/ 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
/ 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
/ Story: Baralee / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: KIE, Mario Wibowo /
Introducing a prototype of the small café well thought out as place for a rendezvous. Aptly named Tanatap Ring Garden Coffee Shop, it’s a work of outstanding artistry integrating restaurant space planning with nature to form a cohesive oasis of calm. The key elements of design include a sloping garden beautifully ensconced in a stadium-like enclosure. There’s a circular path at the top of the stairs for a leisurely stroll. At intervals, the paved path is marked with outdoor tarp canopies for protection from the sun. It sends out one important message — time well spent is time spent in the great outdoors.
The theme of an enchanted garden cafe is derived from a simple question. “What is it like if a piece of architecture behaves like it’s non-existent?” In this particular case, the centerpiece of the project is a lush tropical garden enclosed by a circular glass-block building envelope.
It’s home to a café space that lies hidden in plain sight, concealed by a grassy knoll that blends perfectly into the surrounding landscape. It’s a meeting place where people mix socially and interact with one another bringing youthful exuberance to this part of the city of Jakarta.
With respect to construction, Tanatap Ring Garden Coffee Shop is the result of three design strategies combined.
First of all, it’s well planned to blend with the healthy foliage of a tropical forest setting. This is evident in the preservation of all the existing trees on the property.
Secondly, the circular building envelope is designed to encompass all positive aspects of ornamental grounds where plants grow luxuriantly. Located at the center of the floor plan, the café covered by a grassy knoll affords a large room where people meet plus plenty of ample spaces for relaxation. A few steps away, remarkable garden design offers sensory pleasure and the opportunity of reconnecting with nature.
Lastly, it’s about enhancing customer experience by merging indoor and outdoor spaces bringing them together into a cohesive whole.
The overall effect is impressive. It’s a layout that strikes the right balance between the relative size of the project, the building materials used, and the impact of color, texture and natural light in the design process.
To reduce the harshness of the built environment, the building envelope is made of glass blocks that allow maximum daylight between spaces. They add aesthetic appeal to the place and blend well with the existing trees.
As regards functional design, walk into the café and you come to a counter bar occupying a central position. Carefully thought out design promotes ease of movement in every part allowing people to traverse through and around unhindered.
The circular glass-block wall that separates the interior from the garden is decorated with lush leafy plants. It’s marked at intervals with plain-looking sets of tables and chairs for customers. Nearby, a corridor creates smooth transition between spaces giving access to the yard on the outside.
The nature-loving café project is built amphitheater style. Like so, the commercial space is positioned at the center of landscape design. It’s a beautiful greenery-covered building adorned with tiers of outdoor seating set at intervals.
Meanwhile, the boundary along the outer circumference is filled with café seating situated directly below the concrete rooftop corridor made for a leisurely stroll. From here, a vista of high-rise buildings in Jakarta’s CBD can be seen in full view from afar. All things considered, it’s a piece of architecture devised from experience in tropical garden landscaping.
By design, Tanatap Ring Garden Coffee Shop is an experimental project involving new and innovative ideas for commercial space planning. In this particular case, it provides the opportunity of observing how users react to a less familiar environment. It’s implemented with a view to identify the furniture choice, seating arrangement and features in hardscape architecture that are right for business.
It’s a design that blurs the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces. The color green that fills the landscape has strong associations with nature, hence comfortable furniture and a conducive semi-outdoor environment make perfect sense.
Plus, it’s interesting to discover how well-planned open design can facilitate social interactions in everyday life.
Aside from that, the recent outbreak of Covid-19 was also a factor that compelled the architect to undertake this experiment to determine how a commercial space with plenty of outdoor landscaping ideas performs in the ensuing days.
It’s exciting to see how new ideas in outdoor environment design play a role in enticing people to spend more time outdoors and live a lifestyle more closely connected with nature, one of many actions people can take to support sustainable living.
More about nature-inspired designs similar to the above-mentioned are waiting to be discovered. It’s a chance to meet up with Antonius Richard, architect and founder of the architectural practice RAD+ar of Indonesia during the upcoming conversation event titled, “URABN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs”.
It’s a part of the annual “room Books X Living ASEAN Design Talk.” This year’s panel of experts is made up of four distinguished architects from three countries. The Design Talk is scheduled for Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside BaanLaeSuan Fair Midyear 2023, BITEC Bang Na, Bangkok. It’s an opportunity not to be missed. Mark your calendar!
