

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Markus Gortz /

Amidst a beautiful mountain landscape, a steel frame home looks lightweight under a canopy of overhanging trees in Mae Rim District, roughly 15 minutes’ drive from Chiang Mai’s downtown. It’s tucked away in a cozy corner of a peaceful neighborhood blending seamlessly into the dark green of nearby woodlands. Upfront a natural water pond lies hemmed in by the U-shaped house plan, creating an environmentally friendly living space. Needless to say, it’s invitingly comfortable, calm and peaceful thanks to the crisp cool mountain air passing through all day. Nothing compares to living close to nature.

Its spacious floor plan affords a whopping 800 square meters of living, functional and utility spaces snug by the warmth of a northern countryside. The brainchild of Design Qua, an architectural practice based in Bangkok, the house among the trees is designed to be in harmony with nature. This can only come from a profound understanding of the place, knowledge of the local climate and efforts at maintaining ecological balance long term.

A drawing illustrates the various component parts of a U-shape house plan in relation to the courtyard under tree cover and a water pond that’s the centerpiece of landscape design. / Courtesy of Design Qua
A diagram of the second floor shows the private residential wing at the far end, utility areas on the left, and the multipurpose wing holding a welcome area in the foreground. / Courtesy of Design Qua
A side-elevation view of the U-shaped house plan in cross section illustrates the physical interactions between man and nature, as evidenced by the positioning of living spaces linked by a system of corridors, balconies and verandas overlooking the courtyard with a water pond. / Courtesy of Design Qua

That being said, structural steel framing comes in as a handy building technique. Among other advantages, vertical steel columns take up less space than do concrete ones. This helps to avoid damaging the root system of a rain tree standing close by. Steel frames provide a stronger, more durable structure than concrete does. Plus, it’s lightweight and faster to construct. Overall, they are the key attributes that give the home its character.

Steel framing for building construction offers many advantages. Among others, it takes up less space and provides flexibility in design as evidenced by a system of pathways connecting to all parts of the home. Plus, it promotes good ventilation and interactions between nature and humankind.

Typical of homes in the Northern Region, passive design strategies take priority over any other matter. Correct building orientation ensures there are enough openings in the walls to admit natural daylight and fresh outdoor air into the home, while texture applied to walls and ceilings create shadows and an even concentration of warm soft light in the interior.

Named Maerim House, the two-story steel home is built on a U-shaped floor plan with a courtyard containing a natural water pond occupying the in-between space.

The house consists of three parts. First, the north wing holds a garage upfront leading to the main entrance with a warm and cozy welcome room. The ground is covered with new top soil, paved and polished to give it a neat and clean surface. The raised floorboard ensures safety in case of heavy rain.

The second part of the house plan is raised at plinth height 60 centimeters above the ground. All the equipment and utility spaces are here, among them washing and drying machines plus a work studio at the far end right next to a rather unique circular bathroom.

The third and final section of the home holds a quiet, secluded residential area. The downstairs consists of a kitchen complete with dining and sitting rooms plus a bedroom for guest accommodation. It’s accessed by a veranda tiled in different colors and textures that blend with surrounding courtyard landscapes. Close at hand, the overhanging branches of a rain tree spread above the water’s edge providing crisp, cool shade.

The counter enclosed by an overlapping clapboard of reclaimed timber adds vintage appeal to the kitchen and dining area.
For a good first impression, the welcome wing is enclosed by glass walls and sliding doors that open to admit natural daylight and fresh outdoor air into the room.

A set of steps illuminated by recessed lights gives access to a two-meter-wide veranda overlooking the water pond that’s the focal point of the courtyard landscape.

Nearby, an apparently lightweight set of stairs next to a breeze block wall provides access to the second floor holding the principal bedroom. From here, a hallway connects to a living area and a circular bathroom and, beyond, two other bedrooms tucked away at the far end. On the outside of the building, a spacious balcony affords beautiful views of the rain tree and lush courtyard landscapes.

Separate but not divided. Breeze block walls painted a muted shade of green clearly define the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, at the same time providing visual continuity between the two worlds.
A yoga pavilion at the rear of the house affords a beautiful panorama of wooded hills and surrounding mountains stretching farther than the eye can see.

For indoor thermal comfort, the house’s wooden floorboard is made up of long planks recycled from older homes, resulting in a feel and appearance that make people feel calm. The interior decor is simple yet elegant, featuring the simplicity of a mix-and-match between old and contemporary items. The furnishings mostly sourced from within the region bespeak the homeowner’s love for pleasingly graceful styles adorned with beautiful works of handicraft.

The upstairs bedroom boasts the simplicity of a floorboard made up of reclaimed wooden planks installed with narrow grooves in between, creating a texture that’s the only one of its kind.
Tall wall ideas provide ample room for an awning window hinged at the top. It opens and shuts as needed to regulate fresh outdoor air streaming into the upstairs bedroom.
An accent wall in the downstairs living room is tiled in different colors symbolizing variety, with a fireplace directly across from it radiates timeless appeal.

To create a restful atmosphere, perforate brick walls are painted earthy light green that visually blends with the darkness of nearby wooded hills in the landscape. For a lightweight look, the home is roofed over with metal sheeting with extended overhangs protecting the glass walls from the elements. At the end of the gutter, rain chains direct the flow of water from the rooftop to the ground in a more controlled way.

Taken as a whole, it’s a beautiful amalgam of natural and built environments. Built largely of bricks and reclaimed timber, the steel frame home successfully merges into the complex woodland ecosystems that are the pride and joy of this part of Chiang Mai. By design, it’s a simple structure inspired by a yearning desire to live closer to nature. And that’s exactly the point. Gorgeous!


