TYIN AND THE ARCHITECTURE OF ACTIVISM; A JOURNEY THROUGH THAILAND
Thank you; to the WYSA for generously funding a trip of a lifetime and to my tutor Derrie Oâ€™Sulivan for his ongoing support.
ACTIVIST PRACTICE An architecture which through intentional creative action seeks to achieve lasting social, economic, environmental or political change. Activism [adj]
FOREWORD My journey began in early 2012 when I stumbled across an article written about the Norwegian architects TYIN Tegnestue. I read about how these two young architects had a purpose - to achieve positive and lasting change through their architecture and whatâ€™s more the results were beautiful. This was an architecture I had never seen before, and I was fascinated. Keen to learn more I eagerly researched their projects and came to understand how they acknowledged and actively addressed some of the pressing challenges facing society, the environment and the profession today. These challenges included climate change, a looming energy crisis, and a huge demographic without access to adequate sanitation, clean water, employment, education and healthcare. Their work also addressed concerns echoed throughout the profession relating to the failings of recent architecture to respect and promote the identity of place as well as the erosion of the architects role. My curiosity for activist practice was sparked and this theme became the basis for my masters dissertation. I strived to analyse the working practices employed by activist architects to understand how they addressed key issues and asses the
feasibility of implementing their approach to projects here in the UK. I attempted to establish the benefits they can bring and also highlight the challenges faced. This research further fuelled my enthusiasm for the work of TYIN and a real belief in their practice methods, however I was frustrated by its limitations. I wanted to understand the projects not just from the perspective of the architects or their critics but from those who influenced, use and live with their architecture. I also wanted to experience this crafted, tactile and humanistic architecture for myself. However the biggest source of dissatisfaction lay in the knowledge that these projects had not been reviewed since completion. Did anyone really know if the architects had succeeded in achieving their long term goals? When I learnt of the West Yorkshire Society of Architects Bedford Scholarship for travel I eagerly applied, hoping to venture from my desk in Huddersfield to Thailand in pursuit of the whole story. I was enormously exited and grateful to win. Within a few months and with a fully loaded backpack I was on my way.
TYIN: Soe Ker Tie House, Noh Bo, Thailand
10 TYIN: Klong Toey Community Lantern, Bangkok, Thailand
12 TYIN: Old Market Library, Bangkok, Thailand
14 TYIN: Safe Haven Bathhouse & Library, Ban Tha Song Yang, Thailand
TYIN SOE KER TIE HOUSES SAFE HAVEN BATHHOUSE SAFE HAVEN LIBRARY KLONG TOEY COMMUNITY LANTERN OLD MARKET LIBRARY
22 24 30 36 42 48
CHIANG MAI BAN THA SONG YANG NOH BO MAE SOT BANGKOK
60 66 95 114 118
20 TYIN: Safe Haven Bathhouse, Ban Tha Song Yang, Thailand
TYIN Tegnestue Architects is the name under which the two young Norwegian architects Andreas Gjertsen and Yashar Hanstad practice. Established in 2008, their headquarters are based in the Norwegian city of Trondheim however only a small portion of their work has been realised there. They have spent much of their time developing both rural and urban projects in Thailand, and have also worked in Uganda and Sumatra
•Implementation of an environmental and service design strategy that minimises dependency on external resources.
(http://www.tyinarchitects.com). DESIGN ETHOS The work of TYIN work focuses on meeting the needs of underdeveloped communities with innovative, low budget, adaptable designs that are fully engaged with the culture and environment of the place. They promote sustainability in the widest sense, encompassing social and economical factors as well as environmental considerations. All of this is achieved without sacrificing the buildings aesthetics. Furthermore in their approach they promote a reconsideration of the role of the architect in the 21st century.
•Providing employment and training opportunities for local people through the construction process. •Realisation of the design through hands on involvement with the construction. In mobilising these multidimensional strategies the architect act as agents of change and undertake a dynamic architectural role, that stretches beyond its traditional boundaries.
The characteristics of TYIN’s working practices include; •Meaningful engagement with the local community throughout the inception, design and construction process. •Use of traditional local materials and construction techniques and promotion of 22
SOE KER TIE HOUSE NOH BO, TAK, THAILAND DATE: 2009 CLIENT: OLE-JORGEN EDNA
In 2008, with funds collected from T-shirt sales and architectural firms in Norway, Gjertsen and Hanstad took a break from their third year in architectural school. They travelled to the remote village of Noh Bo, Thailand, a small village on the Thai-Burmese border to design and build houses for Karen refugee children. A 60 year long conflict in Burma had forced several hundred thousand people to flee from their homes. It had left many children orphaned with little hope for the future. Jorgen Edna from Norway opened the orphanage in Noh Bo in 2006 and was in need of more dormitories. This was one of TYINâ€™s first real-life projects and involved building a cluster of huts for the expanding orphanage. Because of their appearance the buildings were named Soe Ker Tie Houses by the Karen workers; The Butterfly Houses. Rather than design a single dormitory building with an institutional feel TYIN designed six separate units to be shared by groups of up to six children each. The idea was to provide each child with their own private space that they could call home, as well as communal space for interaction and play. ENGAGEMENT The Soe Ker Tie House is a blend of local skills and TYINâ€™s contemporary architectural knowledge, the project was designed and built after a six month long mutual learning process with the locals in Noh Bo.
text, images and drawings adapted from architects website
MATERIALS Drawing from vernacular architecture and traditional bamboo craftsmanship, the architects settled on bamboo for the walls of the houses. The most prominent feature is the bamboo weaving technique, which was used on the side and back facades of the houses. The same technique can be found within the construction of the local houses and crafts. All of the bamboo was harvested within a few kilometres of the site. The timber construction is assembled onsite using bolts ensuring precision and strength. To prevent problems with moisture and rot the sleeping units are raised off the ground on four concrete foundations cast in old tires. Important principles like bracing, material economisation and moisture prevention where introduced and may possibly lead to a more sustainable building tradition for the Karen people in the future. ENVIRONMENT AND SERVICES The specially shaped roof of the Soe Ker Tie Houses promotes natural ventilation within the sleeping units and at the same time rainwater can be collected and stored for the dry season. DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION The structures were completed in just four months. TYIN tegnestue worked with local construction workers from Noh Bo. 25
Path made of local brick
for two units
Yard with BBQ
Elevated water storage
Swing Secluded porch Quiet bench
Stair of old tyres
Chesstable in the shade of a big tree
TYIN tegnestue, Soe Ker Tie House
Site Plan (not to scale)
drawing sitplan scale 1:100 paper A3
The rainwater can easily be collected
The beds layout offers both privacy and social interaction
A swing of bamboo and ropes, for one or many... A simple opening in the facade is great for talking or playing shop Old tyres are used for the foundation
TYIN tegnestue, Soe Ker Tie House drawing section scale 1:50 paper A4 28
Section (not to scale)
SAFE HAVEN BATHHOUSE BAN THA SONG YANG, THAILAND DATE: 2009 CLIENT: BAN THA SONG YANG
The bathhouse was built to meet the most pressing needs of the orphanage. The climate of northern Thailand makes good personal hygiene essential to prevent the spread diseases, especially amongst small children. The existing sanitary facilities at Safe Haven Orphanage were narrow, dark and had concrete flooring that accumulated water and dirt. TYIN wanted to create well functioning and dignified facility for personal hygiene.
