A documentary film by Tritip (Pond) Chayasombat.
For full documentary, please visit: https://vimeo.com/152306228
In a predetermined system of work, architects are obliged to comply with the developer’s ‘maximum-profit’ way of working. This project proves that the whole process can be subverted by implementing small changes in standardized components. Be it a window, a ceiling, or the position of a unit in the building, it guarantees a better performance of the same ordinary building, while answering the client’s financial concerns, the contractor’s limited skill sets, and most importantly ensuring an architect’s personal design agenda.
The Berlage Thesis Documentaries 2016.
Thesis advisors: Thomas Weaver, Ido Avissar.
Film expert and advisor: Mauricio Freyre.
In Thailand, the most common architectural project you will find is a high-rise living development. At the peak of a consumerist society, the collective aim of Thai people is to reach a better-than-good life fed by advertising. To answer this desire, these developments disregard the natural evolution of an architecture that is unique and suitable in a Thai context in favor of Westernized and luxurious style. In such a prescriptive and predetermined system, all real estate developers go for “maximum-profit” feasibility by using easy, fast and standardized construction methods. Consequently, inhabitants must adapt to ‘minimum-required’ artificial contexts.
The proposal reflects on these high-rise developments and their architectural elements. It is based on a case study, the I-Space Residence that I designed with Atelier of Architects in 2012. Working as a project architect, I had an opportunity to witness the whole process of a developer-driven imagination. It all started with a “municipality designed” and self-approved set of drawings that the client brought to us, asking for beautification, satisfying the taste of their target group. The building was finished in 2014, though it turned out very different to what we had in mind. Due to budget cuts and logistical difficulties along the way, all design elements were removed or replaced with basic methods and materials. Only a few wealthy clients can match our high ambition, since not everybody can afford an architect’s dream.
Because of this experience, I find that the most interesting point of departure is to deal with architectural components. They contain so much potential to exert influence beyond just one building. Therefore, I focus on the always neglected and underestimated part of our work. In particular, on seven important components: floors, walls, ceilings, shadings, railings, doors, and windows. These components went through a series of experiments structured into categories which, throughout my working experience, had a significant influence on the design. These categories are: aesthetics, climatic context, standardization, relations, and economics. I then observed their performance and their repercussions for living conditions.
First off, The Aesthetics is a study developed through a series of perspectives that vary from different points of view, which are the architect, the developer, the contractor and the inhabitant. Each party has their own interests, therefore their own particular way of rendering reality.
Then the climatic context, The Climatic Context is a study on the components’ performance affected by natural influences, which always play a huge role in developing Thailand’s built-environment.The parameters used are humidity, pressure, light and temperature.
While The Standardization is an act of ‘standardizing’ the knowledge from intuition and years of experiences,However, to exclude all subjective opinions and predetermined results, I chose a set of existing design components from other regional concerned architectural firms to be the variables for the experiment.
With The Relation, I observed the performance of each component in relation to others. While 2D drawings serve for measurements, 3D drawings allowed me to test the desired interaction. The study helped determine the importance of each change and to see how much and in what way it really affects the quality of the space.
Lastly, The Economics: Taking all the studied components into account, any final decision comes down to the numbers. The sheet focuses on the overall budget of the project, due to the undeniable fact that the big crunch number is what the clients are looking for. Then, zooming in to each component’s detail to see what type, material, scale and labor costs really affect the big picture. To help determine which option has the most potential and which can be removed from the consideration.
From the experiment, I concluded that there is no one true answer to my initial hypothesis, but rather a chain of possible events. It also proves that the whole process is subverted by implementing small changes to a standardized component. Whether it is a window, a ceiling, or the position of a unit in the building, it guarantees a better performance of the same ordinary building. By reinserting the trial components into an actual working process, I generated three possible scenarios from their different combinations. Each scenario responds to different situations and target groups:
Luxury, Comfort, and Budget.
Without any financial restraints, the Luxury selects all the best options regarding the aesthetic and climatic concerns. The room area is extended under legal limit with special windows and shadings design, which can be adjusted according to certain types of weather. Combined with the ceilings, which cooperate with the building’s facade, it enables cross ventilations throughout the room.
On the contrary, the Budget’s main concern are the numbers. Aiming for the cheapest combination that still offers a better living condition. The scheme eliminates unnecessary, ornamental objects, such as shading fins, and replace them with self shading. Although the room area decreased, this has been compensated with a panoramic view through fixed-windows, that is proven 4 times cheaper than a normal sliding one. As a consequence, the grilled-doors from back to front are added to ventilate.
Lastly, The Comfort mediates the two. While being affordable, it contains both generous views and is well fitted with the climate. With that, the room is still spacious and leaves room for a balcony.
All show the extent to which the effects can spread, from one single unit, to the whole building, and perhaps, to a building designed by another architect, and maybe, in time, to another one after that. Even if each scenario has different focal points, they all share an improved living quality. At the same time, they respond to the client’s financial concerns and contractor’s limited skill sets, and most importantly safeguard an architect’s personal design agenda.