Thai Millennials' Approach to Sustainability at the Asia Young Designer Awards

March 26, 2021 Allison Koh

We talk to Ms. Kwanchanok Handu-domlarp (June) and Mr. Phatsakorn Yana You (Almond), who represented Thailand during the 2019 Asia Young Designer Awards, with the theme, Sustainable Design for Sustainable Future. Almond and June’s projects were judged by their economic, cultural, and environmental impact.  Follow along as they walk through their winning designs and share their experience participating in this contest.

All media courtesy of June and Almond unless otherwise stated.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

June: I’m a 23-year-old graduate of Silpakorn University, Faculty of Decorative Arts in Interior Design. I currently work at PIA Interior as an interior designer and I like to hang out in my free time, sketching or jotting down sights I’ve observed. I’ve come up with good ideas during this process and I’m inspired by the relationship between the environment and people. With that, I have the ability to develop and deliver unique creative designs. I started using SketchUp during my second year of university.

June on a traditional Tuk Tuk in Thailand. 

Almond: I’m also 23-years-old, and it’s my fifth year at Chiang Mai University Faculty of Architecture. I was inspired to pursue architecture because I like to experiment, ask questions, and practice the design process. I love the history of architecture because it is very useful to be trained in the logical thinking processes of architectural design with diverse requirements, such as area, context, or material, allowing us to learn more and be more adaptable. It also reminds me to develop myself and improve on my weaknesses. I’ve been using SketchUp since Grade 12, at the time of admission to architecture.

Almond at Pattaya Beach in Thailand.


Almond, tell us about your design and what inspired you to address the flood problem in Ubon Ratchathani Province?

Almond: I began the Ubon Resilience project by researching the areas in ​​Thailand where floods often occur. I analyzed data related to the landscape and the weather of Thailand. In 2019, we had the most severe floods in over 40 years. I found that the main problem of urban development, or urban expansion, comes from a lack of understanding of the ever-changing climate.

Similar to how we design to reduce global warming effects, I wanted the design hypothesis to be how we can sustainably live with persistent flooding. I hoped that this approach would make people realize that we have to learn to live with the negative effects of climate change, as climate improvements will take a lot longer to achieve. 

This space can be transformed into a rescue area in response to flood victims in the village.

This space can be transformed into a rescue area in response to flood victims in the village.

This space can be transformed into a rescue area in response to flood victims in the village.

The use of lights helps people identify and recognize this space as an emergency response area. 

I designed an adaptable waterfront project that incorporates the community’s identity in the design and the structure supports the fluctuating water in each season, to make the most of the space. In order to help inhabitants of the area, the space could be used year-round to generate income, create a change in lifestyle, and preserve culture. This will also give people a more positive outlook for future climate change issues. 

Entrance view of the space, showing lush agriculture ready for harvest. During the planting season, this transforms into a waterfront project.

Entrance view of the space, showing lush agriculture ready for harvest. During the planting season, this transforms into a waterfront project. 

 

Almond’s design advocates the growth of seasonal vegetables, herbs and flowers, to generate income for the community. Agriculture is optimally located in flood-prone areas, thus making the entire structure adaptable to climate changes.

Almond’s design advocates the growth of seasonal vegetables, herbs, and flowers, to generate income for the community. Agriculture is optimally located in flood-prone areas, thus making the entire structure adaptable to climate changes. 

What challenges did you face during the design process?

Almond: The biggest challenge I faced was trying to get the architecture to adapt to natural forces, and being able to accommodate year-round environmental events, like flooding. For that, I collected data about water levels throughout the seasons. I also wanted to make sure this would be culturally suitable and acceptable for the community to transition into. 

For the design, I focused on features of the indigenous architecture and created a contemporary style through materials and colors to adapt to the surrounding. 

Design of the space inspired by vernacular architecture.

Design of the space inspired by vernacular architecture.

 

A two-level structure accommodates a mixed-use space to include a craft zone, which helps generate income and maintain the culture in this village.

A two-level structure accommodates a mixed-use space to include a craft zone, which helps generate income and maintain the culture in this village. 

June, tell us about your design and what inspired you?

I’ve always been interested in the many rice fields in the area so I looked to it for design inspiration. Through my observation, I found temporary structures in the rice fields that were uniquely different in every country. In Thai, we call them ‘Tien-Na’ and that caught my attention.