cope with large amounts of water during the rainy season. The walls consist of blocks and cool the building during the day. The simple construction of the open bamboo facades provided ample natural ventilation throughout the whole structure. DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION TYIN worked on the sanitary building, together with Karen workers from Noh Bo.
The new sanitary building houses the toilets, personal hygiene facilities and laundry. The most intimate functions are located within the two plastered concrete masses. The central zone contains concrete containers for bathing and opens out towards a vast teak plantation. The bathing area is only partly privatized, adapted to Karen culture. A tilted facade of bamboo covers the front of the building and creates a passageway, connecting the two functions together. MATERIALS The internal concrete structure was already built and became the framework for the project. A tilted facade of bamboo covers the front of the building. Wooden floors where constructed as they are easy to keep clean and dry. Layers of stone and gravel drain the wet rooms. ENVIRONMENT AND SERVICES A huge challenge in this project was the sewage, which has to be dealt with onsite. The drainage system has to be able to 30
text, images and drawings adapted from architects website
Urinals in different heights
Traditional toilets with low maintenance gravel floors
Washbasins Western toilet
TYIN tegnestue , 32
Plan (not to scale)
drawing plan scale 1:100 paper A5
Safe Haven Bathhouse 33
SAFE HAVEN LIBRARY BAN THA SONG YANG, THAILAND DATE: 2009 CLIENT: SAFE HAVEN ORPHANAGE
The library provides the children of the Safe Haven Orphanage with a space to do homework, use a computer, browse the internet and read books. The new building is also an important gathering space and is used for making crafts and playing games A large floor deck provides a comfortable safe space for the children to play on. The bookshelves are housed within a floor to ceiling height structure that runs the full length of the concrete wall. The entrance creates a inhabitable buffer zone between a small computer area on one side and a larger library room on the other. MATERIALS The library was built using local materials, all the money spent on the project was used in the nearby markets. The concrete base of the library is cast on a bed of large rocks gathered on-site. The walls consist of plastered blocks. Iron and wood make the solid frame construction. ENVIRONMENT AND SERVICES The walls consist of blocks which help cool the building during the day. The simple construction of the open bamboo facades provided ample natural ventilation throughout the whole structure. DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION The library was built by students and tutors from a Norwegian university along with local labourers.
text, images and drawings adapted from architects website
Stone from the site is used for the foundations and stairs
Trenches filled with gravel ensure sufficient drainage during the rainy season.
The floor area of the main room is left open Computer area Entrance area
To the kitchen and bathhouse To Tasanees house
Plan (not to scale)
TYIN tegnestue, Safe 39 Haven drawing plan scale 1:50
KLONG TOEY COMMUNITY LANTERN KLONG TOEY LOCK 1-2-3, BANGKOK, THAILAND DATE: 2011 CLIENT: KLONG TOEY COMMUNITY
Klong Toey is currently the largest and oldest area of informal dwellings in Bangkok. More than 140,000 people are estimated to live there, and most are living in sub-standard houses with few or no tenure rights or support from the government. The area has great social challenges, mostly due to the lack of public services like healthcare, affordable education, sanitation and electricity. An extensive drug problem greatly affects the social climate followed by high unemployment rates, violence and crime. The project mainly functions as a football court with a parallel structure that embodies several of the features lacking in the area including new hoops for basketball, a stage for performances or public meetings, walls for climbing and ample seating. Overall it provides a safe sanctuary and play area for the local children and their parents. It is also intended to function as a meeting space that will work as a tool for the community to tackle some of the social issues in the area. This project is part of a long term development on a larger scale, TYIN consider it to be a small contribution that might help lead to positive change.
strength or the general usability of the playground. The project runs in parallel with the changing surroundings and fits with the idea that the project could be part of a larger call for a more sustainable development in the Klong Toey area. ENGAGEMENT TYIN established a connection with both the local community and local professionals. During the design period the project team got involved with the community through interviews, workshops and public meetings as TYIN believe this ensures the project has a greater chance of being socially sustainability. DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION A yearlong preparation period allowed the team to design and build the structure in as little as three weeks. TYIN worked with students and local community to construct the structure.
Space was limited on the site, and it was important to maintain the size of the football field. As a result of these limitations the footprint of the structure measures just 12m x 1.2m with a height just short of 5 meters. The main constructionÂ´s simplicity, repetitive logic and durability enables the local inhabitants to make adaptations that fit with their changing needs without endangering the projects structural 42 text, images and drawings adapted from architects website
Elevation (not to scale)
Sections (not to scale)
OLD MARKET LIBRARY MIN BURI, BANGKOK, THAILAND DATE: 2009 CLIENT: OLD MARKET COMMUNITY
The commercial centre of the Min Buri Market where the project is based had moved across the canal due to a fire in the late nineties. As the years passed by the area declined into an almost slum-like area. The land rights in the area are uncertain and partly because of this the inhabitants are reluctant to invest in improving their home town. For TYIN, this project wasn’t only about the refurbishment of the old Market Library, it was also to strengthen the passion for change in the neighbourhood. The Old Market Library functions as both library and community centre. It is built within in a 100-year-old market building measuring 3×9 metres internally, with a back yard facing a small canal. Because of the height of the ceiling in the main room, there was an opportunity to construct an intimate loft space. The roof and the walls were in very poor condition, and consequently this new element had to be self-supporting. The library is divided into two zones along its length; one side lets you move through the building along the bookshelves, while the other side is for reading and other activities. Beyond the main room is a smaller study space. ENGAGEMENT For this project to be successful TYIN felt it was important to involve the inhabitants actively throughout the whole process, from inception to completion. Initially they mapped the needs within the community by holding regular meetings. These meeting ranged from drawing and building models, to clearing garbage. As part of a survey 48
All text, images and drawings obtained from architects website
they individually interviewed people in the area about their views on the community, its past, present and future. Aside from introducing themselves to the community they wanted a deeper understanding of the situation that they lived in.
the new floor. These materials were bought at the local second hand timber shop. TYIN then used little inexpensive touches to incorporate fun into the materials, such as brightly painting the wooden boxes that serve as bookshelves and display niches.