Here’s a home designed to create a good first impression. Named “the House in Chau Doc,” its external envelope is made of galvanized steel sheeting, ironwood (Xylia xylocarpa), wire meshes and right-angle steel bars — ordinary materials often associated with run-of-the-mill places of abode. For architect Shunri Nishizawa, there is opportunity in every crisis. Despite many limitations, he is able to put them to good use in creating a living space well suited to the surrounding circumstances, the environment and weather conditions characteristic of the area.
Situated in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region where the mighty river passes and empties into the sea through various distributaries, Chau Doc is no stranger to flooding.
It’s a problem that runs like clockwork to the extent that the annual inundation of the Mekong River Delta is regarded as normal. That’s the circumstances that form the setting in which this house is located.
Designed to perform in the event of a flood, it has a set of stairs especially built to link up with the second floor when water overflows beyond its normal confines.
House in Chau Doc is a home built on a budget by choosing the building materials that are right for the circumstances. At the same time, it presents the opportunity of experimenting with materials and design techniques that can answer the lifestyle needs similar to those provided modern urban homes.
For this reason, the new home at Chau Doc comes complete with tranquil spaces that help people feel calm and relaxed. It doubles as a design laboratory, in which the building materials of choice are assessed for their looks and ability to perform in real life.
Despite the key elements of visual design evocative of modern urban homes, it’s the natural atmosphere that makes this countryside house feel calm, fresh, and welcoming.
This is achieved by bringing the great outdoors into practically every part of the home. Meantime, an open plan layout affords ample semi-outdoor family room and cozy sitting area.
What makes House in Chau Doc interesting is the open walls design that visually connects with nature and doubles as passive ventilation systems. This makes the interior living spaces feel comfortable without being affected by galvanized steel sheeting that forms the outer shell.
Plus, the house façade and rear walls are fitted with large windows protected by overhanging eaves. Together, they go to work allowing just enough fresh, outdoor air and natural light into the home, thereby preventing it from getting too warm or too uncomfortable during daytime hours.
Taking everything into account, it’s a thought-provoking design that challenges us to explore deeper and wider to overcome limitations in a bid to create comfortable living spaces. With the power of the imagination, a home that inspires happiness and well-being is perfectly doable as this architect has shown.
Even better if the beauty of a locality is incorporated in the design.
Find out more about architectural design in sync with nature, as well as ideas for a possible course of action within the context of nature, climate and culture from Shunri Nishizawa, architect and founder of NISHIZAWAARCHITECTS, Vietnam, at the upcoming the “room X Living ASEAN Design Talk 2023.”
Meet up with a panel of experts comprising four distinguished architects from three countries. This year’s conversation event is on the theme of “URBAN FUSION / RURAL FLOURISH: Interweaving Urban and Rural Designs”. The Talk is scheduled for Sunday August 6 at the room Showcase zone inside Baan Lae Suan Fair Midyear 2023, BITEC Bang Na, Bangkok. It’s an opportunity not to be missed. Mark your calendar!
“There is something about this place that always brings back old memories,” said the owner of this lovely treehouse by the lake. “Several decades passed, but I still remember it as if it was yesterday. My family camped out here on a hot summer day. Our children gathered under the canopy of an old tree and set up a small tent together.”
“We called it a ‘house’ because it protected us from the sun, and we had a lot of fun. Some children cut down a few trees to make tent poles while others gathered leaves to make the upper covering and decorations.
“It was beautiful and eye-catching. Completely finished, we went looking for things needed to ‘settle down’ in the leaf hut shelter. …”
Obviously, his experience and memories provided the inspiration that culminated in the country home of his dreams. Built into nature, this treehouse by the lake was based on biophilic design conceived and developed by H.2, a homegrown architectural practice based in Ho Chi Minh City.
The house merges into the surrounding forest landscape on the bank of Da Bang Lake, a calm and peaceful body of water in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province in Vietnam’s Southeast.
It all began with the homeowner’s desire to let his granddaughter connect with nature just like he and his kids did when they were young — an experience that, in his words, provided lasting psychological benefits. He could still recall having fun growing up in the countryside where life was simple.
Sharing a piece of his paradise, he said, “The leaf hut shelter that we built back in the day was a place to play games, do kid-friendly things and listen to music.”
“Memories were made here and the story is crystal clear like it all happened yesterday. The simple games we played nourished our souls and, especially for me, nurtured my love for life in the poor countryside. Those were the days.”
The 120-square-meter home sits in the shade under the canopy of tall trees near the lakeshore. It’s made attractive by ordinary materials sourced from within the neighborhood, a quality that gives it the unblemished charm of rustic rural life.
