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Rice is one of Thailand’s main agricultural exports and a staple diet for Thais. Rice is also the main source of income for Thai farmers in the central region. Many farmers visit the Lorphoonphol rice mill in Paisali District, Nakhon Sawan Province, which is in a lowland that is well-suited for rice farming, to sell their harvested rice. The mill’s main office was the original structure that had been repeatedly expanded, causing circulation conflict and ineffective functionality resulting in a sporadic delay in operation.
When it comes time to hand over the business to the new generation, the 30-ish owner is eager to renovate the main office and build an extension to serve as a hub for the production and procurement of raw materials directly from farmers to provide more functions that meet the needs of the users. The renovation was carried out by a team of designers from PHTAA Living Design.
The initial challenges of context and climate
According to Khun Wit-Ponwit Rattanathaneswilai, Co-Founder PHTAA Living Design, the design of this mill project begins with context and climate due to its specified function and its drainage basin location. The main issue identified during the site study was the significant amount of ‘dust’ generated by the process of drying, trashing, and removing the husks from the rice grains, which had an impact on the employees’ long-term health as well as the ‘moisture’ from the soil. These two key factors were considered when designing this renovation to solve the problems.
Of all the functions, one of the most important parts is the rice laboratory where the rice is tested and analyzed to determine the most appropriate price. To ensure the success of the rice test, the area has to be able to store some rice while maintaining a steady humidity. Thus, the designer began looking for construction materials for such spaces that would prevent dust and water penetration, as well as moisture.
Use bricks and ventilation blocks to solve problems
A custom-made triangular brick was used to cover a roof ridge to address the aforementioned issues. Once the stonework is completed, the water pours down faster due to the obvious sloping edge. Unlike regular rectangular brickwork, this minimizes the surface area that is exposed to water before the moisture was being absorbed.
Furthermore, for typical brickwork, as the mortar inside the brick begins to wear away, some water will be able to penetrate the brick. The triangular brick, on the other hand, will successfully prevent water backflow and so address the problem. The design and construction teams not only use bricks to build towering walls, but they also use steelwork to support the weight and increase strength by concealing the steel columns within the structure, providing material continuity in a long plane. Since then, brick, an easy-to-find, budget-friendly home material, has become a go-to material for the design team to employ in various areas of the space, enclosing the architecture with a unique pattern on the facades and sides.
For the back of the facility adjacent to a large reservoir with natural wind flowing, the designers used a ventilation block, whose character is similar to that of brick and includes an airflow feature that allows breezes to flow over the water reservoir and the block to the front. As a result, it’s pleasant to sit, relax, and rest all day in the central area, which features willow chords and a circular beam of light and serves as a cafeteria for workers.
Extensions that make function management easier
The current functionality created by unplanned extensions has disrupted numerous trade relationships with farmers, in addition to tackling the climate and context problem through material selection. Many areas of work overlapped, especially between farmers and office staff, causing delays in rice delivery, grading, and even payment to farmers.
The design team chose to maintain the original four-story building structure (as per the mill owner’s requirements) by repurposing the new internal functions into office spaces solely before expanding the space to include a waiting area, a rice sorting station, a conference room, and a worker canteen to fully separate the farmers’ areas and the internal office.
The internal functions are organized in accordance with the process of purchasing paddy from farmers. Farmers will initially drive their paddy packing cars into the weighing point, then walk to the waiting area. Some of the rice will be taken to the rice testing lab for analysis by the staff before payment. All of these loops will be carried out in a systematic manner using a new layout designed by the design team beneath the roof of a large building. This allows the functions to coexist as a single unit while still clearly dividing usage without interfering with each other (On the second floor will be the rice bran oil lab zone, all of which are future extensions that are not yet in place.)
Something More: The designer team wanted to disguise the gutters attached to the pillars for the beauty of the architecture by designing two smaller pillars, one of which is a water pipe to drain water from the roof to the floor, at the front of the building.
In order to integrate the existing building with the extension and maintain the mood and tone, the designers screened the façade of the old building with the modern white Steel perforated sheet. The chosen materials also assist in resolving the issue of numerous birds interfering with the structure. Steel with heat retention, minimizing the likelihood of birds settling in another way.
The overall concept is to redesign and address problems utilizing local resources by PHTAA Living Design. This is one of the excellent projects demonstrating that good design does not always necessitate luxury or ideal materials (which are unaffordable to some people), but rather repurposing what we already have to find new approaches to improve architectural design, just like this Lorphoonphol Rice Mill Office.
Location: Phaisali , Nakhon Sawan Province, Thailand
Building area : 4000 m²
Architect & Interior : PHTAA living design
Project Team : Suradet Nutham, Pongsakorn Chusuppaisan
Engineer : Angkarn krasuaythong
Contractor: Double Click Construction Company Limited
Photo Credits: Beer singnoi