12 September 2007

27 Rirkrit's House in Chiangmai

It was last Wednesday afternoon that Stefano and I had a chance to visit the newly built house of Rirkrit Tiravanija in Chiangmai through a very kind invitation of Aroon Puritat (a long time friend of mine and the architect of the house). For those who are not familiar with the name of Rirkrit, he is perhaps the most internationlly renown Thai artist. His works are very interesting and have a lot to do with architecture. As an architect, I am always amazed and impressed with the way he uses architecture as a tool to reflect and criticize...The first time I experienced his work was in 1997 at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York where he built a 1:2 model of the Glass House of Philip Johnson in the courtyard of MoMA which was also designed by Johnson himself. The dwarf Glass House was made to be a playroom of children.

Our excuse to visit Rirkrit's house here was also to interview him and feature the house for Abitare Magazine (one of the most interesting design magazines in Italy).
The interview took place in the kitchen with Aroon, very informal and relaxing atmosphere.

We also moved around the house to talk about the house, his works, his opinion about art, architecture and ..the world.

Rirkrit told us that the idea of the house is to have very simple concrete building, elevated from the ground - the least touch. The exisiting site has a lot of trees, they did not want to cut any of them. So the building is inserted in the site in a zigzaging manner among the trees around. The main space is this big, simple, rough but very strong courtyard of the house where the main activities (the kitchen, the library and the entrance). The veranda running around the courtyard, connecting everything around together is very crucial part here... Altogether, the space is very relaxing but strong... I believe that it is the first real 'contemporary' Thai house.

The entrance of the house is very nice.. rather high and rough concrete block wall inserted between the trees lead us to the main court yard of the house..

Because the idea of the building is really to have an actual contact with the site, especially the existing trees, the construction process is very important. The house began with some models and very rough drawings - without construction drawings. Aroon, the architects, spent more than two years on the site everyday supervising and designing along with the construction. Both Rirkrit and Aroon developed a very interestingly good relationship with the contractor who is from a far village of Chiangmai and his ten workers. You could feel from the existence of the house which carries some kind of spirit or touch of human - the one that you rarely find nowadays especially those buildings that come out from 'render farms'.

The other courtyard on the other side of the kitchen, on the left is the entrance of the house, on the right is the gardener's room.

The studio is another impressive space. A big volume with glass walls on two sides. What you see from inside is trees and tress around.

The kitchen. Rirkrit said that for him, kitchen is perhaps the most important part of the house along with the bathroom. His early works (also up until now) always deal with food and cooking.

From the kitchen, there is a stair leading to the upper level. For me here is the most impressive space... where you are surrounded by the trees. Rirkrit uses this space as his working space..

The upper level has also a small guest bedroom. Apart from that, there is only the flat roof of the lower level, which become a passage taking you around the house.

Some might be curious, if the flat slab concrete roof would be leaking. Rirkrit said, "well, if it leaks, let it leak. We will fix it, meanwhile we can always use a bucket". Aroon, the architect, even used prefabricated concrete slab to make it. He just told the contractor to put some more steel and poured another layer of concrete on the top.

The walls in between the bamboo confirm the idea of inserting the building among the trees.

The concrete walls...

So far, it is perhaps the most impressive house I have ever seen in Thailand. Very strong, very rich, very touching.. As an architect, I thank to Rirkrit, a client who is brave and cool enough to build such a house. Also as an architect, I thank Aroon, who proves that to be a good architect you don't need to be fancy, but you have to be patient, persistant, brave and strong. :) a deep bow of respect and congratulations.

If you wan to see the drawings of the house (it was done afterward, of course), get an issue of art4d, September 2007. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading this post very much! I am currently building a home in rural Chiang Mai and am wondering if your group of designers could recommend any contractor(s) skilled in the work of concrete - I love concrete and would like to incorporate a lot into our new home (ie - floors, walls, structures, etc.) Let me know if any of you have recommendations - thanks.

Casey - 084-8528615

Nicky said...

we're covering this project in a magazine published in Australia and are interested in some of the images shown here, with people in them. Are they high res and available for publication?

allzone said...

Nicky I just saw your message now, after several months. If you are still interested in using the images. Please contact me. - allzone@csloxinfo.com


Drake Valentin said...

I was also looking to find some interesting property in Chiangmai so someone told me about online chiangmai. I cannot afford a house just yet but I am saving up for it.

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