31 December 2009

49 all(zone) new(zone): The Headquarters

At the last day of the year, it is rather common to flashback of all what have happened during the year about to be gone by. For us, it is really a transformation year of many things. However, the biggest deal of the year is this:

Our new office we just moved in last September (while there were still many construction workers working along with us in the building!) It is a very long project.. a long story to tell. But at this sentimental moment that finally within this year it is more or less 'completed', we are more than happy to share with all of you!

It all has begun in the middle of 2007, my sisters bought a small townhouse-shophouse in Sukhumvit 49. While the design process was going on around the New Year of 2008 for the renovation, the neighbor came to us and offered to sell another one.... my sisters then, bought this one too (the offer was too good to resist). So we have two slices of shophouse in stead of one. The construction began around mid-2008 because our beloved contractor was busy finishing Pim's Guesthouse & Studio! We dismantled all the walls on both sides. Here is the photo for the building with the wall and without:

By the way, we also performed a ceremony to start the construction recommended by a Feng Shui Master. Because the year of 2008 was not really perfect to begin a construction, he said it would not be completed easily so we needed to do this ceremony to lighten the bad effects ---> now we learned that he was right, the project has been really difficult with a lot of problems -_-"

Basically we also took almost everything off in the interior space. The shophouse typology in Thailand is quite rigid. The interior space usually is rather dark with natural light coming from one side, because on the back is a service part. We hate that kind of space - so what we wanted is to make the space bright and lighted with as many openings as possible.

Therefore, if we get natural light with a lot of openings, the heat and the rains in such our extreme tropical climate requires more complex solutions. We have some references from my research on 'fragile tectonic' or 'fragile wall' project (I have been doing this project with my students since 2007) of contemporary vernacular architecture around us.

We then, fell in love with the local concrete blocks which is very easy to make, can be designed in several shapes and forms. This could be perfect as a building skin for sunshades. It could also work in substitute of metal bars to protect the building from thieves breaking in - we had this experience once in the previous office, not so fun at all. Also the skin could be an external curtain for our privacy -thinking of how expensive the curtain would be for such big windows!

We began with the existing typologies of these concrete blocks. Then some of them we designed and had them made especially for us. The idea was also developed with Stefi-ID Lab - thanks for pulling us this far. :)

These are the very first schemes we did. Several patterns, several colors. :) We enjoyed greatly choosing /designing the pattern of the blocks.

And finally here is the design. We added the steel structure on the facade to hold the new concrete block skin, also the space between the openings and the skin is a kind of balcony, where the plants could be placed, people can come out for smoking, or become a service space on the back for condensing units, drying cloths and so on. We believe that this kind of 'in-between space' is very crucial for urban living like this, we can also call it 'breathing space'.

The ground floor is a common entrance and parking. The 2nd, 3rd & 4th floors are office space. We use the 4th floor as our office and hope to rent the 2nd & 3rd floor to those who love to be around us. :) The three floors are designed in a way that it can be a normal office or live-in studio/office. The 5th floor is my apartment with small open patio --> well I pay the rent to my sisters, of course. The roof top is also a big terrace! The planning got influenced also by our Feng Shui Master - well actually he helped us to settle a lot of issues, we were a bit tricky that we chose to believe only some parts we like (please dont tell him). -_-"

You can see that we really planned to color the skin. Because we believe that Bangkok is full colorful buildings, we want to be one of them. But then when we first did color them, we couldn't stand to be in the interior space because the super strong sunlight was basically colored and made it hard to live in the space. :( Although we liked it very much, we had to change our mind with the color.

Here is the present color --> grey scale mode.

Here we go: the building in its context. Not bad, isn't it? :)

On the back of the building, looking from S&P restaurant next door.

The very front of the building, you can see this view only from KANOM bakery, also our neighbor.

The beloved facade! We learned a lot really from working on this building. First, to do a renovation of a building, as an architect, you have to charge the fee double! Because of all complicated matters. Then, no contractor would like to do a renovation. :O We had to wait until our beloved contractor, Terdsak and his team for a long long time. The last, doing a renovation is very costly! -_-"

The stair hall:

At the breathing space (our little balcony). With the steel structure all the floor and the side walls are cover with wire mesh steel.. so it is very transparent. Some say that the space is a bit scary, but after a while we got used to and love the space. We usually go out to get some air during a break, talking on a phone outside, smoking of course.

Also the light and shadow casting on the shape of the blocks changing all day long.

Some people are curious about safety. We are actually the most nervous sub-species of homo sapiens when it gets to safety in a building. :) This is a fire exit stair behind the concrete block skin going all the way from the 5th floor, down to the ground.

The interior space at night. We work happily after. :)

If you want to see more, you can reach our newly launched website. Or if you want to come to visit us, here is our location on google map - you can see that we are in one of the most crowded area of good restaurants in town! Or if you like it so much and want to be with us in the building. Let's talk then. :)