Architect: Design Qua


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Mitbury the Public House: A Café in Pastel Brown Humbly Camouflaged in Nature’s Embrace

Mitbury the Public House: A Café in Pastel Brown Humbly Camouflaged in Nature’s Embrace

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Prueksakun Kornudom, Ornpailin Leelasiriwong /

Tucked away amidst the crisp mountain air and dense green plants thriving under tree cover, a quaint country café takes center stage giving off friendly vibes. It’s enclosed by glass walls on three sides, while perimeter fence walls of large breeze blocks in pastel brown speak volumes for the humble origins of mankind.

Lying furthest from everything else, a lazy brook passes by reflecting sunlight glistening with sparkles in misty winds. Aptly named “Mitbury the Public House”, the café and nearby support buildings merge into the cool shade of wooded hills in the backdrop. It’s arguably the most exquisite kind of scenery. And it’s located right here in Mae Rim District, only a short ride from Chiang Mai’s city center.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the aroma of coffee beans being ground and roasted in the background smells like heaven. There’s nothing like chilling out, sipping one’s favorite Morning Brew on a quiet day at nature’s edge.

The project comprises three small buildings with a chic coffee bar located at the center of the property. The other two buildings lie hidden in plain sight behind the walls of perforate blocks in muted brown designed to promote ventilation and regulate sunlight. The coffee bar itself affords 140 square meters of restaurant space canopied by overhanging trees.

A charcoal sketch of the premises illustrates the positioning of the café and two support buildings enclosed by a perforate wall and surrounding terrain features. / Courtesy of WOS Architects
A side-elevation view of the café building in cross section, silhouetted against a breeze block wall lying under the canopy of overhanging trees / Courtesy of WOS Architects

The brainchild of WOS Architects, a Bangkok-based architectural practice, Mitburi the Public House is a design masterpiece that seeks reconnections with the natural world.

Walk in the door, and you find an ample space used for guests and seating. Interestingly, the rough textured wall in soft pastel beige at the back is the sight to behold. It stands overlooking the space used for preps, the coffee bar and kitchen.

From a distance, a paved passageway glides past lush lawns leading to first building that houses the café and kitchen. The second building holds storage space and staff quarters, while the third is a complete toilet building. By design, they lie hidden from view behind the perforate brick walls.

A footbridge gives access to nearby wooded hills. It’s built of structural I-beam framing, with wooden planks and railings of wire infill panels for protection against slip and fall accidents.

All of them are built of structural steel framing. Where appropriate, the exterior walls are crafted of natural building materials sourced from within the community. Immediately appealing among them is the floor tiled in grayish brown. It lies covered with thin slabs of baked clay from a local kiln, creating charm, good looks that embrace imperfect simplicity.

For visual continuity, the café building itself is enclosed by glass walls on three sides, with a pair of transom windows at the top of the front door. A clean, well-lighted place, the interior is warm and welcoming, thanks to pale soft lights that are less distracting, adding romantic appeal to the room.

From inside the café, glass walls provide undisrupted visual continuity between indoors and outdoors. The floor is tiled in reddish brown slabs fired the old-fashioned way by a local kiln, the beauty of imperfections that blends with the surroundings.
The café building stands among the trees, enclosed by glass walls on three sides. They open to admit natural daylight and fresh outdoor air into the room.

Out-of-doors, yard landscaping ideas are just impressive. Perforate blocks in reddish brown fill up the entire boundary fence, blending seamlessly into the dark green of the forest’s edge. Located furthest to the rear, a footbridge built of steel I-beams, wooden planks and wire infill railings provide access to nearby forested hills.

Attention to detail is evidenced by the breeze block fence in muted brown that separates the business premises into clearly defined zones depending on functionality.
The complete toilet building stands hidden from view, separated from nearby lush lawns and café space by a wall of perforate bricks for ventilation.

The I-beams are painted a grayish green hue that merges into large areas of old woodlands in the background. Underneath the footbridge, a babbling stream runs idly by meandering through the rock-covered forest floor. Above it, cool breezes and leaves rustling in the trees entice the imagination.

Overall, the business premises keep firmly to the owner’s initial resolve to leave every tree and the nearby brook where they have always been, giving rise to house-among-trees ideas. For a good reason, they are built small and disposed around the periphery of the project site. The building shell is topped with a simple gable roof made of natural materials that are friendly to the environment.

To live and let live, a native tree stands where it’s always been. Cutting it down is not a choice.

Nature lovers should find the small café in the woods a paradise, thanks to rocks being used to create a set of steps leading to the glass-glazed façade, a clever hack to create visual continuity between indoors and outdoors.

Surrounded by lush lawns and shade trees, a set of rock steps adds beauty and functionality to the building’s glass-glazed façade.

Thanks to thoughtful design, the trio of small buildings in earthy browns lies beautifully ensconced among the trees and wooded hills in the background. Day in, day out, the smell of coffee ground and roasted fresh on site induces a sense of warmth and comfort among people who feel a yearning for the mountains.

It comes as no surprise that they name it “Mitbury”, a Thai term literally translated as a place for friendly people, and in this particular case, a café built into nature that celebrates the easy, laidback lifestyles that have made Chiang Mai famous. Swing by next time you’re in town!


Architect: WOS Architects (https://wosarchitects.com/)

Interior Design: Estudio (https://www.facebook.com/Estu.interior/)


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Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai: A Hotel at Nature’s Edge Embraces a Mix of Modern and Traditional

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai: A Hotel at Nature’s Edge Embraces a Mix of Modern and Traditional

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Phattaraphon / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Nantiya /

A hotel chain widely recognized in Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim District for the past 15 years has opened a new branch in Muang District in what is seen as a major expansion of luxury, comfort and style. Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai advocates living next door to nature while showcasing an intriguing combination of modern design with rich culture and beautiful traditional crafts. Its design concept keeps firmly to the belief that being in nature provides deep relaxation. And the result of all this is a resort hotel that’s environmentally conscious, plus it’s tailored to the needs of specialized segments of the market.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai

Needless to say, the hotel landscape is out of this world. Like taking a spellbinding journey into the woods, Proud Phu Fah Chiang Mai is a perfect escape away from the crowds, where the air is filled with the continuous murmuring sound of water flowing and leaves rustling in the trees creating detailed mental images of the beautiful northern landscape.