TYIN learnt that one of the main challenges for the community is the annual flooding during the rainy season. In this period the water can raise to around 50cm above floor level. Retaining the water is challenging and for TYIN the solution was to elevate zones of the library above the maximum flood level. This ensures that the library is usable throughout the flooded period.
ENVIRONMENT AND SERVICES
TYIN found it wasn’t always easy getting everyone involved, especially the adults. However when the project became more tangible this completely changed. They soon had a regular group that worked with them nearly every day. The community began to develop an attachment to the library along with a sense of achievement and pride; this something TYIN feel was a premise for the library to function in the long term.
In the backyard a pergola was constructed to protect against the blazing sun and make the space inhabitable DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION TYIN and workers from the local community built the library. The refurbishment was intended to be a demonstration of what can be achieved by the inhabitants themselves, through their own initiative, using local inexpensive materials and their own knowledge.
MATERIALS In this project TYIN used local and reused materials, which were already available to the community. The bookshelves are made of wooden boxes from an earlier project, while the cladding was assembled using old and decayed wooden pieces found in the immediate surroundings. The internal structure demanded a higher quality timber that could be be trusted to take the loads of 49
TYIN tegnestue, Old Market Library drawing plan scale 1:50 paper A2
Raised reading area Maximum flooding level
Plan and Section (not to scale)
TYIN tegnestue, Old Market Library drawing section scale 1:50 paper A2
54 TYIN: Old Market Library, Bangkok, Thailand
OBJECTIVES After reading about the work of TYIN, Iâ€™m am venturing to Thailand because I wish to see the projects for myself and experience the places, people and culture that influenced them. I want to meet those involved and understand the lessons learned on the way. I intend to establish the real impact that these projects have post occupancy.
ITINERARY I will begin by visiting TYINâ€™s first projects Soe Ker Tie House, Safe Haven Bathhouse and Safe Haven Library located within the remote mountains of the northern Burmese border. I will then travel south to Bangkok to visit their latest projects Klong Koey Community Lantern and Old Market Library. CHANG MAI Chang Mai is considered to be at the cultural heart of Thailand. Its famed for its handicrafts, market shopping and food. It is home to a wealth historical and cultural museums and art galleries. There are around 300 temples, a number of them ancient. It is also in close proximity to many natural treasures. It seems an ideal place to start my journey and get a feel for the history, culture and landscapes of Thailand. BAN THA SONG YANG: SAFE HAVEN BATHHOUSE AND LIBRARY From Chiang Mai I will travel to Ban Tha Song Yang to visit the Safe Haven 56
Bathhouse and Library. I will stay at the orphanage for four days as a volunteer. In spending time there and working with the children and staff who occupy it I hope to gain a real understanding of the impact that the project has had in the long term. NOH BO: SOE KER TIE HOUSE Next I will spend five days at the Soe Ker Tie Houses. Here I will meet Ole-Jorgen Edna, the founder of the orphanage and the client who recruited TYIN. Since these structures where built Ole has established a new orphanage and is about to start work on a youth centre in Mae Sot. It will be interesting to learn if any of the principles introduced by TYIN have been adopted.
BANGKOK: OLD MARKET LIBRARY & KLONG TOEY COMMUNITY LANTERN In Bangkok I will visit Old Market Library and Klong Toey Community Lantern. I hope to meet with CASE studio (Community Architects for Shelter and the Environment) who collaborated with TYIN on these projects and are based in Bangkok.
RECORDING MY EXPERIENCES I will record my experiences throughout the trip using photographs and a diary. I hope that my findings will deepen my understanding of activist practice methods and this will inform my own work in the future.
A - Chiang Mai B - Ban Tha Song Yang C - Noh Bo D - Bangkok 57
58 TYIN: Klong Toey Community Lantern, Bangkok, Thailand
FRIDAY 8TH - SUNDAY 10TH NOVEMBER I spent my first few days in Thailand exploring the city of Chiang Mai. It is a lively and energetic city where life takes place on the street, the traffic is constant and pollution hangs thick in the air. Food is at the heart of life, it is everywhere you turn and its strong aromas fill the streets. The city has a walled, ancient centre which is full of beautiful temples. I spent my first day getting lost wandering from one to the other, admiring their ornate and excessive details. The sense of calm within their walls was incredible despite the hustle and bustle that lies just outside. A DAY OUT IN THE COUNTRY On the second day keen to explore some of the natural treasures that the area is famed for I booked myself on a trekking tour. I was picked up early in the morning by bus which took my tour party and I out of Chinag Mai, up into the hills, through rice fields and into the forest. Our slightly erratic driver seemed keen to make sure we were all awake, regularly swerving across to the other side of the road and up steep verges to avoid the many potholes. It was fun although mildly terrifying and the views where amazing! We spent the day walking through the forest and along the river stopping at the waterfalls and then at an elephant camp. From there we travelled by raft which was captained by a wild Thai man who had clearly had more than weetabix for breakfast. After another short trek in the late afternoon we headed back 60
down into the city. It really was an amazing day! After summoning enough energy to venture in search of a meal it was an early night, the jet lag and travel had caught up with me. ABSORBING SOME CULTURE On the third day, after a good and very long sleep, I visited the Chiang Mai cultural museum before heading out to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the famous temple overlooking the city. It was absolutely stunning, unbelievably elaborate and the view of the city was fantastic. However, despite being miles from anywhere the temple didn’t feel peaceful like those in the city centre. It was packed with tourists, naff souvenir stalls, tour guides and touts. It was so noisy. In the evening I headed to the outer city bus station to sort my tickets for tomorrows trip to Ban Tha Song Yang, a small remote town on the Burmese border. Clearly not many tourist go to Ban Tha Song Yang judging by the look I got when I asked about a ticket. I was directed out of the gleaming new bus station to what was essentially a shack in the car park. The man I met there didn’t speak much English and so despite my best efforts I didn’t manage to establish exactly how I would be getting to Ban Tha Song Yang, how long it would take or how much it would cost. I did know that I need to be at the station for 6:30am and something told me that I wouldnt be travelling on one of the shiny new air conditioned coaches lined up outside. 61
After sort of resolving tomorrows transport I headed back to the old town for the Sunday walking market. All of the roads within the city centre had been closed off and there were hundreds and hundreds of food and craft stalls selling produce from the local villages. The place was absolutely buzzing. I eagerly browsed the stalls and enjoyed a Thai delicacy - pancake wrapped banana with chocolate sauce, before heading back to the hotel to make the most of a good nightâ€™s sleep. Things were set to get a bit more Bear Grylls from now on.
