Devoted Design for
Young Novices Pursuing Monastic Life

Inside the monastery of Buddhanimit Temple, located in a rural community in Udon Thani, there is one simple but incredibly practical dormitory for novices hidden behind thick temple walls and a cluster of trees. More than a hundred young novice monks are enrolled in this free temple school due to their family’s financial situation, and around forty of them stay at the school dormitory. With a budget of six million baht from a group of faithful donors, the livelihood of these novices has become more pleasant compared to when they were relying on the facility they had.

Initially, the standard, typical design of the dormitory was on its way to being developed. However, after a group of young architects got involved, the plan underwent some modifications. For financial reasons, both the existing reinforced concrete beams and columns of the abandoned classroom building were kept. This way, they could save enough budget for an additional library and washroom.

“Novice Living Quarters intend to create a design that is environmentally friendly, respective to the context, and contributes to the novice monks’ ways of living,” said Skarn Chaiyawat, head of the architect team.

With the fact that Udon Thani has various weather conditions throughout the year, the architects had to be very careful when adding any kind of architectural element to the project. During the windy season, this area could be frigid at night. On the contrary, air temperatures during the summer could also rise beyond 40 degrees Celsius. Using an air conditioner on a daily basis is not an option; hence, natural ventilation control is deemed necessary. Since the orientation o f the existing building is already facing the best direction for air circulation, placing windows in the proper position is a critical task for the architects, as is having a high ceiling, which is also essential for those hot days. In addition, the translucent roof tiles up above the bedroom allow users to see things clearly in the daytime without turning the lights on, which helps to reduce the total amount of electrical bills.

The communal bathing area situated behind the dormitory is another feature that serves as a daily gathering space. The novices’ routine activity usually involves a wide variety of conversation. By having alternating placements between translucent and opaque roof tiles, daylight can diffuse into building interiors evenly. To further improve the hygienic condition of the bathing area, natural light and airflow rates have been enhanced to the appropriate levels.

Moving a little away from novices’ private spaces, the central courtyard is accessible to all visitors. Skarn told us that the team had discovered an interesting behavior of these novices through their observation. During free time, most of these novices would gather in a quiet corner of the building or a dark cluster of big trees instead of hanging out around widely opened public space. The team then comes to the realization. That is, even though the novices are wearing the Buddhist monks’ yellow robe and are in the process of studying to become monks themselves, they are still a very young and playful group of children. With this in mind, the team has turned a large corridor connected to the bedroom area into one leisure space with a wall of cement ventilation blocks. These blocks were designed at an angle to provide privacy from public view and leave openings for light and ventilation.

Even if the highlight feature of the final project was extended from the initial requirements, Skarn and his team managed to create one excellent library for their users. Since the construction is adjacent to the school building’s wall, sunlight is reflected into the interior space through a row of glass windows. Not only does it protect the users from facing direct sunlight, but it is also an excellent preservation method for the books in the library.

According to the team, this project is designed to fit the novice monks’ lifestyle. While it is necessary to protect these young novices’ physical health, it is even more crucial to assist them in achieving inner peace, which is a necessary state of mind for everyone, even for those who practice religion.

Project Name: Novice Living Quarters, Buddhanimit Temple
Location : Udon Thani, Thailand
Architects : Skarn Chaiyawat, Rina Shindo and Witee Wisuthumporn
Year: 2017
Area : 620 Sq.m.
Interior Designer:
Photographer : Chaovarith Poonphol Photography

Chanikarn O. Lee

Chanikarn O. Lee