Baan Nhuer Nham
Thai restaurant whose design experiments with space, landscape, and spaces between buildings.

Baan Nhuer Nham is a traditional Thai restaurant located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Pathum Thani Province, frequently visit by small, medium, and large families, as well as groups of friends or partygoers, to enjoy the menu introduced by the restaurant’s owner who is a 60-year-old mother. When it comes to a transition period, with the customer base becoming more and more diverse, the younger generation owner sees the opportunity to renovate the restaurant to meet the needs of the increasing sales while also overhauling the character to make Baan Nhuer Nham Restaurant become recognized by more diverse groups of people.

Explore the original location before adding new items to the location

This time, an architect from Looklen Architects, Khun Ton – Nuttapol Techopitch, is responsible for renovating the restaurant. Khun Ton began by describing how about half of the project’s original land area was a green area in front of the restaurant, while the back was a two-story wooden building next to the waterfront with the extension of a one-story shed across the river. After inspecting the actual site, the architect team decided to maintain the old wooden building as a restaurant image for the regular customers who frequent parties here. Apart from the original buildings, large and small trees in the boat ramp area and the original waterfront terrace will also be preserved.

Following that, the designer began to research by pretending to be one of the customers from breakfast, lunch and dinner. According to the designer, the majority of the customers would first reserve a table in an outdoor waterfront area. Those who do not book in advance or make a late booking will be assigned a seat in the building or on the second floor of the building. The first obvious challenge was to maximize the riverside seating area.

Due to the original restaurant’s single-story shed across the waterfront, guests entering the restaurant would be unable to access the waterfront without first passing through the restaurant. Khun Ton wishes to improve the ambience by constructing a Transition Space, a space between the new and old buildings through which customers can walk to the waterfront. It can also be used as a multipurpose space to entertain guests, slow down lines, or host events like festive Christmas tree decorations or live bands. This will also function as a mood shift between the old and new buildings.

Space in Between connects and creates stories.

“After we intend to maintain all of the old stuff, we place the new building which is a large two-storey building next to the old building. We position one side as close to the side of the land as much as possible to maximize the space between them. After that, we built a mezzanine to create a gradient riverside seating area, allowing each table not to block the view of each other while also getting a bird’s eye view of the river. We then created an open space between the two buildings by designing a semicircular curved wall plane that reveals the angle of people from the storefront to the inside as well as the view of the river so that people sitting on the mezzanine can see a wider angle along with the angle of the curve, creating an enveloping feeling like being in a hall in the outdoor area.”

The design concept
The design concept

Add perspectives so that each space has a distinct point of view.

In terms of the new restaurant’s function, there will be no kitchen in the new building because it shares the same kitchen in the old building. Khun Ton designed the first floor of the new building as a VIP seating area that can be partitioned. It will be designed to have the ambience of a semi-outdoor restaurant, similar to eating in the basement of a house. It also includes a reception area for greeting customers and a system work area.

Ground Floor Plan
Second Floor Plan

The seating function on the second level is fully adjustable in an Open Plan style, in case the restaurant needs to add a banquet space or cater to a very large group of customers in the future. The second-floor area also includes two special seating zones, with a glass box projecting into a semicircular courtyard as if it is floating above the water, as the restaurant’s name suggests. We can see the wide river view, the recently built pond view, and the green treetop canopy all at the same time when sitting in this spot. It is an important aspect of restaurant design to expand the perspective and effectively reduce the competition for the seating area.

It’s not simply the building that has been meticulously designed; the surrounding landscape is equally impressive. On the first floor, a Hardscape courtyard wraps around the front of the building, inviting guests to relax outside, while waiting for the queue, taking photos, or taking a walk and enjoying the shady and comfortable ambience, just like the waterfront view. The contour Water Feature was added into the garden in various zones in the front area to create a shadow reflecting the waterfront area as well as the shade of green. Even with the cascading riverside seating, the stepped landscape is incorporated to create a shady and private dining experience.

Authentic materials that reflect local natural culinary ingredients

“In terms of the building’s appearance, we wanted it to be as warm as a house, in keeping with the name Baan Nhuer Nham (On the River home). So, we developed a gable roof and a tropical-inspired architecture with long eaves for the new building. As for the materials, we focus on the authentic materials following the chef and the owner’s intention to create dishes using local natural ingredients.”

There are around 4-5 key materials, which include grey brick, Thai bamboo, Teak wood, Sand wash finish, and unpainted terrazzo being used in the overall picture of the building. Starting from the curved wall area, the architect intended to create a sense of enclosed space while remaining open to the wind, riverside sound, or music to flow inside. The architect then constructed the semi-transparent wall by forming bricks in a three-dimensional manner, alternating bricks facing vertically into the central area along the curve. The brick wall continues into the interior of the restaurant on the first and second floors, where the bricks pattern will be transformed into a solid pattern to divide the interior space.

The same brick is installed in a stacked manner in the part of the long, two-story wall adjacent to one bank of the restaurant to create a Thai-style home ambience. It also generates a wave reflecting the context and location and creates a dimension of light and shadow that is the signature of the restaurant. When people visit the restaurant and take photos, it can be made easier to remember as well.

The designer chooses teak for structural work on the first and second floors to show the rafter structure while concealing the various systems. It is a long span building that extends into an outdoor space without columns, Just like sitting in a waterfront pavilion. Under the rafters, light holes are drilled to allow natural light to shine through without the need to turn on the lights during the day.

Something More: The building’s main structure is entirely made of steel for lightweight and quick construction (within 8 months). The entire pontoon area beneath is a floating column constructed of old wooden posts, old concrete and nothing but water. Khun Ton maintained the original condition because he did not want to build a retaining wall to shift the direction of the water. Therefore, he decided to drill several holes in the old concrete pontoon platform and place piles instead.  After that, one more floor was erected, and the entire structure was assembled from the platform.

From the concept, appearance, material, and structure, all of the designs indeed promote this restaurant to be known as ‘Baan Nhuer Nham (On the River home)’.

Location: Pathum Thani, Thailand
Gross Built Area : 1,100 m2
Owner: Nhuernham Co., Ltd.
Architecture & Interior : Looklen Architects
Design Team: Sira Temjai, Sasiwimol Suyanon
Structural Engineer: Ittipon Konjaisue
System Information Engineer: MEE Consultants
Landscape: Ritt Landscape
Lighting : Lundi Light Design
Contractor : Double Click Construction & Idea Civil Engineering
Photo Credits: Rungkit Charoenwat

Rangsima Arunthanavut

Rangsima Arunthanavut