BAN THA SONG YANG
MONDAY 11TH NOVEMBER A VERY LONG JOURNEY Well I wasn’t wrong about the bus, it was very far from new, shiny and air conditioned. It shuddered, lurched and grumbled all the way from Chiang Mai to Mae Sariang where I disembarked 5 and a half hours later on a patch of dirt surrounded by wonky shacks and rice fields. Here I was told to wait for the local bus service which would take me to Ban Tha Song Yang. What turned up was an orange pickup truck with two very wobbly benches and canopy fixed to the back. My bag was hastily slung onto the roof by the driver as I called out my intended destination and we where on our way. It wasn’t long before we were amongst jungle covered mountains and the steep and winding road disintegrated into an uneven dirt track. The driver didn’t seem to notice and his foot remained to the floor with me and my fellow passengers clinging on for dear life in fear of being tossed overboard and trying not to breath for all the dust. The pace slowed every now and again as we passed numerous police check points, manned by very stern armed guards who seemed so out of place on this quiet, picturesque road through the jungle. 3 hours later, with the cobwebs thoroughly blown out we approached Ban Tha Song Yang where the driver pulled over, pointed at me and I presume asked where I wanted dropping off. I had bought what I considered to be a very clear map but 66
I quickly established that Thais really lack map reading skills. I sat in the truck while the other passengers threw it about, turned it upside down and sideways, all the while yelling at each other and then to the driver. It took a long time and between us there was a lot of pointing and miming but eventually with a cheer from all on board we found Safe Haven Orphanage. I was so grateful to finally arrive and most of all in one piece, but it had been great fun. SAFE HAVEN ORPHANAGE Arriving at the orphanage was a real shock! It was much more primitive than I had ever expected and it was filthy! There was rubbish, old toys and clothing lying forgotten in the dirt everywhere. The orphanage consisted of a series of buildings strewn throughout the jungle with dusty earth pathways connecting them. Some were wonky bamboo huts with amazing roofs of woven leaves, others were utilitarian and built in concrete block and steel sheeting. Towards the outskirts there was a stagnant fish pond, a shrivelled vegetable patch and also a charming timber bridge stretching over a dried up river. I was both exited and disappointed when I spotted the two buildings that I had travelled all the way here to learn about, one was in such a bad state of repair and had been modified so extensively that it was barely recognisable, the other was locked up and piled high with boxes, it felt somewhat forgotten. 67
It was clear from the reaction I received that the staff where not expecting me and seemed uninterested in my arrival, barely acknowledging me. There were no other volunteers there, and Simon a manger I had been emailing was away for a few days, as was Tessenee, the English speaking founder. None of the other staff appeared to speak English except a young guy called Nikhom. He gave me a very quick and unenthusiastic tour of the orphanage and was most definitely not up for casual conversation. One of the young girls showed me to the volunteers accommodation which was currently occupied by the orphanages chickens. These where hastily shooed out and I was left to make myself at home. My bed was a wooden board with a mat laid on top, the bathroom had a squat toilet, the shower consisted of a water butt and plastic mug and there where bugs everywhere!! However I was grateful, this was the best accommodation at the orphanage.
to my visit I was expecting. I was relieved when a group of older children arrived home from school. Many knew basic English and came over to say hello and introduce themselves before inviting me to join in their game of handball. AN EVENING OF CONTRAST In the evening we sat outside on the dusty floor, under a flickering light which required a regular whack with a broom. I watched while the children made lanterns out of card and glitter for the upcoming Loi Krathong festival, when from out of the darkness came a four foot speaker and laptop blasting out the most awful Thai pop music from You Tube. The children were ecstatic, immediately dancing, singing along and calling out their requests. I really couldn’t help but laugh.
Once I’d made myself at home I ventured out to meet some of the young children. There were a handful running barefoot around the pond catching frogs. They were so dirty, their clothes smelt bad and many had infected cuts and bites, full of dirt. They really where a sorry sight. Like the staff the children didn’t pay me too much attention. Everyone just went about their daily business around me, and despite my best efforts to communicate with the children and offer my help to the staff, I was getting nowhere. I felt very awkward and thoroughly useless. This was not the start 68
TUESDAY 12TH NOVEMBER SATURDAY 16TH NOVEMBER FINDING MY PLACE Coming to terms with circumstances at the orphanage was difficult, the conditions provided for the children were are so far from what is considered acceptable back home in the UK. I desperately wanted to offer something positive during my short stay but felt frustrated that I was finding it so difficult to interact with the people.
the same precision and craftsmanship of the original structure. The bathhouse was clearly well used but it wasn’t well kept, it was dirty and there was rubbish and clothing scattered everywhere. It also hadn’t been well maintained, cubical doors where hanging off and the stoppers on taps weren’t functioning. The building didn’t have the bright and airy character displayed within the photos I had admired back in the UK, it was dark and dank.
However nothing could deter from the stunning location, I was in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by mountains along the river that defined the boundary between Burma and Thailand. The view in the morning watching the mist rise off the mountain was literally breathtaking! Throughout the morning of the second day my offers to assist the staff with the daily chores and supervision of children too young for school where politely refused. So I took the opportunity to explore the TYIN buildings. SAFE HAVEN BATH HOUSE The bathhouse was in a barely recognisable state, its distinctive slopping bamboo façade had been removed and replaced with a unsightly blockwork wall, half painted green. The timber floor had been replaced with a concrete slab, there was no sign of the tyre urinals and the timber roof frame had been clumsily extended using steel. These new additions didn’t display 72
SAFE HAVEN LIBRARY The library had fared much better than the bathhouse, although I was sad to see that a set of doors had been attached quite crudely to the ground floor structure and locked, and while upstairs remained accessible it was largely used for storage. The staircase book shelving had that originally opened out into the library space had been enclosed by freestanding metal shelving. Timber boards roughly patched the space between the stair treads and the ceiling. Upstairs was now only accessible via the outside of the building. The building was in a much better state of repair than the bathhouse, although I suspect that in part this was down to lack of use. Unlike the bathhouse, the sloping bamboo facade was still in place and appeared to be in good condition. This was sloping inwards and so not as vulnerable to elements. Upstairs some of the bamboo poles forming the balustrade were missing and several of those remaining had split and become dislodged where they had been fixed with nails. In places the balustrade sat low at no more than 500mm. Timber boarding had been retrofitted to close the gap, and as with the modifications downstairs this had been very crudely done. Elsewhere the building appeared to have fared well over the years. It was a delightful and interesting piece of architecture. Although it shared the same materials as some of its many neighbours, both in the village of Ban Tha Song Yang and at the orphanage, its language was very different. Although I got the sense that the building now lay forgotten it had clearly once been much used. Downstairs the shelves where stacked full with books, fading drawings and photographs hung from the floor joists and several computers sat covered in sheets. It was sad to see it closed off 78
and unavailable to the children. Upstairs the small room across the bridge was entirely used for storage and completely inaccessible, a couple of chickens had nestled in and made it their home. The lower eves had also been used for storage and there were several half rolled bedding mats laid out on the floor, but a lack of belongings suggested that these were not in use. ELSEWHERE New buildings had been constructed since the bathhouse and library and I was interested to see if there was any reference to the work carried out by TYIN. Unfortunately there was little evidence of this, mostly these buildings where of rendered blockwork and very utilitarian in their aesthetic. There where however small moments of delight; a carved solid timber door, brightly glazed tiling and patterned brickwork. The boys dormitory block made some reference to the bathhouse and library with a slopping bamboo screen sailing over its rendered, blockwork facade. This created a part shaded play space in front of the dormitory. However this was in a state of decline, many of the bamboo poles were missing and those that remained where dry, brittle and rotting, some hanging loose on their nail fixings. It was clear that exposed sloping bamboo was not well suited to the hot, wet climate and nails where not appropriate for fixing bamboo in this way.
