by Zohra KhanJan 19, 2022
How do you instill empathy in buildings? How are connections facilitated beyond the tangible joinery of two or more components in a space? And what marks the growth of people in a space they inhabit? Intrigued to seek answers to these, Thailand-based studio Sher Maker’s interpretation of a home and workspace for a local furniture maker is a humble endeavour. Designed for ‘If I were a carpenter‘ – a Thai brand dealing in reclaimed wooden furniture and products, the project upholds the tactility of traditional materials, the tedious-yet-rewarding craft of making, and the idea of spaces becoming one with nature.
Built on a small site surrounded by rice fields and a lush forest in Mae Rim district of Northern Thailand, the architecture of Khiankhai Home & Studio embodies the spirit of its place by creating uninterrupted connections with the outdoors. Enclosed in a wooden envelope on the three sides to retain privacy, the front of the building, however, facing a village road and mountains beyond, is left open, and features a balcony overlooking the views of the vast landscape.
Raised on stilts, the two-storey cabin-like structure features charred wood on the exterior cladding, wooden walkways, and a series of gabled roofs containing sporadic openings through which trees rise above. The spaces in the 200 sqm building are slotted around a generous courtyard while circulation channels between the two levels are through wooden staircases fitted on raised platforms.
The spatial layout is simple and designed to segregate spaces of focus and recreation. The lower level consists of studios and bedrooms and the upper floor includes an expansive open kitchen, living room, and a wooden terrace. Keeping harmony between structural and domestic materiality, the interiors are finished in woody-tones, complemented by splashes of white. Curtains, walls, corrugated shading partitions, lighting fixtures, and living room cabinets reveal a soft, white palette, whereas the structural framework, stairs, flooring, walkways, and fenestrations are expressed in tones of charred wood.
As per Sher Maker, the idea of the project to be an expression of wooden architecture was decided upon between the architects and the client. "Because wood directly relates with the owner as a furniture maker as well as a material source in Chiang Mai (Thailand), it allowed us to find used wood to design the project,“ says studio partners Thongchai Chansamak and Patcharada Inplang.
The building's construction took cues from the Japanese technique of Shou-Sugi Ban, which provides traditional methods to reclaim and preserve used wood. The material was sourced from local sites and the gathered planks were first sorted for different uses in the building. For the external cladding, the wooden surfaces were sanded and later charred to achieve a homogenous aesthetic before these were taken to the walls. “This is the method to adapt to the physical characteristics of local Thai wood, which is more resistant to weather conditions than other types of wood that would have been imported from abroad,” explain the architects. Elsewhere, the gabled roofs are clad in traditional lanna tiles which are weather-resistant. The vernacular architecture of the building thus finds symphony with its context, as it complements other rustic habitations of the region, characterised by unpainted wood or bamboo walls and gabled forms raised on stilts.
While tying the context with the architecture and presenting a contemporary compositional approach to craft, the project nurtures a home where people grow unceasingly within its enclosure, and where the constant presence of nature coexisting with humanity seeps empathy in every nook and corner.
Sher Maker pursues the idea of creating architecture using the art of building craft. The philosophy of the boutique studio, located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is rooted in contextual design, low-cost materials, local technology and craftsmanship. STIR has previously featured Sher Maker’s own studio space, the design of which evokes the power of the unexpected in architecture.