Saturday, 14 May 2011

Architecture and Practice in Thailand

The Enjoyable Part of Thai Architecture

One of the most enjoyable aspects of building a house in Thailand is designing it. Either you design the house or villa by yourself and just use a professional to draw up blueprints or you use an architectural firm to design your Thai home for you. Either way you will be pouring over the designs making adjustments and imagining the wonderful living space that you will create in the future.

The Gap Between Design and Building

There is unfortunately a huge gap between thought and action, between plan and practice, between architectural design and building. Even the best builders will find it necessary to make adjustments to the design as a building is being made. Moreover, the workers might not be totally up to speed with the exact specifications of the house and make unwitting changes. This is all part of the organic way that many buildings are constructed in Thailand. Indeed, I’ve seen Thai workers build bungalows and guest rooms in Thailand without any blue prints – they just have an idea in their head and they proceed as they see fit. This is both a strength and a weakness of the Thai building workforce. They know how things work in Thailand and are apt to lapse into traditional building styles.

Villa in Koh Phangan

I recently visited a friend in Koh Phangan who has built himself a Thai villa near a popular beach. His experience of building in Thailand was instructive.

Firstly, he underestimated the strength of the winds during rainy season. Like lots of holiday villas, heavy use was made of glass to highlight the view. The only problem with glass is that unless glass doors are exactly made they can rattle in the wind and the glass can crack. The problem was solved by re-hanging the folding glass doors and replacing some glass panels with wood.

Thai Roofs and Hardwood

Another problem was the roof. The owner now understands why Thai roofs are steeply sloped. It is so that the rain can run off quickly and not penetrate into the structure. The villa needed the roof tiles resealed, gutters installed and a waterproof membrane installed between the roof and ceiling to stop leaks. This has been one of the biggest headaches for my friend.

Finally, hardwood is another key issue. Thai workers are often very adept at working with wood – it is a traditional material for Thailand. However, builders cut costs by not sealing and varnishing hardwood thoroughly. When you take possession of your villa in Thailand you will not notice for quite a few months the damage being done to the wood by moisture and insect infestation. Keeping the insects away from all that delicious wood is a real challenge.

Despite all these problems, the villa is now looking great. It has a stunning sea view and offers a peaceful get away from one of Thailand’s best beaches.