The brainchild of Full Scale Studio, a homegrown architectural practice, Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai embraces reconnections with the natural world. It consists of a pair of three-story buildings thoughtfully devised to merge into countryside vernacular, at the same time reaping the full health benefits of sunshine and fresh air.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
The sound of a babbling brook amid lush green vegetation reconnects Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai with its natural surroundings.

The main idea is to let the aroma of nature permeate through the landscape. Such is manifested in a pair of well-maintained giant rain trees providing shade and a focal point in the center courtyard. By design it has become a favorite place of relaxation and rejuvenation among hotel guests.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
Lee Kuan Yew trees (scientific name: Vernonia elliptica DC) growing luxuriantly inside a protective barrier provide natural privacy screens for hotel rooms.
Well-maintained trees keep the center courtyard in shade for much of the day.

Front and center, well-thought-out planning ensures that all the rooms have access to the best view of the natural surroundings. The first building, called Building A, is directed at a 45-degree angle to soak up a wonderful panorama of the mountains, while the second, known as Building B, is set along the 90-degree line for a beautiful orchard view.

Where appropriate, new trees offering fragrant flowers are added to the existing contiguous woodlands, resulting in uniform composition.

Architecturally speaking, it’s a project that emphasizes the use of concrete, brick and wood directly sourced from the locality as the building materials of choice. Aside from giving a sense of identity and cultural heritage, they double as storytelling tools conveying a great deal about the love of nature and preservation of traditional crafts.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
Where solid walls are not suitable, perforate walls are built of breeze blocks in various contemporary styles to promote natural air circulation on the premises.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
A gallery along the outside of the building is designed to connect with nature.

An example of this is Minimal Lanna, a type of room that advocates Minimalism in art infused with a mix of traditional crafts and modern interior design.

The room has furniture beautifully crafted of teakwood, ceramic tiles, and ceramic washbasins with kid design custom-painted by the property owner, plus decorating items in a variety of finishes handcrafted by local artisans and contemporary artists in the region.

Overall, it’s a design that places great emphasis on the beauty of simplicity and the use of soft neutral tones for deep relaxation.

A type of guest rooms called Minimal Lanna advocates Minimalism in art with an interesting combination of local crafts with modern furnishing and decoration.
Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
The Honeymoon Grand View room on the third floor of Building A boasts the beauty of split level design in descending order starting with the bathroom, bedroom, living room and finally the balcony.
Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
The Honeymoon Grand View room on the third floor of Building A has a bathtub in the open air with an unbroken view of nearby wooded hillsides.

To reduce the harsh texture of concrete construction, red bricks come in handy for multiple applications. Among other things, the external envelope of Building B consists of brick walls inspired by the craft of basket-making known as “Lai Song” patterns in the vernacular of the Northern Region.

Like poetry in motion, the reflection of sunlight on the walls creates interesting sights and shadows that change from morning to evening.

A guest room on the first floor of Building B has a private onsen, or hot spring pool with a refreshing garden view.
Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
Perforate building facades in different colors and textures add interesting dimensions to the architecture of the hotel and landscapes.

For indoor thermal comfort, where appropriate perforate walls are built using contemporary cement blocks with holes in them that serve as engine driving natural air circulation and letting natural daylight stream into the interior.

In a way, they form an integral part that blends seamlessly with the landscape enlivened by the sounds of a babbling brook amid a forest garden with walkways made for relaxation. Together, they go to work connecting Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai with the idyllic natural setting.

Proud Phu Fah Muang Chiang Mai
Brick walls in stunning earthy hues inspired by weaving techniques known as Lai Song patterns blend harmoniously with lush vegetation in the immediate surroundings.

Architect: Full Scale Studio, Tel. 08-9154-1758

Landscape Architect: H2O Design Co., Ltd, Tel. 08-1531-1871


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Mae Rim House: A Home on the Hill, Fresh Air and Memories of the Good Old Days

Mae Rim House: A Home on the Hill, Fresh Air and Memories of the Good Old Days

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Wuthikorn Sut / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Add Peerapat Wimolrungkarat, Something Architecture /

This house on the hill is a refreshing change to be taken seriously. Designed for four people to fit in comfortably, it looks out over the Mae Sa River in Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim District. It all began with a family wanting to get away from Bangkok and live somewhere out there in the countryside. As luck would have it, they had an old vacation home that needed repairs, and the rest is history.

Home on the Hill fresh air

It wasn’t long before they decided to put in a new house set amid the landscape of undulating hillsides filled with fond memories of the good old days. From a distance, the new place named Mae Rim House is built into nature, the perfect place to get fresh air and sunshine. Can’t beat that!

Home on the Hill fresh air
The open concept first floor offers plenty of ample space under double height ceilings. It holds a living room, dining room and kitchen. Upstairs, a footbridge provides access to the bedroom at the rear of the house plan.

Upon completion, the family had most of their furniture and furnishings shipped up here when they left Bangkok. They included collectibles that had been in family possession for some time and personal effects shipped home after an extended stay overseas. Take a quick look, and it’s easy to get how they felt a sentimental attachment to their possessions.

The dinning room affords a peaceful vista of the family’s old vacation home at the rear of the property.

Overall, home decoration is inspired by fond memories for the past. Amenities and features of the house are mostly in taupe or light gray with a tinge of brown. And that’s especially true for the ceilings, interior walls, sofas and other furniture items.

It’s a mix of old and new that blends perfectly with the dense green color of the surrounding landscape. The same applies to the comparative coolness of the house exterior that’s in shade for much of the day, a rustic ambience that’s in perfect harmony with nature.

Home on the Hill fresh air

The two-story, 500-square-meter home boasts the beauty of a large living room in the middle of the first floor. Elsewhere, smaller sitting areas are placed at intervals across the house plan.

