HAS design and research gives traditional materials a fresh look

With their experience in architecture in China and Thailand, HAS design and research become a design firm that interestingly choosing materials as they develop new materials or repurpose frequently used materials to generate novelty and a distinct sense in architecture. This can be seen from projects such as The Glade Bookstore, where the team used PVC to create the building’s ceiling, and Phetkasem Artist Studio, where the team reconstructed steel pipes with a distinct pattern. This time, Dsign Something visited the office to discuss about the process of selecting materials to make the design seem so intriguing.

A studio that designs and researches go hand in hand.

HAS design and research is an architecture firm led by Po – Kunthida Songkittipakdee and Jenchieh Hung, where Por previously worked with Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Jerry formerly worked with Kengo Kuma. The two then decided to establish a company in Shanghai, China,  under the name H and S (HAS), which stands for having and is the first letter of the two surnames, and ends with a design and research phrase, focusing on both design and research at once. In addition, they also offers special lecturers at both domestic and international universities. When the epidemic crisis strikes in 2019, they both decided to relocate to Thailand and open a second office in Bangkok.

The difference between materials in Thailand and China

Architectural design in China is extremely competitive due to the volume of ongoing development projects, the size of the population, and the oversupply of architects. Thus, Chinese architects must also have a strong integrative thinking technique in order to make the works appear innovative and distinctive from the existing ones. This results in a wide range of materials, textures and sizes to choose from. Unlike in Thailand, where the design focuses on rationality and practicality. In terms of freshness, it frequently relies on individual demands. As a result, Thailand’s materials are not as diversified as those in China.

Experiment to find the best option.

In designing a building for a project, architects spend a lot of time studying alternatives for space and more diversified materials, making each design include at least 20 options. The designers then take each concept and try to discover the best option before working with builders and material suppliers  in order to  create works that meet the needs of users as much as possible.

“We also opted to consult with the material manufacturer since some materials’ installation details may appear more complicated and difficult than typical for the building contractor. Therefore we come up with a solution by discussing the design details with the material producer directly. They grasp the nuances of how to properly integrate them into their designs and always get intriguing and surprising outcomes.”

Present the design along with the material board

During the design development process, architects utilise material boards to introduce consumers to the material texture, colours, and placements in each part of the structure. This material board is also being distributed to contractors and other teams to help them comprehend design and installation.

“We experiment new textures on some materials. For example, using epoxy paint to create a texture to the material which we want to lighten the existing material’s color. We asked the manufacturer to experiment with painting into small sheets of material. Once we had decided on the best one, we re-produced the sample in the actual size to examine more of its patterns and textures. We then take each tile to the contractor to install one by one to re-evaluate the mood and tone and appropriateness.”

Create new possibilities for materials

The Glade Bookstore

Through experiments and the discovery of new possibilities, the design of The Glade Bookstore, which is Bookstores, restaurants, and exhibition spaces, was inspired by the characteristics of wooden houses with pillars and the mountainous terrain of Chongqing . The architects used a 6-millimeter PVC line attached to the ceiling work in a shape that resembled a curved gable roof. The natural elevation resonates with Chongqing’s traditional landscape and reflects the unique wooden house with pillars. In addition, PVC is also installed to illuminate the building.

“Because we are unable to place permanent materials on the ceiling. As a result, we attempted to use white PVC pipe because it is a readily available material that lends a delicate feel to the structure. Experiments and study were used to choose these materials. Any material and kind, even if they are the same material but in various sizes, can affect the space.”

Urbanism and Architecture bi-city biennale

In designing Freeing FrameYard for the Urbanism and Architecture bi-city biennale in Shenzhen, the architect wanted the material to have a sway like curtain lines. However, due to the limitations that it must be installed outside, real curtains cannot be used. The architects experimented with ropes, but it turned out that the ropes were not straight, so they have to switch to PVC that provides a straight appearance and produces sway at the same time.

“We think there are no such material constraints because each material has its own characteristics, it only has to be chosen to suit the design. Nonetheless, whether it is an unusual substance, converting old materials into new ones, or how tough the details are, Chinese contractors can do it all (laughs).”

Phetkasem Artist Studio

When the architects decided to transform the townhouse into a semi-office building, they researched the material of the village’s fences, which are largely constructed of steel. The architects wondered how the original steel material could be converted into something new. As a result, they split the steel pipe in half and placed half in front and the other half in rear. They connected pipes in the shape of a modular system, producing designs from 5 various pipe diameters. The two sides are linked to make three bricks that can be turned and reversed to produce a line that can be lined up to create approximately four metres tall and broad, with voids for light and ventilation. This work is a joint development and experimentation with technicians and steel pipe manufacturers like Pacific Pipe Public Company Limited.

“Aluminum composite panels are also used in this home for the doors, window frames, and screens since it is durable and can provide smoothness to the house. In addition, Jenna Tsailin Liu, a well-known lighting designer in China and Taiwan, assisted in the design, and she chose a Chinese lighting design. As a result, contractors in Thailand are inexperienced with this type of light. The manufacturer therefore included installation video clips along with the materials. Before each installation, the contractor must first view the instructional video clip (laughs).”

Learn and understand new materials

Architects are frequently required to solve equations in architecture due to the variety of spaces, applications, and users, as well as new and unknown materials, which is always a challenge for them. For example, in the design work of the Benchakitti Rain Forest Observatory in ASA WOW, where all materials were from the SEE Jorakay brand, the colours in the catalogue and the actual colours used differ because the colour is made from natural ingredients. As a result, it is more matt than regular acrylic paint. The designers must then adjust and try to comprehend the new colour even further.

A studio with no creative restrictions

The intriguing aspect of HAS design and research is that they attempt to generate a large number of design options in order to find the most feasible solution, whether in Thailand or China. Many projects show that they try out different materials that may not be completely related to architecture until they find one that evokes a conceptual feeling and functions. In other cases, they reinvent traditional market materials to become new materials, which can also create new feelings. They are creating an entirely new experience with never-before-seen architecture.

Watsapon Vijitsarn

Watsapon Vijitsarn