Singlehouse: The perception of a single house in a modern Thai society has been heavily influenced by the property development started in the 80’s. Certain groups of developpers planted the idea of typology, functionality and the way they are put together in the gated community into people’s brains until those picture has become the default idea of a “house” for Thai people. The schools of architecture in Thailand, as well, play an uncritically big role in educate us to be familiar with that kind of “house” concept in order that those student, when graduated, can be part of those house producing machine.
(ref image of typical Thai catalog houses)
Of course in different countries, the stereotype of a single house is vastly different. But in my opinion, some countries are doing much better than others in term of architectural qualities. I think Japan is one of the forefront in constnantly rethinking the single house. Maybe because of the land size and expensive construction and living cost there are plenty of attemps to come up with interligent re-definitions of single house in design practises.
Achitect as psychiatrist: I have been refrained from doing a single house for a period of time because, to me, doing such a project is more than being an architect. A lot of times, we have to be in the complex conversations with the “family”, between husband and wife, mother and son etc. We ,architects, are drawn into the line of fire or in the verge of war among someone elses’ familiies. Funnily, we have to wear other hats; being a referee, a friend or a psychiatrist in the process of transforming the clients’ need into architecture.
Ubon house is a very special project for us in many ways. As said, this is the first villa we designed since the office was founded. It will chalenge my house designing resistant. The other thing is the shear pace of the process; the house was meant to completed in 6 months counting one from the date the owner talked to us. He was getting married. The couple wanted to move into the villa right after the wedding. The site is a few kilometres outside of Ubonratchathani overlooking a strangly beautiful swamp on the southside of Moon river.
(Ref image: Yves Klien’s photograph, Leap into the void, 1960, one of my favorite image when trying to explain the house to other people)
In such a pace, architecture takes its form strongly out of will and trust between owner and architect, I feel. It almost came out of our dialogues on mobile phones. “What about pulling your working room over swimming pool so that you can jump right into the water any time you are stressful working?”, I joked with him. “Will it be finished in time?” he answered. I went back to my computer and worked. The core of the design follows that brief conversation.
We would like to build a very brutal modernist architecture in the center of the highland. We picture it like a black spaceship hovering in the middle of nowhere. The working room on the 2nd floor, which is the focus of the house, will protude into the air above the swimming pool. The openning of the room will frame the emptiness nature of the swamp to the north.
While on the first floor we want to create a small living island. All programs are contracted in rectangle shape surrounded by water. The small reading terrace cantiliver out to the waterfall in the black long wall in the east. The north side is always the highlight. It is covered by the openable wooden fins on giant steel framesm when slided open, the living room is extended outward to the terrace and swimming pool outside. This is expected to be the common area of the client’s family (which has a lot of members.) Moreover we intended to design bedrooms on the 2nd floor to be rather small. This is to force people to spend their time together more (downstair where it is very well ventilated)
The photo I like best, cheap typical outdoor table set on wooden terrace for Australian Wine party next to the pool, overlooking Ubon at night.
Within 8 months, the house is completed. (At the wedding it was only 70% done) It is considered super quick for Thai standard. Everyone is very happy including me. We try not to resist to do a single house anymore. It just need some nice dialogues to begin with and carry out with trustful conversation between client and architet. We will just move on.