Meditation spaces clad in wood, a non-orthogonal stone facade, interconnecting courts and water features – all find a place alongside each other in this house that has an opulent yet peaceful aura about it.
Sometimes an opportune meeting of the right client with the right architect at the right time brings forth an architecture that is ‘tres extraordinaire’. A fitting example is the ‘baan’ or house in Bangkok designed by the Phuket branch of the Thailand based multi disciplinary design firm Architects 49, or more popularly known as A49. A progressive design firm, A49 is known to blend an ‘Asian’ spirit and contemporary themes with natural ease; the team effortlessly show-off their skills in this house they term as ‘The Fifth Element’.
The clients wanted a house that would accommodate Buddhist practices and functions in a chapel area alongside a home that would have all modern amenities and leisure activity spaces. These diagrammatically opposed spatial requirements were channelled into what the architect calls ‘The Fifth Element’.
A new brief was thus created, which had spaces cruising through three sections; the architects describe these as ‘the past, present and future’. Explain the architects, “The first section clad in wood relates to ‘the past’, next come the grey stones referring to ‘the present’ and finally ‘the future’ denoted by the white section of the house.”
The chapel and meditation spaces are kept far from the rest of the house, separated by an inner court and linked to other spaces through the reflective pool. Looking towards this volume of wood interspaced with glass, which the architects have termed as ‘past’, an aura of contentment calms our senses and the true sense of Asian architecture resonates.
The main house, an ‘L’ shaped plan, accommodates the private living quarters in one arm while the public area within the residence is housed in the other arm. The living room, pool side activity spaces and guest rooms are clad in a bluish grey stone which helps the built mass to merge seamlessly into the surrounding foliage.
Furthermore, the architects created interesting non-orthogonal facades by slicing certain planes of the building, creating angles and giving an illusion of lines instead of planes; this made the stone clad building facade appear much lighter. These non-orthogonal angles orchestrate dramatic shadows in multiple hues of greys, greens and blues in the living room as light reflects and enters the built portion, considered as ‘the present’. To quote Chana Sumpalung, Manging Director, A49 International, “The structure is designed to increase efficiency of the available natural resources.”
The private spaces expressed in simple architecture with plain white facades are the third part or ‘the future’ and span across the stone clad spaces with the sylvan chapel as the interlinking built mass.
But the main attraction of the entire design is formed by the inner courts, the interlacing pool and the adjoining terraces. As the team points out, “The open courtyard in the middle, created through the arrangement of the different sections, plays an important part as a divider of the different main spaces. Yet it is also the central meeting point of the house, and an opening for the flirtatious sun beams and gentle breeze to enter.”
Glass railings mark the limits of the terraces along the pools, drawing in the visage of a seamless and borderless mingling of the water surface with the wooden deck.
The architecture of the ‘baan’ or house designed by the A49 team stands out with the use of non-orthogonal angles, broken lines and spatial zoning. As the team puts it, “The client wanted a solution that was ‘different’ from what can usually be found, and one that could integrate all their diverse activities.” Chana Sumpalung says, “Our aim with this project was to make anyone who enters the house, feel the house’s personality,” and in this volume with myriad spatial tones the aim has definitely been achieved.
Text By K Parvathy Menon Photographs Courtesy Architects 49 House Design