GETTING MY HANDS DIRTY After exploring the I orphanages array of buildings I spotted Nikhom working on a half built toilet block. Determined to make myself useful and get some conversation out of the best English speaker at the orphanage, I offered my help. After yesterdays reluctant engagement I was surprised when he happily accepted my offer. Having no building experience I did my best to warn Nikhom what he was letting himself in for. He patiently showed me how to apply render to the walls and later how to mix mortar and lay bricks. Admittedly I was pretty rubbish but Nikhom didn’t seem to mind too much. We where soon chatting away and I asked Nikhom about life at the orphanage. He told me of how he was cared for here when he was younger and now his role is big brother. He described the orphanage as a big family where everyone takes care of each other, he smiled a lot when talking about this. He explained that he is unable to work legally because he doesn’t have a citizen card and it is dangerous for him to stray too far from the orphanage for fear of being arrested. It is very difficult and expensive to obtain a citizens card and so he sees no way out of his situation. MEMORIES OF TYIN I chatted to Nikhom about his experiences of building at the orphanage and he proudly told me that only a few years ago he had started to help with the many construction projects at the orphanage, now he is in charge of making his own buildings. Nikhom’s very first experience of construction was when TYIN arrived in 2009, he was nearly 16 at the time. At that point accommodation at Safe Haven was minimal, compromising a single, traditional, timber framed dormitory building with 90
a leafed roof (now the TV room) and a freestanding canopy which defined the kitchen (now the staff kitchen). There was a small toilet block but baths where taken in the river. Nikhom told me of how there was a great sense of excitement at the prospect of a new bathhouse and library. Everyone felt very happy. He explained that TYIN where very nice, kind people and they wanted everyone to get involved. The younger children helped collect bamboo and rocks while the older children smashed up the rocks to build the foundations and hammered the bamboo into position. These where Nikhom’s favourite tasks. He told me that he had great fun throughout the whole project and it made him want to do more building. I enquired about the materials and style of building introduced by TYIN, he said that these buildings where very interesting and he preferred them to the concrete and steel buildings that have been built since, stating that they look much better. He explained that steel and concrete are a lot more expensive than timber and bamboo but they are better construction materials and they last much longer. Bamboo has its benefits because it is free but it doesn’t always last a long time. The sloping bamboo façade to the library deteriorated very quickly after it was completed and was totally destroyed after 2 years when the blockwork wall went up to replace it. He told me that he does not get to make decisions about the materials used for a project, they are often chosen by others and given to Safe Haven. I get the impression that they are grateful for anything that they receive and making specific requests is not the done thing. When talking about developing the design for the bathhouse and library Nikhom explained that he didn’t have much to do 91
with it but there weren’t many drawings, TYIN seemed to just think and then build, this is the way he approaches his own projects. He also added that this is generally the method in Thailand, work happens quickly, often without formal drawings. I asked Nikhom why the library remained locked and he explained that is was to protect the books. They are very precious and the young children throw them around too much. EXTRACTING AN OPINION Getting opinions from the children about the bathhouse and library was difficult, everybody said that they liked the bathouse and library but trying to extract any more than that proved impossible. I also asked which buildings they preferred and often the response was that they liked them all the same, only a few said they preferred the bathhouse and library, I couldn’t tease out a reason. My experience of Karen culture was that opinions are not readily shared, and this combined with the language barrier made it difficult for the children to fully express their feelings towards the buildings. Although I didn’t get much in the way of a verbal review, it was good to see the bathhouse being used day in, day out by the boys and it was understandable that the building was suffering a bit as a consequence. However the children seemed to skirt around the library as if it wasn’t there, I didn’t see it in use at all during my stay.
building, I also helped the older children with their English homework, attempted to give English lesson to the under 5s at the on-site school (I hope they didn’t pick up my Hull accent) and assisted with general chores. After only a couple of days I was finding communicating with the staff and children much easier and they seemed more relaxed around me. What really surprised me was just how perceptive the youngest children where and they were far better at improvised communication than the staff and older children. As the time went by, the staff seemed to become more accepting of me and I was invited to attend church services, the local clinic and a sports afternoon at the school. Cabbage and rice became bearable for breakfast as did the 6am starts and I mastered the art of washing my hair with a mug. I also came to realise, that despite first appearances, on the whole the children where well cared for and they seemed happy. The place had a real family feel about it. I was surprised by how quickly things had turned around from that first difficult day. I really didn’t get used to the giant spiders, ants, snakes and crickets though, the kids had great fun chasing me round with these. I have never been so filthy, tired, battered and bruised but I had really enjoyable time and extended my stay by an extra night. I was sad to leave for the second orphanage in Noh Bo.
