by Jerry ElengicalNov 01, 2022
Over the years, contemporary Thai architecture, with its abundance of soaring, complex roof structures, often realised in wood or bamboo, has fallen prey to a trope associated with architecture throughout Asia and large parts of the developing world—that of relying on ornamentation rather than abstraction to capture traditional motifs and infuse them into a more temporally relevant form. This is evidenced by movements such as ‘applied Thai architecture,’ which has been the subject of considerable critique owing to its superficial treatment of symbolic elements as mere garnish atop an entirely unrelated piece of cuisine, rather than a conscious remoulding of archetypes to fit present tastes and functional needs. Although there have been consistent innovations that seek to diverge from this somewhat flawed outlook, a new restaurant design venture in the town of Kanchanaburi in western Thailand, has offered what could be a noteworthy take on how these sorts of projects should be looked at, both from an aesthetic and functional perspective.
Providing a new base of operations for one of the most successful Thai restaurants in Kanchanaburi, the new Keereetara restaurant by Bangkok-based practice IDIN Architects is a new branch placed in close proximity to its predecessor, on a waterfront site with serene views of the famed Khwae Yai River that flows through western Thailand. While the older restaurant occupied a relatively smaller building volume, the new building had to accommodate an assortment of varied functions, including provisions to host larger gatherings of people, as in the case of weddings, seminars, or larger events. This, along with meeting the operational standards of a prominent restaurant branch within its urban milieu, constituted the main guidelines for the architects, as they set out to realise this intervention in hospitality architecture.
“An important point was the infusion of ‘Thainess’ into a large-scale building, which was a challenge. Traditionally, large-scale Thai buildings that encompass wide spans are either temples or palaces. Thai houses are traditionally small-scale and are often collectively placed in clusters, the architects relay in a statement. They add, “We therefore infused the ‘emotions’ and ‘sensibilities’ of Thai architecture into the building’s spaces to highlight this uniquely Thai atmosphere, rather than using direct proportions or decorative elements from traditional architecture.”
Symmetry and scale are both relevant features of Thailand’s historical built forms, and their use—both through subversion and literal treatment—are plain to see in the hospitality design. For instance, the evocative gable roof that is a highlight of the restaurant’s façade design, has been offset from the centre of the structure. This is both a device to diverge from the conventional implementation of such an element, forgoing any notion of mindless embellishment, as well as a means to create an axial relationship with the path of the river, opening up the entrance space beneath it to abundant daylight. Expressive, curving eaves, swoop upwards to a ridgeline that has also been slightly tilted for the same reasons, drawing an observer’s eye up toward the heavens. A section of the roof has also been made traversable by a staircase that rises along its slope, as another intriguing facet of the project.
Regarding the arrangement of the building’s massing as per the necessities of the program, the inclusion of a large commissary kitchen was paramount to the running of the establishment, in accordance with the diverse roles that it would take on in different scenarios. In this case, the service facility needed a substantial floor area in the vicinity of 1000 square metres, to cater to the demands that would arise from future expansions of the structure or the setup of additional branches nearby. With this in mind, the designers centred their process around the task of appropriately locating and orienting the kitchen and the service spaces supplementing its operations. Eventually, the majority of the first floor was devoted to this space, which was also given a notably high ceiling. The consequence of this choice was a building volume that virtually dwarfs its context, and hinders views toward the river.
However, the design team found a solution to this quandary by configuring most of the seating areas on the floor above, with a lively entry foyer accessed via a large staircase that cuts through the plan. To one side, the large volume of the banquet hall on the third floor, sheathed in clear glass, occupies the entire frame of view, topped by the long spanning rafters of the roof assembly.
The traditional tiled finish of the roof undersides is complemented by wood panelling—a palette that is also echoed in the banquet hall itself, where rhythmic wall installations, illuminated from the rear, enliven the space, imparting a more ceremonial ambience to its interior design. Complemented by wooden furniture and stone floors, the result is restrained and regal in character, unassuming yet bold all at once. A verandah surrounds the expanse of the hall, with an additional raised dining area arranged near it to afford diners with views of the river.
As for the main seating spaces, most were configured to overlook the river, giving visitors the opportunity to bask in spectacular views of the water and the natural landscape it flows through. The design team made use of alternating terraces which subtly grow closer towards the trajectory of the river bank. Each terrace is also split into a range of dining zones, with their own distinct identities, preventing any sense of monotony from infiltrating the restaurant experience, even with repeated visits.
Through its impressive abstraction of archetypes and atmospheres that succeeds in elevating its constituents to an ensemble which speaks to users through form, materiality, and mood, rather than ornamentation, IDIN Architects have truly set a standard for a viable direction that the future of Thailand’s architecture could veer towards. Blending subversion, diversion, and contextual design into a product that boasts multiplicity in its views towards the nature of a traditional Thai restaurant, the firm’s inventive take on regional building traditions has yielded a landmark dining space on the shores of the famous Khwae Yai River.
Name: Keereetara Restaurant
Location: Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Area: 2,290 sqm
Year of Completion: 2022
Client: Promote Kamolpantip
Architect: IDIN Architects
Interior Design: Promote Kamolpantip
Structural Engineer: C-Insight Co., Ltd.
Contractor: Promote Kamolpantip
- Concrete Architecture
- Contemporary Architecture
- Contextual Design
- Courtyard Architecture
- Exposed Concrete
- Facade Design
- Gable Roof
- Hospitality Architecture
- Hospitality Design
- Interior Design
- Landscape Architecture
- Landscape Design
- Restaurant Design
- Staircase Design
- Thai Architecture
- Traditional Architecture
- traditional architecture
- Tropical Modernism
- Vernacular Architecture
- Wood Architecture