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Let’s ride a time machine back to thirty years ago. If we pay close attention to a townhouse or a commercial building, we’ll definitely find a common construction element. Whichever they’re located, they’re all the same. Here, we’re talking about extensions of those houses that people tended to add them up based on the way they live, whether they are fence renovation to ensure that they’d have a larger garage; roof renovation to allow them to have a larger space to store things; canopy extension to meet flexibility of functional usage; or even placing tree pots in front of the house to optimize their limited green space.
These ‘temporary’ man-made extensions were both surprisingly and harmoniously blended through the selection of metal materials, like ‘steel pipes and boxes,’ which, at the same time, reflects that these materials are ‘easy to find in Thailand’. When looking back into the past, Thailand indeed used to be a major steel producer. Unfortunately, this material wasn’t designed to present its true identity as steel, because they were often used to support the overall structures, billboards, or used as anti-theft wrought iron.
Por-Kultida Songkittiphakdi and Jenchieh Hung worked as architects with many years of experience abroad and jointly established HAS design and research in Shanghai at the beginning of 2020, concurrent with the COVID-19 hit. Not long after, the two returned to Thailand and joined hands to renovate an old townhouse in Soi Petchkasem to become an office location of HAS Design and Research, Bangkok branch, and their residence. They have perfectly applied what they found in their experiment on ‘steel pipe bricks’ to create Phetkasem Artist Studio.
Explore the materials used by Thai houses nowadays
When exploring the use of steel in modern Thai buildings, including houses in the neighborhood, an interesting and capturing feature the design team found was the ‘curvature and hollowness of steel tubes,’ which, surprisingly, we barely see in use today.
When it comes to designing Phetkasem Artist Studio, the designers therefore tried to adapt the existing steel pipe material to create something new by collaborating with a well-known Thai steel pipe manufacturer, Pacific Pipe Public Company Limited. The initiative as a result brought steel pipes together in units, creating a new way of ‘steel pipe brick’ installation of which the width and height are totally almost 4 meters. The steel pipes are cut in half, facing the inside out. The beautiful pattern is thanks to the 5 different sizes of the pipes. Once coupling them, they become three forms of bricks that can be rotated to create various attractive lines and patterns.
In addition, for the first time in Thailand, these steel pipe bricks also combine soil-like surface features, which, in addition to the new look and the warm atmosphere they give, have the advantages of reducing heat accumulated in traditional steel materials.
A Blend of Materials and Architecture
Steel pipe brick invented by the design team was initially used as the the exterior wall of the Phetkasem Artist Studio, embracing the semi-open space to create tranquility combined with local flora. The new material welcomes visitors by creating a spectacular first-impression experience.
With an intention to offer a new lifestyle, yet in the old context of being close to the nature, on the 1st floor, the architects set up the area to be open-air to reduce the use of air conditioning. The design thus connects the front and backyard areas through an aperture placed between the steel pipe wall outside the building and the cement wall inside, forming a tunnel that enables winds to flow through while reducing Bangkok’s heat of almost 40 degrees Celsius.
Phetkasem Artist Studio is not just a creative space, but it is also a residence that combines living and relaxation. The new space layout also completely prevails the image of the old townhouse, and importantly changed people’s perception in using materials. It creates new forms of creativity while also taking into account the contexts, climates, and familiar local livelihood.
In addition to the fence, there are other components, catered by the architects and the manufacturer, whether they are aluminum doors and windows that come with new slim hinges and handles. Details are more neat and attractive. Moreover, it’s also about lighting design, sanitaryware, furniture, landscape design, and graphic design.
Although it is a renovation of an old building which has limitations in terms of size and structure, HAS design and research went beyond these limits and created an architecture through material experiments. This becomes a driving force for new stories of creativity that would change things to be more suitable for use than they simply are. The designer also believes that this work will make people who see believe and imagine about further creations and possibilities of creativity in the future.
Design Company: HAS design and research
Design Team: Jenchieh Hung, Kulthida Songkittipakdee, Zidong Fan, Jiaqi Han
Steel wall production consultant: Pacific Pipe Co., Ltd.
Aluminum production consultant: Goldstar Metal Co., Ltd.
Aluminum door and window technology: AB&W Innovation Co., Ltd.
Aluminum door and window constructor: Fix and Slide
Lighting design: Jenna Tsailin Liu
Lighting technology: Visual Feast (VF)
Sanitaryware consultant: American Standard
Landscape consultant: Ratchaneeya Yangthaisong
Landscape constructor: FloraScape
Signage design: Qi Zhou
Signage consultant: Shanghai View Studio
Home living furniture: niiq
Construction consultant: Chanin Limapornvanich
Site area: 110 sq.m.
Gross built area: 150 sq.m.
Photo credit: Ketsiree Wongwan