The stilt house supported by concrete structural framing offers plenty of under-floor spaces that allow natural daylight and gentle winds blowing in from the nearby lake.
It’s called a treehouse for good reason. Instead of cutting down the existing trees, the new house is built around them, literally letting them grow through the roof.
At the center, a spiral staircase winds around a tree trunk connecting the first floor to the second that serves as family living quarters.
What makes it unique is the use of reclaimed steel with surface rust in a variety of colors and textures, an appearance that gives the house its vintage industrial appeal. Some of the pieces came from an old factory that had been torn down, while others were purchased from a local scrap yard.
In a way, it’s contributing towards a healthier planet by reducing waste, recycling and reusing discarded materials to suit a new purpose.
Simple yet attractive, it’s an eco-conscious home made possible by the honest use of natural materials. Here, the emphasis is on creating a light-filled, airy and comfortable interior, one that seeks reconnections with nature and, at the same time, brings the warmth of family joy.
The homeowner said that he could still recall the day his granddaughter arrived at the new home. She was obviously happy and excited.
The forest treehouse by the lake afforded a conducive learning environment with plenty of room to play, run, jump, and climb trees.
With respect to construction, it’s a very interesting project. The nature-loving house by the lake makes practical and effective use of discarded materials in a way that creates a home of higher quality and value.
Take for example the use of scrap metal and leftover materials including corrugated roof paneling that people tend to overlook. And by giving recyclable items a new purpose, it translates into big savings and, at the same time, reduces impacts on the environment.
Long story short, the outer appearance is immediately appealing. The interior living spaces are comfortable, peaceful and secluded to say the least.
Flexible floor plan design lets nature permeate making the home bright and airy. At the same time, it’s ingeniously devised to integrate the existing trees in the overall scheme of things.
That’s just one of several fascinating adaptations that make it original and unique – a forest home where all things eventually merge into one pleasing and consistent whole.
Building a sustainable home involves a great deal of knowledge of the surroundings and their relationships with nature. In the hot and humid climate of Thailand, it’s useful to have a good grasp of the sun, the wind, and seasonal thundershowers in designing a home that’s livable and aesthetically pleasing. This house is built around that concept – one that promotes well-being and the comfort of the indoor environment.
That being said, architect Nantapon Junngurn took the most sensible course of action. He positioned the home plan in relation to seasonal variations. In a few words, all aspects of the sun, the wind, and weather patterns were taken into account. He then put the idea to the test to determine what architectural form and space would best fit in with the environment. In so doing, a folding process common in metalworking was used to translate two- dimensional data into 3D modeling. The result was a comfortable home that was oriented around a central courtyard. To bring the outdoors in, large openings in the exterior walls were included in the plan in a bid to retain the connection to the home’s natural surroundings.
The architect said: “All things considered, a U-shaped home plan is preferred over other styles. The front entrance sits facing north, which is good since it is considered to be less sun-intrusive. The rear of the house faces due south and is kept closed because it is located next to neighboring houses. The west side is reserved for service areas with a music room and kitchenette, which confirms that home cooking is not a big part of the family lifestyle. Here, double brick construction goes to work reducing thermal transmission and protecting the home’s interior from hot sun. Plus, the back area is in shade for much of the day, thanks to the canopy of a mature tree courtesy of next door neighbors.”
The U-shaped floor plan had a small body of low ground that transformed into an inner courtyard filled with greenery. There is an Indian oak, or freshwater mangrove tree (Barringtonia acutangula) that is now in top form providing a continuous layer of beautiful foliage. Nearby a Spanish cherry, or bullet wood tree (Mimusops elengi Linn) grows into a full crown. It came as a house-warming present from dad. At the center, a small pond adds a touch of nature to the courtyard garden. It’s the natural focal point that connects to practically every part of the house.
Sharing his little slice of paradise, homeowner Kongyot Kunjak said: “I like to spend time in the courtyard. In the morning, I would sit down for coffee at the dining table looking out the window for the view of the garden. The inner courtyard with a water pond surrounded by trees and shrubbery provides a place to rest. It’s refreshing to reconnect with nature and be able to bring the outdoors in. But in the evening, I prefer taking in a different view from inside the living room. Whether for work or for social gatherings, it’s wonderful to be there and experience nature every day, albeit from an indoor perspective.”