But what makes it an interesting place to live is the double height ceiling at the center that promotes cross ventilation, keeping the interior cool and comfortable especially during summer months. At the same time, open concept design encourages smooth flow around the interior, from the kitchen to dining room to living room.

A topographic map shows the house location on the hill in relation to green spaces, roadway and nearby structures.
A drawing of the downstairs floor plan.
A drawing of the upstairs floor plan.

The result is a bright and breezy atmosphere, thanks in part to an array of sliding glass doors on one side of the house that opens to let nature permeate the interior. There’s also a ceiling fan on standby, too. It’s so cozy that they hardly ever use air conditioning.

Home on the Hill fresh air

 

The first floor holds two bedrooms with a view of nature. Designed for senior family members, they are positioned at either end of the house plan for increased privacy. The second floor is an entirely different story.

There’s an attic-style bedroom at the south end of the house plan that has been adapted to avoid stuffiness and promote good air flow. For lighting and ventilation, a trio of awnings and skylight windows are built into the gable roof.

Home on the Hill fresh air
The upstairs bedroom at the rear is accessed via a footbridge overlooking the void of space above the first floor that holds a kitchen, dining room and living room.

Home on the Hill fresh air

Inside the house, slanted ceilings that run parallel to top chords create a bigger space overhead making the entire bedroom feel spacious and airy. On the outside, the underside of overhanging eaves is covered with soffit panels for a neat appearance.

Home on the Hill fresh air
Bedroom walls are glazed using clear glass to soak up the views of lush wooded hills.
Home on the Hill fresh air
A cozy semi-outdoor gallery adjoining the bedroom is brightened up with foliage plants.

For indoor thermal comfort, the box-shaped home lies protected by an expansive gable roof with long eaves overhanging the exterior walls. It stands hemmed in by tall trees that keep the new family home in shade for much of the day.

 

The awning and skylight window customized to match the roof reduces the harshness of materials, plus it facilitates cross ventilation in the interior, keeping the house cool in summer.

Home on the Hill fresh air

What makes it fascinating is the far ends of the gable roof that extends quite a distance from the walls of the building. The resulting triangular shape of the second level is designed to avoid making the house look too big or too tall, so as to blend with all that exists in the neighborhood. After all, it’s everlasting harmony that’s the foundation of good design.

Home on the Hill fresh air


Architect: WOSArchitects (wosarchitects.com)

Interior Designer: Estudio (www.facebook.com/Estu.interior)


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Baan Suan Athisthan: A Contemporary Vernacular Home in Sync with Nature and Community Life

Baan Suan Athisthan: A Contemporary Vernacular Home in Sync with Nature and Community Life

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Samutcha Viraporn / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Rithirong Chanthongsuk / Styling: Salisa Viraporn /

A contemporary vernacular home aptly named “Baan Suan Athisthan” stands surrounded by lush green trees and bushes in Chiang Mai. The term “Baan Suan” is Thai for an orchard home. You got the idea. It’s a living space that merges traditional knowledge and skills with modern design principles, technology and materials. The result is a well-thought-out two story house plan filled with style and personality, plus useful features fitting perfectly in a coherent whole.

Vernacular Home Nature
A tree and lush vegetation add a light and pillowy texture to the front yard. The roof is covered with terracotta tiles sourced from neighboring Lamphun Province.

Located at Tambon Mae-Tha in the District of Mae-On, the house makes good use of indigenous knowledge systems and experiences unique to the locality, albeit adapted to suit new conditions and the look that belongs to the present. It’s part of a whole range of professional pursuits that homeowner and architect Supawut Boonmahathanakorn is engaging in.

He has worked at Mae-Tha for a long time, getting involved in all kinds of development efforts. It’s easy to get why he’s become a respected member of the community. We swung by Supawut’s beautiful vernacular home recently and loved every minute of it.


A Home That Blends into the Surroundings

Supawut came to Mae-Tha some eight years ago to work in community planning but ended up falling in love with it. Over time, a friendly, harmonious relationship with locals culminated in a decision to purchase a piece of land with the intention of building a home there.

What he had in mind was the kind of home that would fit, geographically and culturally, into the context of the rural vernacular habitat. And it climaxed with an impressive event in the form a thoughtfully devised wooden home with functionality and comfort fitting into a rural house plan.

Plus, correct building orientation protects it from inclement weather, creating a cozy and inviting living space that syncs with the rhythm of nature.

Vernacular Home Nature

It’s the product of design thinking that started out with the simple drawing of a wooden home plan. As might be expected, he wanted it built the old-fashioned way. The house is now complete.

The principal front of the home looks out over a rural road and, beyond it, a panorama of Doi Khun Tan, a scenic mountain range straddling the border between nearby Lumphun and Lampang provinces to the south.

To deal with intense sunlight coming from that direction, a tree is put in the front yard to provide shade and protect the home from harsh glare. In the meantime, a specious porch along the outside of the house performs a dual function as semi-outdoor sitting room and a layer of protection saving the interior living spaces from sun damage.

By design, it’s the cool front porch that makes the house stand out from other vernacular homes in the neighborhood.

Vernacular Home Nature
Bamboo poles alternating with barbed wires reduce the harshness of precast concrete fence posts. They provide a weather-beaten look that blends smoothly with the wooden home on the property.
Vernacular Home Nature
An array of awning windows allows natural daylight and fresh outdoor air into the home. Plus, they prove a perfect complement to clean line design on the building’s external envelope.

To blend in harmony with the community, the house is kept roughly the same size as its neighbors. Plus, it makes perfect sense to build a good rapport and avoid being seen as different from what is usual or expected.

To create a quiet and secluded living space, Supawut puts a tree in the front yard that’s still growing at the time of this report. At the same time, appropriate adaptations make the interior spaces cozy and comfortable. Among them, a “Tai Thun” or the open lower level space has since been enclosed by the walls for privacy and security since the homeowner doesn’t live here every day.


