The Pomelo Amphawa
A circular café in the midst of lush greenery, where nature is superior to man-made block spaces

Upon a 10-rai land adjacent to the Mae Klong River in Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram Province, were located fruit orchards like lychee, pomelo and coconut palms among others. When the business was later transferred to the younger generation, they then had an idea to develop the land to be more functional and fulfilling to the needs of tourists. So, the thought was shaped into a design plan for a building complex, housing a restaurant, view tower, riverside gazebo that creates a relaxation area for teens and families in the hug of the green surroundings.

One of these structures is The Pomelo Amphawa, a compact café designed by Looklen Architects, which recently won an award in the Architecture +Small Projects category from ARCHITIZER A+ AWARDS this year (2023).

A circular café in the surroundings of the original garden context

As the land size is quite large and the owner himself wishes for the customers to experience the atmosphere of the original garden as much as possible, all the five buildings are planned to sit on different spots throughout the area and set within the garden, embraced by a green forest. Even on the opposite bank, it is also full of Lamphu trees, a mini landmark to stop by for firefly sightseeing boat tours. That’s why, restaurants and cafes become a favorite destination for tourists.

“To attract tourists, we decided to locate our café at the center of where it used to be a lychee orchard – to the right of the land, next to the river. This location is accessible by all directions. We then asked ourselves…how should the design be? We don’t want a café with a fixed front or back door, because we hope every side of its can be an entrance. So, we chose to go with a circular form.” An architect from Looklen Architects said.

Site Plan

This circular form also reflects the name of the café – Pomelo Ampawa, which has the same spherical look. As the main theme was derived from circles,  the architect team started the project by exploring the land and locating existing lychee trees around the construction site. After that,  the building has been erected with its diameter being 20 meters to minimize potential interruption to the existing trees.

A 3D circular form that embraces many functions

Another thing to be concerned about is the budget. It’s a task of architects to manage the budget and the outcomes. The building was designed, at an acceptable budget, to look as large as possible with semi-outdoor space. The indoor space thus features only 7.5 square meters and appears as a square room located in the middle.

As the architect team wants the structure to be circular, the building turns out in a form and space spectacular from the outside. The circular structure is raised to create a three-dimensional plane, then becoming a compact amphitheater, which unlocks more outdoor space, unlike air-con rooms typically built for most of the cafés in town. This outdoor area is perfect for all to have a walk, chill out, engage in activities, or spend more time with nature.

The amphitheater is raised to ensure it connects to the riverside and allows visitors to relish the views upfront. This front part faces the North, so it is not too hot.  At the same time, the basement of the amphitheater acts as a shading to block sunlight coming from the South and forms an airy indoor sitting area with a backdrop of the orchards.

“A building is constituted from ground and roof to create a functional compartment. We discussed within the team about how to functionalize the basic elements. At last, we decided to make the roof into steps to put built-in ladders that lead visitors to the rooftop and diverse the functions, presenting the area in many characters.

Pure materials to simplify spaces and architectures

Once we have the form design in hand, it then comes to  the material part. We, as the project’s architects, want this building to stay minimal and simple. Simply said, we want to minimize the details to present the original space and structure. We therefore choose cast-in-situ concrete. Another material we go for is old wood disassembled from Thai-style houses formerly located on this land. The wood is used for paneling pillars while some of them are turned into elevated seats placed along the steps leading to the rooftop.

The reason for the decision is that we want to shape up the form right away. The building we are seeing here is a pure structure. There are steps, each of which occupies a range of 25 cm. However, as it is located at a curve of the river, the land underneath has been eroded. That’s why, even though we first planned to root the main pillars into the land and grow some plants upon it, we need to change our mind to go with this structure instead by creating a new platform – for example, we rooted the main pillars into the river. For the planting, the base of each tree is protected by a concrete vessel to ensure it can grow even without being planted onto the ground.

Something More: As the building looks like a concrete amphitheater, in the construction process, the concrete slab must be poured only once to make sure it is seamless and to avoid cracking problems in the future

“For other gimmicks, we focus on coming up with questions and referring to pain points of other projects. We never expected for a prize or award, but we are indeed happy with it. We think this award has made us understand that architecture is not about the scale, but it must stem from a good idea and understanding of the owners. This café is a small project located on only 400 square meters of land, but it is recognized by people with the space and form that wove into one while still being practical and functional.” The architect concluded.

Architect from Looklen Architects
Rangsima Arunthanavut

Rangsima Arunthanavut