SETTLING IN I continued to work on the toilet block throughout my stay. I was pleased to see that that my building skills mildly improved under Nickos guidance, and we finished the front wall. As well as assisting with 92
SUNDAY 17TH NOVEMBER KLE THO KLOO I arrived at Blessed Homes Orphanage, which lies an hour’s drive south of Safe Haven in the afternoon. Here I met volunteers Beth and Ed, an English couple who had arrived here a few days earlier along with Ole Jorden Edna, the Norwegian who founded the orphanage. It felt so good to have a proper, free flowing conversation! After a brief chat, Ole and myself headed out to Kle Tho Kloo, a smaller, more recently established orphanage to the south, where Ole hopes to build a small study space. When we arrived the place was quiet as many of the children were out enjoying the weekend or staying with family. It was much smaller than Safe Haven and much more formally organised, with two near identical dormitory buildings sitting opposite an outdoor play space which opened up to views over the mountains. Heading towards the view, the land dropped slightly forming a viewing platform before falling away steeply to farmland below. It was stunning!
key themes; a quiet space to sit alone or in small groups and a place to watch the view and play music in the evening. Then armed with pencils and paper we began to sketch out ideas. I immediately hit difficulties, I had spent the last 5 years communicating using diagrams in plan and section. It was a new challenge trying to explaining ideas in a way that was clear to children that didn’t speak the same language as me. Judging by the blank looks on their faces as I took my turn to present my sketches, I didn’t do a very good job! I was hopeful that the children would be more successful than me. I was very surprised to see that rather than the weird and wonderful almost all of the children had drawn pictures of a traditional Thai Sala, an open sided pavilion with a large overhanging roof used as a meeting space. I had expected a much more imaginative response.
Ole explained that the lower platform was to be the site for the new study and we spent some time walking the site and photographing it, while he explained the brief. Then the few children who were at the orphanage where rounded up. With Ole translating we had a discussion about what the children would like their new building to offer them. There where 94
BLESSED HOMES ORPHANAGE After thanking the children for their help, Ole and I headed back to the Blessed Homes orphanage. On my arrival I took a walk around and was immediately struck by how different it was here in comparison with Safe Haven. It was very clean and well maintained. The facilities provided where comparable to those at Safe Haven however they were much more extensive and the quality was much higher. The eclectic mix of buildings and structures radiated from a central courtyard space in which the children played, it gave the place a real community feel. The children were in a much better state too and desperate to play with anyone who was willing. There were many staff available to tend to them and a team dedicated to general maintenance and construction. There were also a few more creature comforts available, including a real toilet, warm showers and wifi. It was obvious that Blessed Homes benefitted from a great deal more funding than Safe Haven and this had a significant impact on the childrenâ€™s quality of life. After settling into my new home for the next four days I spent the evening having great fun playing with the children. I had my hair braided and decorated with flowers, was drowned in a water fight, lost at ping pong and was repeatedly used as a human climbing frame.
MONDAY 18TH NOVEMBER SOE KER TIE HOUSES Unlike at Safe Haven, all of the children go to school or kindergarten so it was very quite at the orphanage during the day. This gave me the opportunity to explore the Soe Ker Tie Houses. The first thing that struck me was the scale of them, they were much larger than I had anticipated. Their distinctive, panelled faรงades, with their quirky openings where missing. These had been replaced with flat bamboo sheeting and painted in various colours to differentiate each house. Each house had also been extended on the ground floor in adobe, which had been wedged into the slanting, timber frame. However despite these changes, the structures had the same essence of those I had admired in the photographs back in England. The alterations shared the same spirit and where respectful of the original structures. In places the buildings appeared timeworn and shabby although in some instances, I felt this added to their quirky character. The roof had clearly been problematic and some of the houses featured makeshift, crooked gutters, poking out at eccentric angles. The suspended platforms and swings which had hung from the back of the housse had not stood the test of time, their frayed ropes hung limply from the roof structure. The houses where very dark inside, owing to the new faรงade treatment and the fact that the staggered platforms had been removed and replaced by a single mezzanine level, which filled most of the space. However they felt cool and airy. Unlike the lines of uniform bunks at Safe Haven, each house was had been arranged slightly differently. Some of the spaces had been customised with flags, posters, artwork and even wallpaper. There was a sense of permanence and personality. 98
CLIMBING MOUNTAINS Having explored the Soe Ker Tie Houses I was keen to get stuck in and help the staff, who where building a stage in the courtyard space for a party in the coming weeks. My plans where soon quashed when the staff declared that it was too hot to work, and so the remainder of the day was best spent sleeping. Beth, Ed and myself decided we would rather use the opportunity to summit one of the many mountain tops. It had to be cooler up there? What I didn’t consider until far too late, was that Beth and Ed had just arrived here after a 4 week mountain trek in Nepal. This was a Sunday stroll by their standards, it was death by exercise for me! They stormed up chatting all the way, I had sweat streaming off me and couldn’t breathe never mind speak. After two and a half hours of constant upwards scrambling through the jungle we made it to the top, bruised, bitten and scratched. It was one of the most unbelievable things I have ever seen, the best part of the trip so far! We had 360 views of mountain after mountain. On our descent back to the orphanage we took a detour via the river as the sun set, and when we finally got back to the orphanage a banquet was laid out ready and waiting for us. It couldn’t have been a better day! After flinging the kids around for a few hours after tea I was exhausted.
TUESDAY 19TH NOVEMBER WEDNESDAY 20TH NOVEMBER MAKING MYSELF USEFUL Over the course of the next few day I spent time working with Ole on designs for the new study at Kle Tho Kloo. We made sketches, researched ideas online and developed a Sketchup model. I found this a challenge as many of the ‘rules’ of design and construction that I had come to take for granted simply didn’t apply here. Everything was different; the climate, materials, culture, costs, timeframes, attitudes and working practices. Luckily Ole had designed and overseen many of the orphanages’ construction projects, and was on hand to offer guidance and answer my many questions. By the end of my stay Ole and I had designed a study that we where both happy with and felt could be constructed by relatively unskilled workers, quickly and for a modest budget. It will be built early next year by a team of volunteers visiting from Singapore. A CRITICAL REVIEW Working with Ole gave me the opportunity to discuss the Soe Ker Tie Houses. He had worked very closely with TYIN throughout the project and had lived with the structures since their completion. Having read the glowing press back in the UK, and in spite of numerous modifications and the shabby state of the houses, I was surprised by Ole’s critical review of the structures. 110
He explained that the houses didn’t suit all of orphanages inhabitants. While some children loved having their own house, others much preferred sharing a large dormitory as they had done in the past. Additionally, the design approach, which scattered the children thought several buildings, made managing the children difficult, especially the youngest. The layout within the houses also caused problems. The staggered sleeping platforms where too narrow to fit the orphanages existing mattresses. They didn’t offer sufficient space for the younger children to sleep together as they were accustomed to. Furthermore the numerous platforms and insufficient rope balustrades also invited accidents, these where quickly improved. Eventually Ole decided to modify the structures to better suit the orphanages requirements. The ground floor felt cramped and so was extended in adobe. The split level internal arrangement was removed and replaced by a single mezzanine level which he felt was a much more efficient use of the space. The bamboo façades where also stripped and re-covered owing to poor detailing. Ole explained that almost immediately after completion the various panels had begun to disintegrate. Woven bamboo strips where not fixed in place and soon fell apart, the splayed edges of the panels exasperated the problem. The bamboo tubes which formed window panels where unfixed and could easily be pushed out, once one had been dislodged, soon the other pieces tumbled out. Additionally the painted plywood shutters where not suitably treated and soon deteriorated as a result of the rain, heat and humidity. The roof caused numerous problems. The gutter which had been laid at the crease of the distinctive winged roof profile was not sufficiently wide, and so during the wet season the rainwater would spill into the 112
bedrooms. The corrugated metal used for the roof also made the topmost level of the houses unbearably hot during the summer season. Furthermore the drainage put in place by TYIN proved troublesome. Pipes were buried in the ground and covered with gravel with no means of access so maintenance was very difficult.