Combining Old and New

For strength and durability, the house is built on concrete foundations. The beams and joists supporting the house floor are crafted of steel to significantly speed up the overall construction process.

The floor itself is made of hardwood. The same applies to the beams and joists supporting the porch along the outside of the building. All types of timber used in this project are recycled from three old homes. They are chosen for their color and ability to suit different applications.

For good looks, teakwood is used as showpieces and wall panels, while the floor is crafted of solid hardwood in varying tones.

Vernacular Home Nature

Vernacular Home Nature
The front door opens to a vista of herb gardens and, beyond, a seemingly endless line of mountains.
Vernacular Home Nature
A roofed well casing made of concrete syncs with gardens filled with herbs indigenous to the Northern Region.

In keeping with local traditions, the house’s external envelope is unsophisticated and easy to understand. Unlike traditional vernacular design, the roof eaves overhanging the exterior wall are left exposed, leaving the ends of roof rafters visible.

Neither is there a gable decoration, aka the “Ga-lae” that’s symbolic of homes in the Northern Region. But nevertheless, it’s a beautiful wooden house, one that’s easy on the eye and blending perfectly into countryside vernacular.

The house entry area boasts split-level design that provides a place to sit while putting on and taking off shoes upon entering. There is an element of surprise, though. The second floor is accessible via a spiral staircase made of steel, an unusual feature for the traditional style home of the Northern Region.

Vernacular Home Nature

Vernacular Home Nature
The dining room and kitchen that lies furthest in is well-lit by natural daylight streaming through side windows and the front porch. Directly overhead, exposed floor joists supporting the upstairs room are clearly visible.
Vernacular Home Nature
Double height ceiling ideas make the downstairs sitting room feel airy and comfortable. Sliding glass doors open for good ventilation and lighting.
Vernacular Home Nature
A nook with a small desk provides a flex workspace that’s airy, open and welcoming.

Vernacular Home Nature

Vernacular Home Nature
The downstairs bathroom is an extension of the house plan, accessible via a semi-outdoor room roofed over with corrugated translucent material for lighting, a clever hack to keep the bathroom clean and hygienic.

Vernacular Home Nature
The front porch roofed over with a translucent material performs a dual function as semi-outdoor sitting room and additional protection preventing sun, wind and water from entering the home.

Climb a flight of stairs, and you come to a “Tern” in the vernacular of the Northern Region meaning an indoor raised platform. In a way, it serves as window into the past. Supawut explained that traditionally in former times, the area was used as living room during the daytime, and sleeping space in the nighttime for unmarried sons.

For good lighting and ventilation, the room isn’t enclosed by the walls. In times past, all family members would be out tending rice in the paddy field all day. There was hardly anyone home. And by the time the sons matured into adulthood, they would be married off and started a family of their own. Since the daughters remained in the family, they were entitled to a room of their own.

Vernacular Home Nature
A window into Northern culture in times past, the raised platform or “Tern” in the dialect of the region provided space for a living room during the daytime, and sleeping space for unmarried sons at night. Like old times, it now serves as a sitting room with throw pillows and floor seat cushions for sitting and leaning on.

In keeping with traditions, the Tern in this contemporary home is without furniture, an evidence that sheds light on a culture in which people sit on the floor. For Supawut, it’s a quiet nook to lean back, chill out, enjoy the view of the surrounding landscape.


Double Height Ceilings for a Bright and Breezy Atmosphere

A void of space between the first and second floors further increases ventilation in the home. It serves as engine that drives cross-ventilation, drawing fresh outdoor air from downstairs and forcing it to exit through wall openings and vents upstairs.

By making appropriate adaptations to traditional house design, Supawut was able to create high ceilings that give the home a lively and cheerful atmosphere. The result of all this: a contemporary home that’s more cozy and comfortable than the original vernacular homes in former times.

Vernacular Home Nature
An upstairs awning window and a gable vent allow natural light and fresh outdoor air into the home.
Vernacular Home Nature
Timber conceals the steel framework supporting the roof, creating a harmonious look in the interior living space. The coverings are made of reclaimed hardwood in various shades of earth color. The wall on the right is crafted of cement boards with sand swirl texture painted a cool-toned white.
Vernacular Home Nature
A void of space between the first and second floors makes the house feel light and breezy, while windows open to bring the outdoors in.

Technically speaking, the house is an interesting amalgam of the modern and the traditional. The architect started out with ideas for a modern house plan, and then added vernacular features to it with the help and advice of local elders highly skilled in traditional carpentry and woodworking.

Ironically, the elders were reluctant to participate at first. But after working with Supawut for a period of time, they came to accept it as one of their proud achievements.

Vernacular Home Nature
The neat and tidy bedroom embraces simple living. Shelving and cupboards perform a dual function as storage space and double insulated walls.
The contemporary upstairs bathroom is small yet complete with modern conveniences. The wet and dry areas are clearly defined, while the bathtub and shower room in cool-toned whites match the toilet and nearby rectangular wash basin.

As for building material adaptations, the walls are built for the most part of cement boards painted a shade of earth tones reminiscent of vernacular homes in bygone times. A light hue is chosen to create a bright and optimistic appearance on the front porch and entry area. The second floor is built strong to give it the maximum ability to take loading, especially the wet area where the bathtub is located. There are multiple vents that allow warm air to exit, resulting in a well-lit, well-ventilated interior. In the meantime, the open-concept floor plan makes the home feel spacious and improves traffic flow.