It seems the house plan best suited for the hot and humid climate is one that’s light and well ventilated. Thermal comfort can be achieved by shielding the area exposed to danger of too much sun. In the meantime, open up the part that connects to the natural surroundings. In essence, it’s about interacting with nature. When the home breathes easily, its occupants feel relaxed and comfortable to live in it, without a doubt.
“I like to spend time in the courtyard. In the morning, I would sit down for coffee at the dining table looking out the window for the view of the garden. The inner courtyard with a water pond surrounded by trees and shrubbery provides a place to rest. It’s refreshing to reconnect with nature and be able to bring the outdoors in.”
/ Story: Sarayut Sreetip-ard / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Sitthisak Namkham /
Pongsakorn Tumpruksa, of Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architect Co., Ltd, was passionate about life beside the water. He built his waterside wooden house on 340 square wahs (1,360 sq. m.) of land in Bang Khun Thian where two small waterways converge with Bang Mot Canal.
Like the traditional Thai house in former times, this waterside wood home has a tall open area called “tai thun” (the underfloor space at ground level), an economical construction that suits Thailand’s climate and promotes socialization processes in the family.
The tall tai thun includes a carport and an area blocked off as a workshop. An open staircase leads up to the porch, and in the center is a large contiguous open space combining living and dining areas, with the kitchen on one side and bedrooms on the other.
Pongsakorn explained the three design principles that he kept in mind, which are:
A centuries-old principle of traditional architecture of Thailand’s central region
It is about the house’s suitability for the environment, balancing sun, wind, and rain to keep things cool and comfortable. Here, the old knowledge is blended with modern construction materials. The high tai thun avoids flooding and termite damage.
Good air circulation is ensured with a high roof with long eaves; windows and a gap below the roof help release hot air. There is a deck where either clothes or fish can be dried, a heat-resistant mesh on the wooden roof, and there is an open porch below the eaves where you can sit, catch the breeze, and relax from the heat.
Also, the gardens around the house give shade and maintain moisture, cooling the area.
The architecture promotes Thai family culture
Previously, the family lived in a townhouse, chatted at the dinner table, and were always in close, warm contact.
To continue that feeling, living and dining areas and kitchen were designed as a single continuous space.
The house was built with a limited budget: overbuilding would have been problematic.
Thai traditional knowledge shows how to do this: leave room for gradual expansion, building onto the house as needed, as was done in Thailand’s earlier days.
Pongsakorn tells us, “Building a home for my loved ones was like building happiness. What I’m most proud of is doing it as the architect son of my father, who worked for the government as an architectural technician. Dad left us last year, but he got to live with us in this house.”
“Happiness for me is growing plants and living in a shady, cool home,” says Pongsakorn’s mother with a smile.
“I’m truly glad that Father had the chance to live here with us again.”
/ Story: Wuthikorn Suthiapa / Englosh version: Peter Montalbano /
/ Photographs: Soopakorn Srisakul /
The Huean Tham house (House of Dharma) has a depth that makes it much more than just a place to live. It’s actually a group of buildings and rooms, each with its own particular use. The Thai word “tham” (dharma) is integral to the words “thammachat” (nature) and “thammada” (natural), and suggests tranquility in life living in this local Thai house.
Huean Tham is a residence, a design workshop for naturally dyed fabrics, and a storehouse for Usaato brand fabrics, all in 6 buildings.
First is “ruean yai” (the large house), residence of owners Somyot Suparpornhemin and Usaburo Sato.
Just to the north is ruean lek (small house), where the children and visiting friends stay.
More or less in the center of the complex is sala tham (dharma hall), a place to socialize, with a shady multipurpose yard for activities such as dharma seminars and trainings in woven fabric design, for a local village weaving group, and in natural soap production.
There is also a shrine with a wooden Buddha in this local Thai house. Both wings of the second floor hold guest rooms for close friends.
On the southwest side is ruean luang pho (holy man house), a retreat for family members which serves as a monk’s hut when a revered spiritual teacher is invited to the home.
Finally, to the south are akhan kep pha (fabric storehouse) and ruean ngan (workshop) for design work, with different rooms for specialists in different crafts.
Huean Tham’s outstanding attributes were conceived by Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architects with the aim of combining good features of the traditional Thai house with functional Japanese concepts.
Entering ruean yai we see the floor is raised a bit: this is to protect against ground moisture. Thai and Japanese homes share a characteristic utilization of the area beneath the main house for guest reception and dining, a multipurpose space called “tai thun” in Thai.
Construction materials were selected for their good points and their suitability: the house is constructed primarily of wood, the house frame primarily of concrete and steel.
