A new book covering contemporary Thai dwellings sheds light on architecture that is both modern in appearance and traditional in attitude.
For architect Robert Powell, author of the new book Modern Thai House, Southeast Asia is his second home.
“I have lived in Singapore for 17 years and am married to a Malaysian. I have a lot of affection for this part of the world and the people, ”he says.
It shows: he is the author of 10 books on the region, including Singapore Architecture (2003), The New Malaysian House (2008), Singapore Houses (2009) and The New Indonesian House (2010).
“The design of houses in Monsoon Asia is fascinating,” says Powell, for whom houses are an expression of culture. According to the architect, homeowners in tropical Asia have a closer relationship with nature than do homeowners in temperate climates.
“In the tropics, we live in the“ intermediate ”space between the interior and the exterior. It struck me a lot when I first moved into a house in Singapore, where I spent most evenings sitting on a veranda or dining under a ceiling fan with the windows open.
With three properties in Greater Phuket; Villa Noi in Phang Nga, Villa Laemsingh in Surin and Dama Zamya in Thalang; Modern Thai House highlights the work of exciting young Thai architects including Kanika R’kul, Duangrit Bunnag, Boonlert Hemvijitraphran, Tanit Choomsang, Pirast Pacharaswate and Kwanchai Suthamsao.
“It’s really exciting to talk to this young generation and hear their ideas – it supports me and keeps me young. And I like to promote the work of the best young talent, ”says Powell.
Most of the architects featured in Modern Thai House were trained abroad, and the author sees the influence of eminent Western architects in their designs, especially the theoretical ideas of Peter Zumthor, Rem Koolhaas, Coop Himmelblau, Luis Barragan, Morphosis, and Ken Yeang, while Japanese architects Tadao Ando, Kazuo Shinohara, Toyo Ito, Kengo Kuma, and Kazuyo Sejima were also influential.
Powell believes that the current generation of Thai architects rely on their knowledge of big picture ideas, but are also deeply aware of Thai culture. When these converge, modern Thai style is the result.
“There is a great spirit among young Thai architects to test the limits, try new ideas, take risks. This inventiveness can only be a good thing. It will ensure the continued development of Thai architecture. And that goes hand in hand with the willingness of a growing number of architectural patrons to commission these adventurous designers, ”says Powell.
The incumbent architect believes that modern Thai residential architecture is not necessarily defined by its location, but rather by how traditional lifestyles and features are incorporated into modern dwellings.
He also doesn’t think it’s limited to any particular region of Thailand. “Some of the most exciting new works can be found in the city of Chiang Mai in the north of the country, while Bangkok has many young creative designers.”
For Powell, there is so much sense in designing a home: “Design tells you about the owner and the architect in a way that an office building or institutional building can never do.
With photographs by Albert Lim Koon Seng, Modern Thai House costs B1 395. tuttlepublishing.com