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Walled Monks’ Cell by Walllasia, Chonburi Province, Thailand

Emerging Architecture Awards 2010: Highly Commended

It took some time for the awards jury to reach consensus on the inclusion of this project, principally due to the relative simplicity of the grey rendered wall that featured so prominently on the submitted design panels. In this instance, however, it was what lay beyond the wall that really mattered. Following closer scrutiny, it was the architect’s response to site, skilful planning, manipulation of basic forms and creative reuse of materials that finally won the jury’s support.

Situated on a prominent corner site in Watkhaobuddhakodom, a small village in the Thai province of Chonburi, this 130m2 two-storey building upgrades the monks’ previous provision of two bedrooms and a WC to include six bedrooms and two bathrooms. Bringing improved privacy to the monks’ new quarters, the wall is built hard up against the street edge, leaving just enough space for a verge for climbing plants that will eventually provide a lush green wrapping. Inside, the concrete forms a solid stepped plinth on which sits a two-storey pavilion expressed in concrete, steel and the reused timber walls of the old buildings. It is these that rise up above the precinct’s rampart-like wall, providing a flash of red and supported where required on expressed beams that are propped off the concrete walls. With four bedrooms and a bathroom on the upper floor, and two bedrooms and a bathroom on the ground, each level is characterised by its specific relationship to the perimeter wall, with two very different private courtyards occupying interstitial space - one hunkering down at street level within the relative mass of the concrete ‘cave’, the other with a lighter feel, sheltering beneath its timber and tin roof.

Bringing unity and identity to the monks’ re-configured home, there is much more to this grey wall than initially meets the eye, setting up a number of highly sophisticated spatial relationships, providing storage and space for water tanks, and negotiating a tricky and steeply inclined hairpin site. The architect’s illustrations predict that it will take three years for the plants to fully envelope the wall.

Architect Walllasia, Bangkok, Thailand
Project team Suriya Umpansiriratana, Anan Yuenprakon, Natapon Nimlamai, Pirak Anurakyawachon, Panicha Bhusarakumtrakul, Adam Mackenzie Smith, Amawasse Ampansirirat
Structural engineer Tanya Ongsiriporn

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