The architecture of Huean Tham isn’t flashy or showy. The true beauty of this home is in its fusion of architecture with life toward oneness with nature and the ways of tranquility, raising the level of excellence for both the architectural team and for Eung and Ussa’s lifestyle.
This excellence will continuously reinforce the beauty of this local Thai house as time goes on.
Owner: Somyot Suparpornhemin and Usaburo Sato
Architect: Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architect
Out of the edge of a sun hemp field rises what looks to be a traditional huean isaan (Northeastern Thai house). But this home, set in a shady, woodsy atmosphere, fragrant with the aromas of a Thai house and the fun-filled rhythms of Thai family ways, is fully adapted to contemporary ways of life.
After Sakda and Orapin Sreesangkom had lived 20 years in a condo, they designed this eco-friendly house to find an adaptation of Thai family life that could suit the modern age, and to build environmental awareness in themselves and their children.
The ground floor design echoes the traditional “tai thun” lower space found beneath Thai stilt houses. A porch reaches outwards to fill the usual roles: entertaining guests, and socializing.
Up close you’ll see it’s more like 3 houses connected by one deck, each one with wide eaves blocking sun and rain, but with a twist: the underside insulation is “rammed earth,” La Terre’s innovative cooling solution that rapidly absorbs and diffuses heat and is made from organic, renewable materials.
The huean isaan takes over in spirit, though, with its outward image evoking a cultural memory reflected in the playfulness of the three boys, Chris, Gav, and Guy, bringing cheer to every corner of the house.
They like to play in the attic, slide down polished planks beside the stairway, and everyone’s favorite: the sky deck, accessible from anywhere in the house.
The heart of the home is the living room: it’s spacious, with a bar counter, dining area, and sofas for relaxing, sized 7 x 11 meters, and with no support pillars blocking the view within.
It was designed to mirror the look and function of the “tai thun,” a space that brings everyone together to do whatever they like to do best, as individuals or a group.
The building foundation supports a raised deck all around the house. This keeps slithering things and garden creepy-crawlies from coming into the house, at the same time creating good ventilation below.
The extra area for sitting, stretching the legs, or walking out into the garden is one more bonus.
Sakda’s deep attachment to the traditional huean isaan is what brought this all about.
That, and the family’s courage in leaving the convenience of condo life behind them to design, build, and live in a completely different way, growing their own garden, and creating a new home that could be passed down to the next generations.
/ Story: Wuthikorn Sut / English version: Bob Pitakwong /
/ Photographs: Tanakitt Khum-on /
In former times as families outgrew their homes, by tradition Thais would put in more houses on the same property. They shared basic facilities and landscaping fitting together to form a cohesive whole. But this tradition has been disappearing. Nowadays, grown children move away into single-family homes of their own. In this case, though, Manit and Yanrak Manithikhun decided to build a trio of modern loft-style houses as future homes for their children on their piece of land.
“We knew our sons would want their private space, and we had a sizeable piece of land. We thought it would be a good idea to build three new houses right here for them in the same place,” said Manit.
“The three new buildings include one common house where the whole family can get together. It’s for entertaining guests, too. And I wanted an herb garden. Thinking forward to retirement!”
The three new homes were added to the existing principle house of parents that was built after the big floods hit Bangkok in 2011. The expansion plan included a private garden and common space where the family could spend time together.
It was made up of two steel framed loft-style houses for the sons and one building as a common room. By and large, it was designed to serve and filled in many parts that were missing in life, a garden and common room where the family can spend time together.
“The kids wanted the style to be simple and unfinished. The houses all have the same design, but they’ll change and take on the personalities of the families living in them,” Manit explained.
“I added the garden and shady spots. I wanted a resort-like feeling, and we have that now: garden, swimming pool, all in our own home.”
Besides a great family home with delightful common space, the architects also designed the house to be eco-friendly. The roofs were set at a 15-degree angle, facing south to prevent full sun exposure. All the houses – even the carports – have solar panels, reducing energy costs of the whole residence by 50%.
“We chose the steel house frame not only for speed in building, but also because there’s less noise pollution during construction than using other materials,” said house architect Piriya Techaratpong.
“Plus it gives a wider choice of forms than traditional concrete or column and beam structures, and is many times cheaper than building a concrete weight-bearing wall.
“The common house has spaced steel columns, with lightweight lines that give the impression the building is floating over the pool below. This is the elegant design we were trying for.”
The result of all this? A design that’s an expression of the unconditional love and aspirations these parents feel for their children.
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