The house sits on concrete foundations designed to protect against water damage. Post bases built of concrete keep timber frames and columns dry. The joists and beams supporting the house floor are made of steel to significantly reduce construction time and save money on timber costs. Where appropriate, the open ends of steel beams are boxed in using wood plugs for a neat appearance and keeping insects out.
For a neat appearance, wooden knobs conceal the pins that secure mortise and tenon joints in place, a preferred technique to build strong timber framing. The architect sought advice from an artisan/village elder skilled in traditional carpentry to do this. Reclaimed four-sided posts and round log beams fitting together like wooden toys add visual interest to the interior.
The roof over the front porch is covered with a corrugated translucent material that reduces the amounts of light passing through. The load-bearing posts, beams and joists are made of hardwood for durability. Rafter tails are cut at an angle for a lightweight look and maximize the drip-off distance from the building. Plus, it allows rain gardens to make the most of runoff water.

The new contemporary vernacular home is named Baan Suan Athisthan for a good reason. The word is Sanskrit for a resolute mind or strong will to find inner peace and happiness. Like so, Supawut created this awesome place to be a home of peace, one that seeks reconnections with the natural world and the community to which it belongs.

More than anything else, it’s a little humble abode that provides a learning environment for kids, plus a close and harmonious relationship with others in the neighborhood.

The homeowner and project architect, Supawut Boonmahathanakorn, of Jai Baan Studio.

Owner/Architect: Supawut Boonmahathanakorn of Jai Baan Studio (www.facebook.com/Jaibaan)

Building contractor: Banjerd Atelier

Woodwork artisan: Pongsakorn Yuennoi, aka Sala Kew


Visit the original Thai article…

“บ้านสวนอธิษฐาน” บ้านไม้พื้นถิ่นร่วมสมัย


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LAAB Is More: A Small Living Space That’s Anything but Ordinary

LAAB Is More: A Small Living Space That’s Anything but Ordinary

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

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

/ Photographs: Poto Architects and Blind Space /

There’s more to this than meets the eye. Here’s a small house that chronicles a series of events and experiences of a multigenerational family in Chiang Mai. The humble abode that’s anything but ordinary is nestled in a residential compound shared by relatives living in ten separate households. The new home on a budget is the brainchild of Studio Sifah, a homegrown architectural practice admired for their knowledge of the social and cultural environment in the Northern Region and ability to apply that information in a meaningful way.

small house chiang mai
The house entry area is glazed using clear glass that provides a welcome contrast to nearby solid walls for privacy protection.

It all starts with a young man wanting to put in a home close to his aging parents on a large property where a group of close-knit families also live. It looks the epitome of experiences in communal living, a system whereby family relatives help and support one another come what may.

small house chiang mai

Point taken. The architects respond with a contemporary home built of concrete and steel framing. There’s a pleasant surprise. Its modern exterior belies the unblemished charm of rustic life hidden inside.

More so than anything else, the house plan is thoughtfully devised to preserve a culture unique to the Northern Region, the way of life by which people sit on the floor as they gather to enjoy a main dish called “Laab” just like their ancestry did in times past.

Here, though, the zesty meaty meal served with a salad and sweet rice is more than just food. It’s a way of life. It’s the living embodiment of a food culture that unites the people across vast swaths of land on this side of the world. Long story short, it’s only appropriate that the house is named “Laab Is More”.

small house chiang mai
The patio leading to the front door is taken up a notch with custom-made interlocking concrete blocks that can be dyed to create qualities and features resembling old-fashioned bricks.

Sharing his design thinking, the architect said the homeowner was looking for a house plan that would jealously guard his privacy in the company of family relatives living close by. It was quite a challenge even for experienced architects since it was a little too close for comfort, so to speak.

Eventually, the design team decided in favor of a 165-square-meter home enclosed by solid walls, each strategically positioned to save the interior from being seen or disturbed by outsiders. It’s a well-thought-out plan that maximizes space utilization to protect privacy and promote the close family bond at the same time.

In essence, it’s a design that combines the modern and the traditional. The house’s contemporary appearance goes hand in hand with the homeowner’s love for old-fashioned lifestyles that promote a culture in which people sit on straw mats as they enjoy a good meal together as family.

small house chiang mai

small house chiang mai

With respect to construction, the small house plan is enclosed almost entirely by solid walls with tall transom windows at the top for lighting. There’s one exception. The entry area is glazed using clear glass to create a bright and cheerful atmosphere. Serving as a buffer between indoor and outdoor spaces, the hallway at ground level connects to a slightly raised platform holding a spacious living room with functional areas nearby.

In keeping with long-established traditions, there is no wall separating the living room from the bedroom that lies furthest in. The only room dividers that exist are the ones that set the bedroom apart from nearby bathroom and workspace at the farthest end.

small house chiang mai

The principal floor holding the open bedroom is raised at plinth height, providing sleek, convenient seating space and hence no need for furniture.

Nearby, the lower sitting room offers space for a kitchen pantry design and coffee bar. From here, the concrete floor spreads out to connect seamlessly with a large outdoor patio used for family gatherings and dining al fresco. The patio has room for food preparation with a wash basin and utensils for cooking large meals and entertaining houseguests.

small house chiang mai
Split-level design shows in the main living space elevated at plinth level 50 centimeters from the hallway floor. Together they provide a convenient place to sit shooting the breeze. Plus, they evoke fond feelings and a sentimental attachment to the culture passed down through generations.

small house chiang mai

From the look of things, it’s material honesty that gives the house a good first impression. For strength and durability, the foundations and structural framing are built of concrete to carry the weight of posts, beams and the roof truss crafted of steel. Albeit built of modern materials, the entire floor plan makes reference to traditional vernacular design unique to the Northern Region.

small house chiang mai

Built on a budget, the house makes good use of locally available materials adapted for a new use and contemporary design. They include the walls built of bare concrete blocks and aluminum frames for doors and large transom windows at the top of the wall.