older children said that they preferred the TYIN houses as they were very different and there were many concrete buildings.
Ole supported that TYIN where trying something new and interesting but overall was unsatisfied with the results. I asked if TYIN were aware of the many problems, Ole said that some of the them had arisen as the project progressed although little was done to adapt the designs. There was often too much emphasis on the aesthetic rather than on practical factors. Ole seemed a little unhappy that TYIN had not been in contact to check on the final product or revisit the orphanage. When asked about what positives where taken from the project, Ole explained that ultimately the children got the new home that they needed and they were happy. The tyre foundations where a good and affordable solution and similar techniques have been used in the construction of other buildings since. Ole felt that smaller dormitory houses would work much better for older children, and this strategy may be employed at a new youth centre that he hopes to set up in Mae Sot. Most of all, lessons were learnt from the mistakes made by TYIN. Buildings that have gone up since have been designed with them in mind. EXTRACTING AN OPINION (PART 2) I discussed the buildings with the children at Blessed Homes, their English was much better than the children’s at Safe Haven and so it was much easier. However, much like at Safe Haven, all of those asked said that they liked the Soe Ker Tie Houses, but many didn’t give preference between them or the blockwork dormitories. Some of the 113
THURSDAY 21ST NOVEMBER ON THE ROAD AGAIN On my last morning at Blessed Homes I woke early to take a long walk along the river and through the village, before I left for the civilisation of the city. Then I was on the pickup truck again for the 3 hour journey south to Mae Sot. This time the orange bus was packed out! At one point there were 18 adults plus 3 kids on board, and the driver was still calling out for more passengers as we passed through the villages. I had one man half sat on my knee, another on my feet and 5 where hanging off the back. It was funny but so uncomfortable! MAE SOT After checking into a small guest house I headed to the market. Mae sot is located at the border crossing point to Burma and so on a major trade route. The market reflected this and was full of all kinds of weird, wonderful and totally disgusting foods. There where Indians, Arabs, Burmese and Thai and Karen tribe people all in traditional dress. It clearly wasnâ€™t a tourist destination and I barely spotted another white person all afternoon. Everybody stared! A lot smiled and said hello, some even came over to ask where I was from. It was really bizarre but incredibly fascinating and I had a great time. Later, feeling thoroughly sick of rice and noodles, I headed to the only western restaurant in town for a burger and fries before heading back to the guesthouse. 114
FRIDAY 22ND NOVEMBER A MORE POSITIVE CLIENT EXPERIENCE In Mae Sot I met with Tessene, founder of Safe Haven Orphanage and client to TYIN to discuss the bathhouse and library. She had much more positive views on the work carried out by TYIN than Ole. She acknowledged the problems with the construction and particularly the bathhouse. However the children were happy and excited by their new buildings and the architects intentions had been good, this was more important to her.
It was the eldest children who benefited most from new skills. Unfortunately our meeting was brief as Tessene had many children requiring her attention. I headed to the station to catch my bus which would take me on the 8 hour journey to Bangkok.
I asked Tessene about the input that she had during the design stage. She told me that at the very beginning she led the conversation and advised TYIN of what she felt the orphanage would benefit from most. Very quickly they came back to her with a number of drawings and she simply picked her preferred design and they got on with it. Tessene helped where she could and offered advice through the construction process. She explained that TYIN didnâ€™t really understand bamboo and that was the downfall of the bathhouse. She told me that when cut at the right time and treat in the right way it can last up to 6 years, the facade to the bathhouse barely lasted 6 months. The staff at the orphanage where involved with the construction work however she was unsure if they had learnt any new skills, informing me that many already had construction experience and where potentially more knowledgeable than TYIN. 116
SATURDAY 23RD NOVEMBER BANGKOK Bangkok was awful! The traffic is unbelievable, the noise is deafening, crossing the road is a game of chicken and the mopped riders and the food carts use the pavement, forcing pedestrians out of the way. Everywhere is unbearably busy. The public transport in the old city is limited, I had a row with nearly every taxi driver for attempting to massively overcharge me. It smells of sewers and exhaust fumes. There is a charge for everything and prices are three to four times more expensive than the rest of Thailand. But despite this I still had a great time exploring the city. During my first day I took a very long walk along the river and through the old town before taking a long boat cruise along the canals. Some of the houses fronting the canal where grand and spread over several stories, others were tiny lopsided huts half falling into the water, itâ€™s was unbelievable that people were living in them. In the evening I headed to Chinatown to sample some of its street food. I came across a stall cooking seafood over charcoal filled buckets. There were long plastic table with tiny plastic stools lining the road and the traffic was literally brushing past. It was heaving so I thought it was worth seeing what the fuss was all about. I sampled the prawns and the squid, they where delicious and amongst some of the best food I sampled on my trip. 118
SUNDAY 24TH NOVEMBERTUESDAY 26TH NOVEMBER KHLONG TOEY COMMUNITY LANTERN I headed out to Khlong Toey, a slum to the eastern edge of the city to visit the Klong Toey Community Lantern project. I was intending to meet with the Bangkok based architects who worked with TYIN on this project as well as community groups within the area. Unfortunately in spite of my best efforts I had been let down at the last minute or had simply not received a response, so I was left to venture on my own. I have to admit that I was a little nervous about wandering into the slum but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. It seemed well developed, the main road was well kept and there was a sense of pride and permanence to the place. There were shops, restaurants, schools and health centres. However conditions declined rapidly down the dark and narrow side streets. After hours of walking and searching, under the very vague guidance I had recived from a photographer who had visited the project, I eventually stumbled across the Community Lantern in a side street just off the main road. Unfortunately by that point the light was fading fast and so I decided to head back to the city and return the following day. Upon my return I was dissapointed to see that the project was in a real mess and barely recognisable. It had been stripped of its timber, railings and wiring in places. None of its upper platforms remained. This was despite the fact that the structure appeared to be more robust than the others that I had visited so far. The drainage holes appeared not to function well resulting in stagnant pools of vile water. There was dog crap everywhere and it really stank. It was thoroughly unloved. 120
In its current state I’m not convinced that the community made any use of the project. I certainly didn’t see anyone during my visits there. A handful of people stopped as they went about their daily business to see what I was up to, but nobody appeared to speak English or was willing to chat. I was hopeful when a group of children spotted me and came over to say hello. They were keen to pose for photos but unfortunately didn’t understand a word I was saying. I was very disappointed and felt angry about what had become of a children’s play space. I was also frustrated that I had been unable to get in contact with anyone who might be able to enlighten me as to why the project had ended up in this state. OLD MARKET LIBRARY There was greater frustration to come the next day when despite my best efforts I was unable to find the Old Market Library project in Min Buri. As with the Community Lantern, I had been unsuccessful in firming up meetings with anyone involved and even TYIN themselves offered me little help. Min Buri was large and connected by a web of canals that all appeared so very similar. I took photographs of the project with me in the hope that someone would recognise it and point me in the right direction. To no avail I reluctantly gave up the search, my time in Bangkok was up.
