Acting is magical. Change your look and attitude, and you can be anyone at all. It can be both the rapeutic and liberating; the Kantana Institute based in Thailand’s capital is a perfect testimony to this idea.
When Kantana Edutainment (International) Co. Ltd. wanted to set up a Film and Animation Undergraduate School where the youth of Thailand could come and learn the finer nuances of this art form they approached the Bangkok Project Company Limited.
The young firm not only fulfilled the task but also saw that they built a green and soulful building which very deservingly went on to get nominated for several architectural awards.
Roughly 45 kms north-west from Thailand’s capital Bangkok, a rural site was transformed from a paddy field into a place of learning. Nakhon Pathom the location where the Kantana Institute is set up is one of the central provinces of Thailand.
The capital city of the province Nakhon Pathom is also called Nakhon Pathom and has grown to encompass the provincial border. Today Nakhon Pathom attracts people from all over Thailand, and has become a veritable mega city.
In this milieu Boonserm Premthada along with his team members Ittidej Lirapirom and Piyasak Mookmaenmuan, wove some architectural magic to create a structure that not only treads lightly on the environment but also serves the purpose of inspiring students to first relax and then acquire the skills of acting and animation.
The location on which the film institute stands is rural, going by that Boonserm hit upon the idea of employing the one resource that was in abundance around the site. He zoned in on the idea of using only handmade bricks constructed out of mud found right there and around the site.
Saving on travel miles by employing local crafts persons and using a cheap and plentiful material, he took the first step towards restricting the carbon footprint.
Over half a million handmade bricks were produced and used employing a very simplified and organic method.
About the bricks Premthada says, “You can see the touch of both hand and foot as they were made one by one. They have the soul and heart of the people who made them.We wanted to conserve and strengthen this old craft which still exists within the area.”
Eight metre high walls were first constructed using the bricks; it was all about geometric lines albeit with gentle undulations.The single-storey building is divided into four main areas including administration, lecture room and library, together with a canteen and studio.
The library is brim full with all kinds of free data for the students and the studio is designed for experimental activities. Each section is attached to four directional walkways to facilitate an easy and comfortable flow.
Within the walls lies an inner structure constituted out of steel, a cavity present between the bricks and steel helps moderate temperatures.
The building is designed to block sunlight and create cooling shadows; architecture mediates between humans and the natural environment.
Passive climate control is further underlined with the help of orthogonal apertures in the brick walls. The alcoves so formed also double up as informal seating spaces for the students of the institute; it is here that they ruminate and solidify the knowledge they have just acquired.
The complex’s five different areas – administration office, lecture room, workshop, library and canteen – are all connected by an ‘inserted forest’ in the form of a grey stone and concrete pathway punctuated by trees, running centrally along a solid east-west and a broken north-south axis.
From afar the building reminds one of an ancient Thai Stupa with its recessed walls forming 12 corners around the lower base. The network of friendly, airy and shady enclaves is all conducive to nurturing and stimulating student interaction.
With this project Boonserm Premthada and his team have articulated a distinctive green architectural language and confidently executed a large and complex project with élan.
The dean of the institute apart from being delighted over the savings on the energy running costs says, “The texture, the line, the shape, the angle, the mass, the voids each offer a way of thinking and inspire the students to come up with interesting compositions.”
Text By Mala Bajaj
Photographs Courtesy Aga Khan Award For Architecture