The ceiling is built of ordinary plywood panels, while wooden furniture in the interior gives the home a warm and welcoming atmosphere. For ventilation, there are no soffits beneath the eaves that connect the far edge of the roof to the exterior wall.

small house chiang mai
A spacious backyard patio provides ample space for gatherings, cooking and dining al fresco.

small house chiang mai

The multigenerational family property in itself is rich in history and strong spirit. And the newly added small house is designed to embrace the same positive attitudes that have been the family’s core values through time. It’s a layout with the power of storytelling about a sentimental attachment to northern vernacular culture, in which sitting on the floor is the norm.

A perspective drawing illustrates the dimensions and texture of materials used in the project, plus spatial relationships between indoor and outdoor rooms.
An open perspective drawing gives the illusion of spatial depth in the split-level house plan. The main living area floor is elevated at plinth height above the entrance hall floor.

The property is home to an old rice granary that has stood the test of time as an inextricable part of the family’s history and culture. The building used for storing threshed grain in times of old now serves as the symbol of farm community living and the close family bond.

As things change, it finds a new purpose as venue for socialization. It’s a place to sit together, talk together and eat together as family. And the lime and herb meaty meal called “Laab” comes in handy to cement the family ties, creating a healthy and strong society going forward.

small house chiang mai
The house façade, left, as seen from the old rice granary now used as work area.
The old rice granary has since been adapted for a new use as food preparation area shared by relatives living in the same compound. Just like old times, it serves as the heart of family life where people assemble, eat a meal together and enjoy a casual conversation.

The old granary provides a focal point on the property. It gives the architects the inspiration they need to pursue their design goal.

And the result of all this? A house plan that celebrates communal living and a food culture where “Laab” is more than just food. It’s a way of life that connects everyone in the family just like the old rice granary did in times past. Now it’s easy to get why they name this house “Laab Is More”.


Owner: Jessada Nan-snow Peata

Architect and Interior Designer: Studio Sifah

Structural Engineer: Pilawan Piriyapokhai, Jar Pilawan


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

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

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand/

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

/ Photographs: Rungkit Charoenwat /

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

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chiang Mai Cafe Rice Fields Thingamajiggy Coffee Roaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lead Architects: Dechophon Rattanasatchatham, Apiwat Chainarin

Construction Supervisors: Rungroj Tansukanun, Metee Moonmuang

Builder Team: Yangnar studio builder team, Yaiwood


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

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


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

Antonius Richard Rusli, RAD+ar: Integrating Nature with Design from the Perspective of Tropical Architecture

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

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

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

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

/ Photographs: Courtesy of Jai Baan Studio /

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

Jai Baan Studio

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

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

Jai Baan Studio

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

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

Jai Baan Studio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jai Baan Studio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jai Baan Studio

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

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

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

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

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

Jai Baan Studio

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

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

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


 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Tita House: Redefining Vernacular Architecture in a Tropical Paradise

Tita House: Redefining Vernacular Architecture in a Tropical Paradise

/ Chiang Mai, Thailand /

/ Story: Nantagan / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Rungkit Charoenwat /

All he ever wanted was a place out in the country. Dechophon “Teng” Rattanasatchatham, the architect at Yangnar Studio, built his humble abode amid the rice fields in bucolic Chiang Mai’s Sankamphaeng District. Carefully thought out from work experience, it has come to redefine the meaning of rural home life from the perspectives of both the architect who designed it, and his family living in it. Like so, a calm and beautiful piece of vernacular architecture was created, one that came complete with all the requirements for good living. Plus, it’s aptly named “Tita House,” which is Thai for a bright and friendly rural appeal.

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Sharing his piece of paradise, Teng said: “To start with, because I was going to live here, I wanted to draw on all my experience in vernacular architecture, design, ideas, and results of the experiments I had done in the past and put them to good use.

“I envisaged building a home that would be best suited to me and my family, one that kept within the budget and was built out of reclaimed timber that I had at the time.”

Viewed in its essential qualities, the house plan was adapted from vernacular architecture, which has been the signature of the atelier Yangnar Studio from the start.

It was built the old-fashioned way of Northen Thailand vernacular architecture by carpenters from within the locality. Clever building hacks utilizing a mix of modern tools and time-honored traditional techniques resulted in the superb vernacular carpentry of a true-to-nature wooden home.

From the look of things, the inconspicuous earth-oriented ebony building appeared unpretentious and capable of merging with the surrounding landscape.

Architecture on stilts features a mix of low and high elevation floors.

Tita House represents a marriage of the modern and the traditional. It’s rich in architectural features indigenous to the Northern Region.

They include, among other things, stilt house design that integrates lower and higher elevation floors to form a coherent whole. Essentially it’s about making appropriate adaptations of tranditional vernacular architecture that are convenient for and acceptable to family lifestyle needs.

As the architect put it, “The idea of integrating a lower elevation floor (the smaller building) in the design was adopted because there was a need for easily accessible under-floor space.

“Plus, it provided storage room for agricultural tools, food raw materials and articles for household use. Nearby, a higher elevation floor (the main building) offered plenty of ample under-floor space for woodworking, a casual relaxed sitting room and areas for the children to run and play.”

Under-floor space offers many benefits. Aside from creating multifunctional room, it doubles as a passive cooling system that drives natural air circulation.

This helps prevent high humidity levels in the home and keeps the interior cool in summer. It’s a more effective way to cool a home than building a wooden floor on the ground, which is prone to moisture damage, Teng explained.

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The veranda that’s part of the smaller building is used for open flame cooking. Next to it lies a space for welcoming house guests and dining.

Right Building Orientation Improves Comfort

Tita House comprises two buildings that blend like cuts from the same cloth and are connected by a wooden deck that’s roofed over to protect from the elements. The smaller of the two buildings is used for open-flame cooking and eating, while the bigger building houses main living quarters.

As is often the case with vernacular architecture, it’s built on a split-level home plan. Cooking and eating spaces lie at the lower end, while the front deck and main living quarters are positioned slightly higher.

The area for eating and entertaining house guests lies to the north of the main building. It’s pleasantly cool and bright under the shade of trees that are the vital part of a wild yard landscape.

