by Zohra KhanFeb 10, 2022
What happens when you uphold the unexpected while creating architecture and prioritise the process over the product? What results are sought when the conception of spaces avoid lavish narratives and are instead cradled in downright simplicity? An answer to this comes across in the office design of Thailand-based architects, Thongchai Chansamak and Patcharada Inplang. The founders of boutique architecture studio Sher Maker transformed a vacant plot located in a verdant area of Chiangmai city into their own atelier. The spatial concept for the workspace was rooted in the architects' own interest in contextual design, low-cost materials, local technology and craftsmanship. Instead of pursuing the idea of creating architecture, the studio endeavoured to design an atmosphere that could influence the building in physical and ambient ways.
The site sits on a forested area marked by giant acacia trees and a lake adjacent to it. Mimicking the geometry of the forest, the studio is housed under a large gable roof of corrugated metal. Under the roof, two storeys constituting four rooms are designed around a courtyard-like central passage which serves two functions: it separates the office space from the workshop, and also doubles as an informal meeting area and lunch desk for the team. Making sure that the architecture innocuously blends into its context, openings on the roof allow the foliage of the existing acacia trees in the courtyard to grow naturally through them. The habitable section of the courtyard is paved with bricks sourced from a local kiln while elsewhere, this area features construction gravel on the floor.
On one side of the 200 sqm space is an open-plan office marked by a long workstation where the team members sit facing each other while the rest of the room is populated by shelves carrying architectural models and books. Sheltered by eaves that obstruct direct views of the surrounding, the glass doors framing the room, however, create a no sense of visual boundary inside. The office overlooks the workshop set up under the eaves and framed by steel bars where the team experiments with materials and construction processes. The whole structure is largely built from salvaged wood and steel frames.
Explaining how the unexpected worked its way into the project, the architects share, “During the design and construction of this building we had no idea of the exact language or shape of the architecture that was being formed. It is a building that is built with many limitations and is also full of pitfalls but when it got completed and is in use for almost a year, it became a real part of our daily lives. […] The natural sounds and temperatures of the seasons or even the fragments of the branches and the fallen leaves almost become the same as the interiors.”
True to its guiding principle which emphasised physical and ambient, the project conjured an atmosphere where both architects, craftsmen, and makers can collaborate to transform lucid ideas into real, tangible works. “It could be said that it was a small building that was located in a humble way but contains a lot of our architectural experience,” the architects conclude.