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during construction (photo by Note N)


during construction (photo by Note N)


during construction (photo by Note N)


photo by Note N


views across the marsh from the second floor


the existing structure (pre-construction)

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early construction (photo by Note N)

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concept rendering

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                                                    © Gordon Hunt 2016. All content by Gordon Hunt unless otherwise stated

Thai Apartments
                           

 

After a few discussions with Note, he revealed to me that his dream was to one day build a small hotel, to which I reacted with great enthusiasm. We eventually decided that this would be a terrific opportunity to draft up a proposal for a small lodging for temporary residents (English teachers), in much the same manner as the five existing apartments adjacent to Note’s home. We would also use this opportunity to incorporate many of the ambitions (in terms of design, materials, and passive energy strategies) that he would employ in the construction of his hotel. Essentially a dry-run for this future hotel.

The site is the adjacent property to Note’s home where the majority of his family lives. Note owns it, and a curious structure sits behind the family home that will be appropriated into the six-unit building. This existing structure was built as a parking garage of sorts, with space at grade for two vehicles and an open-air games room above. It was over-designed (structurally), and will be suitable as the structure for the simplest of residential units—we just need to fill in the walls, extend some of the columns, and replace the existing roof with one that is more than simple corrugated metal. Of course, what I’ve designed is far superior to this simple construction, although I must keep in mind the limitations and skills of the local work force.

In terms of design, there are a number of objectives that I have. First and foremost, the benefits of the site need to be realised. The units face northwest so that the views of the marsh and distant temple are maximised. Passive energy is also a top priority, and I’ve planned for solar hot water collectors, PV cells (budget permitting), reuse of greywater, passive ventilation (sliding screen doors on opposite ends of the units), and a vast amount of insulation in the walls and roof. Note’s limited budget is also a factor as he doesn’t currently have enough to finance the project. Economical materials, unskilled (local) labour, and a simple design are all necessary for this project to move forward.

I spent some time during the schematic design phase investigating local building methods and materials. Domestic architecture in Southeast Asia is dominated by concrete-covered clay brick walls with a concrete structure and steel roof (with the exception of vernacular examples which use wood, a material no longer available in Thailand). I sketched some rough details in an effort to incorporate insulation, but the decision will ultimately be the contractor’s—I’m not going to detail something they have no ability to build. Another concern is the shared space of his family and future tenants. I’m not sure about building bylaws (if they even exist), but this structure will be erected and fill in a large portion of his family’s lot—although it’s currently underused as it’s occupied by vehicles, an angry dog, and a pile of dirt. I’ve made an effort to establish clear thresholds between the family and tenant spaces, giving Note’s family a smaller—but better—backyard, while providing the tenants with an entrance area that is clearly theirs. Contrasting materials, elevations, and small constructs (such as seating and hanging vegetation) will help enhance this separation of space. If the tenants would like a common space in which to socialise, they can go across the lane to Note’s patio, where the current renters often spend their time. The units themselves are simple: small bathrooms, a large bed, a desk, and a wardrobe. I’ve included a kitchen in only the larger two units as there really isn’t much cooking happening in Thailand—it’s just far more economical to eat out when delicious meals can be had for a dollar and a half. I have yet to cook, and I’ve been travelling for a number of weeks. As mentioned previously, cross-ventilation is critical as the night breeze is cool and if designed properly, air conditioning is unnecessary. Given the amount of natural light (not direct—overhangs and shading devices will be built) that will enter the apartments, artificial lighting will be unnecessary during the day. Hot water will be provided by the solar water collectors, and the toilets will use rainwater for flushing. I think more complicated sustainable strategies may lie outside the project’s budget and/or the skill of the builder. Simple is good.