Winds blowing into it from underneath the nearby smaller building keep the area nice and comfortable all day. The main building that houses family living quarters affords a fine mountain view easily seen from the front deck connecting to two bedrooms at the far end.

Ground Floor Plan Courtesy of Yangnar Studio
First Floor Plan Courtesy of Yangnar Studio
Section Drawing Courtesy of Yangnar Studio
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Seen from the outside, the two buildings connected by a terrace look onto a wild front yard landscape.

“The reception area is positioned to the north of the main building for it gets beautiful morning sunshine.” Teng explained.

“As time passes and the sun moves across the sky, the nearby smaller building provides protection from afternoon heat. This way it’s nice and cool in the shade for much of the day.”

vernacular architecture

vernacular architecture
The veranda reserved for guest reception and dining is covered in concrete block pavers with retaining frames surrounded by landscaping beach pebbles. It’s raised higher than existing ground level for easy access to the main building.
vernacular architecture
The cozy sitting room that’s part of main living quarters opens to the terrace leading to the smaller building.
The workspace comes complete with low-profile bookcases on one side and a long desk for the home office on the other.
Looking through office windows, on a clear day the iconic Doi Suthep Mountain can be seen in full view.

There’s a living room that forms part of the suite in the private house. It’s designed to conveniently connect to a workspace lying between two bedrooms.

The workspace itself is on the east side of the house plan with bay windows projecting outward from the wall of the building. Elsewhere, transom windows are fitted with weather-resistant insect screens instead of glass, thereby allowing fresh outdoor air to enter and circulate inside.

Meanwhile, long eaves that overhang the walls of the building protect the interior from the elements. The under-floor space beneath it is kept cool by design, thanks to the house floor that extends outward to form the upper covering that keeps it in shade for much of the day.

For the health benefits of early morning sunlight, the two bedrooms are positioned on the east side of the house plan.
The shower room enclosed with brick walls lies in the open air. Nice alfresco design improves ventilation and protects against moisture damage.
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The west side of the main building looks onto a backyard vegetable garden where onion greens, collard greens, cualiflowers, and herbs are grown for household use.

A Product of Intermixing and Experimenting with Ideas

Tita House is the brainchild of the homeowner and architect who created it. To him, it’s a living experiment of current time vernacular architecture. It contains architectural features, building techniques and qualities that he has never tested before elsewhere.

“I had the opportunity of visiting a village in the North of Vietnam and Kengtung (a township in Myanmar’s Shan State) and came away impressed by the method of building houses there,” said Teng.

“It was very interesting. They started out by making flat component pieces in the shop or on-site. Then people in the village joined together to assemble them step-by-step to form a unified whole. In no time, a complete home was erected simply by connecting prefab paneling together.

“It gave me the inspiration to adapt and try it myself.”

Apart from trying out new methods for structural frames making, Teng also put other creative ideas to the test.

This new house of his was the outcome of those experiments. In a nutshell, it was about making appropriate adaptations that best fit the circumstances.

In the case of Tita House, the integration of a low elevation floor in stilt house design was something not seen very often in the North of Thailand’s vernacular architecture. In most cases, different elevation floors, if any, were kept apart in two separate buildings.

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Flashbacks, prefab component pieces are seen being erected in the initial stage of construction at Tita House.
vernacular architecture
Structural framing component pieces arrive ready to be assembled on site. They are put together using mortise and tenon joinery with an emphasis on wood color and texture that are true to nature.
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A perspective view of interactions between different elevations in the house plan.

Besides architecture, there are several internal fitments that are worthy of note. They include wash basin design ideas for preparing vegetables, washing dishes, and watering plants in the yard.

Here, pieces of kitchen equipment are beautifully organized. They are connected to the backyard garden below by a line of bamboo poles that carries water supply to a glove of banana trees.

For a neat appearance, the wash basin is crafted of teakwood paneling put in place parallel to the edge of a balcony.

Teng said: “From experience, I have done an experiment on teakwood wash basins for customers only to discover that most of the time they were too small for their needs.

“So I came up with a bigger size, put it to the test right here at home. Apparently it worked out very well. The large teakwood basin dried fast and required little to no maintenance.”

vernacular architecture
A large-sized wash basin crafted of teakwood is put in place parallel to the edge of a balcony. It connects to a line of bamboo poles that carries water supply to the backyard garden below.

vernacular architecture


An Unpretentious Home Made Attractive by True-to-Nature Materials

The two buildings were made almost entirely of reclaimed timber. Cut into desired lengths and sizes, the pieces were put together using mortise and tenon joinery to create individual component parts.

The next step was to assemble the pieces of the jigsaw to form a unified whole on-site. The materials of choice were wood and brick. To bring out the color and texture that’s true to nature, brickwork was not plastered in a cement mixture to create smooth hard surfaces, which translated into big savings.

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To add a touch of nature to the room, teakwood planks that make up a wooden floor are nat stained to a dark shade.

According to Teng, “Most of the wood reused here came from old homes that were torn down at various places. For durability, they were given a coat of protective wood stains on site. For the most part they were weathered almost black and differed greatly in terms of the appearance or texture, a quality that gave the home its vintage vernacular appeal.”

All things considered, it’s an unpretentious abode that speaks volumes for what the architect and homeowner is about. Every little thing has a story to tell, whether it is about the ways of the community, the materials, or the architectural features integrated in the design.

It’s a home that conveys a great deal about a desire to reconnect with nature through sustainable living. And Tita House is doing exactly that.

vernacular architecture
A bird’s eye view reveals a peaceful front yard covered in the lush foliage of small trees and shrubs, such as basils, polyscias, and crotons that thrive among flowers. The south and west sides of the property are lined with native tree species that keep the house in shade.
The house merges into the rice fields, comfortably ensconced in the dusk of a Chiang Mai mountainside.

Owner/Architect: Dechophon Rattanasatchatham of Yangnar Studio


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