My time in Thailand was unforgettable. I enjoyed so many new experiences, met some amazing people and learnt a lot about the work of TYIN. At times I was surprised and disappointed by the realities of these projects, however I realise that I was naive to expect the photoshopped images and seemingly happily ever after stories printed in the glossy magazines to reflect the whole story. DESIGN ENDURANCE It was sad to see that many of the buildings I visited hadn’t stood the test of time and were in a poor state of repair. This was in part due to design flaws, which were largely attributed to a lack of understanding of the materials, appropriate fixing techniques and the effects of the climate. TYIN had strived to promote the use of traditional, low cost and readily available materials, dispelling some of the stigmas related to their use. Unfortunately the faults somewhat dispel the power of their message. Where the buildings users had made modifications, they did not display the same level of craftsmanship demonstrated by TYIN. This is despite the purposeful legibility of the design, which was intended to promote reproduction. In the case of Safe Haven Bathhouse, much of the damage to the building was due to heavy use and lack of general maintenance. Poor design also had a significant impact on the appearance; its distinctive elements had been removed or 126
poorly adapted to rectify problems. The Safe Haven Library had fared well and retained its quality and charm, however it was closed off and inaccessible to its principal users, the children. Lack of use is likely to have contributed somewhat to the buildings good condition. The Soe Ker Tie houses had suffered as a result of numerous design flaws. Modifications had been made to to rectify them; in places this had compromised the aesthetic. The structures had also been extensively adjusted to better suit the orphanages needs, however the framed design allowed these modifications to be made with relative ease. As with the Safe Haven Bathhouse, it was great to see that the buildings where in regular use and been enjoyed by the children. At Klong Toey community lantern the damage to the projects was clearly deliberate, the principle structure remained, but the secondary elements, which made it functional, had been stripped. This demonstrated that these structures were not held in high value. I doubt that the problems lay within the construction; I suspect a more robust design would not have prevented the vandalism. DEVELOPMENT OF THE ARCHITECTURAL LANGUAGE New buildings had been constructed at Safe Haven Orphanage since the completion of the bathhouse and library, I was disappointed to find that there was
little reference to this new architecture in the buildings that had sprung up. They were very sober and utilitarian, although more robust than TYIN’s creations. Blessed Homes orphanage had also developed significantly since the construction of Soe Ker Tie Houses and consisted of a colourful, creative and eclectic array of buildings. Ole felt that these had developed independently from the Soe Ker Tie Houses. However I can’t help but feel that they had some influence on the architectural language of the orphanage. USER AND CLIENT PERSPECTIVES It was much more difficult than I ever imagined it would be to gain a real opinion about the buildings completed by TYIN from their users. This was due to a combination of language barriers and simple courteousness engrained within the culture. The most in depth user reviews were given by Ole at Blessed Homes Orphanage and Tasanee at Safe Haven Orphanage, both clients of TYIN. Their reviews and experiences of working with TYIN were very contrasting, with Tasanee feeling much happier with the results. I feel that this was largely down to the two clients coming from different backgrounds with very different attitudes and expectations. For Tasanee the good intentions of TYIN and a willingness to help were more important than the final
product. Ole placed much more emphasis on the quality of the building and expected more from TYIN’s architecture. He had also expected the architects to be more willing to address the flaws in their architecture and learn from them, he was frustrated by the limitations of their services. BARRIERS From my own experiences I can understand the difficulties experienced by TYIN in overcoming language barriers and cultural differences in such a short period of time, in a place so different from home. I can appreciate that it takes time to develop knowledge and an understanding of the people, their lifestyle, the climate, construction materials and working practices. TYIN’s work is characterised by their quick and intuitive designs. However I think that this approach has limited their response to place and the brief. I feel that the resulting architecture would have benefitted had the architects spent more time developing a relationship with the places in which they work. However, it must be said that despite initial difficulties I was surprised at how quickly relationships developed at the two orphanages once I got stuck in. Getting your hands dirty can really help dispel barriers, I can appreciate why TYIN place so much emphasis on their hands on approach to design and construction. TYIN promote a collaborative approach to 127
design that relies heavily on an ability to communicate ideas to everyone involved in the project. At Kle Tho Kloo I learnt just how difficult it could be to have an effective dialogue with non-architects, never mind non-architects that didn’t speak the same language. Drawings are clearly a powerful tool in overcoming communication barriers but there is a skill to producing sketches that are legible to all, this is clearly an essential element of collaborative design.
the work of TYIN so valuable. Their projects have undoubtedly had a positive impact. Nonetheless I feel that with further consideration and development of the processes involved, the impact of these projects could be much more powerful to the people who really matter, the end users.
TYIN’s intention was to demonstrate the value of local, natural and affordable materials. It was anticipated that this would influence the clients choice of construction materials in the future. However I learnt that the clients had little control over the materials chosen as they were often gifted. This barrier is difficult to overcome and really limits the effectiveness of TYIN’s approach. LASTING IMPACT One of the most satisfying aspects of my trip was watching the children use the buildings delivered by TYIN and seeing that they provided a place to sleep, wash, shelter or simply have fun. It was great to learn of the significant impact that the Safe Haven projects had on Nichom, he learnt valuable skills and through that he gained a sense of purpose at the orphanage that has enabled him to remain with his adopted family. Although there are clearly flaws in the process, it is these aspects that make 128