Tein-Na means a wooden temporary structure located on country rice fields, and this hut serves as a shelter for the farmers during their work and has different shapes for diverse cultures, like in Thailand. 

An image depicting “Tien-Na”, in Northern Thailand, source: taklongtongteaw

An image depicting “Tien-Na”, in Northern Thailand, source: taklongtongteaw

In the past, farmers built this temporary structure for many activities, such as resting, meetings, meals, or even cultural events. Because many activities revolve around this space, it’s the origin of culture and source for many traditional lifestyles. 

My design, ‘The Owners of Thung Thawee' (meaning increasing the field's functions by height), is inspired by the disappearing roots and lifestyles of Thai farmers, such as huts (used as a space for appointments, free time, traditional activities), rice cottage, observatory tower and rice store (symbolizes abundance), as well as the loss of horizontal space due to flood seasons. 

My idea was not only to preserve old, beautiful traditions but also to enhance the quality of life through innovation. 

I developed a central area, or Life Hub, for the people of the field with a height of four floors. This Hub consists of areas for indoor cultivation, meeting, resting, and conservation, and aims to improve the lives and experiences of the people of the fields. 

 

Integrated space for the farmer’s rice field and village, with a façade made by traditional weaving. Awarded the ‘Best Sustainable Design Asia’ in the interior category, for Asia Young Designer Award, comprising 15 countries.

Integrated space for the farmer’s rice field and village, with a façade made by traditional weaving. Awarded the ‘Best Sustainable Design Asia’ in the interior category, for Asia Young Designer Award, comprising 15 countries. 

The interior design creates space for any activities to support cultural and traditional lifestyles. 

The design was partitioned to divide the area to support different generations and activities by using costume fabric colors as an indicator.

The design was partitioned to divide the area to support different generations and activities by using costume fabric colors as an indicator. 

On the second floor, space was created to improve communication between older and younger generations so traditional roots wouldn’t disappear. Innovations from the younger generation and skills from the older generation will bring in more color and innovations to traditional furniture design.

Space was created to bridge generational gaps between the younger and older generations.

Space was created to bridge generational gaps between the younger and older generations. 

The fourth floor works as an observatory tower for the farmers to make important announcements in case of natural disasters. The importance of the observatory tower has become a culture of Thai farmers. This floor is designed to be a symbol of their village, providing tourists with a spectacular view, and aims to encourage the younger generation to appreciate the work of older generations.

 

A spectacular view created on the fourth story pays homage to the contributions of the older generations and celebrates the disappearing roots of Thai farmers.

A spectacular view created on the fourth story pays homage to the contributions of the older generations and celebrates the disappearing roots of Thai farmers.  

‘The Owners of Thung Thawee', awarded the ‘Best Sustainable Design Asia’ in the interior category, for Asia Young Designer Award, comprising 15 countries.

‘The Owners of Thung Thawee', awarded the ‘Best Sustainable Design Asia’ in the interior category, for Asia Young Designer Award, comprising 15 countries. 

 

What challenges did you face during the design process?

June: The main challenge I faced was trying to present my design thoughts through programs and rendering. However, I found it was easy to express my design through 3D modeling using SketchUp because it was easy to learn and design!

What experience did you gain from joining this competition?

June: I’ve gained a lot of experience having participated in this competition. I met many experienced and successful people and made friends from other universities. It was also a huge opportunity to represent myself with my design. This exposure gave me the room to develop myself and opened up the possibility of being able to connect or collaborate with different companies. 

Almond: Me too, I’ve made friends from other universities locally and abroad. I’ve also learned it’s important to train myself to be better when I stumble into problems. The ability to bring my own work to the next level is a win for me. 

Anything else you would like to add on?

Almond:  I am very happy to be a part of the Asia Young Designer Awards (AYDA) 2019. The prize money is huge (laughs)! This is an experience that cannot be found in the classroom. I will tell everyone who has never competed to try out the competition at least once! It’ll get your ideas out of the box and will definitely take you to the next level. If I can turn back time, I would tell myself, “Do not give up. Don't stop improving yourself.”

June: I feel very honored to have been chosen for the AYDA 2019 competition. It meant a lot to me. It’s a good thing that this competition happens yearly and welcomes every student. If I could give myself advice it would be, “New things will keep coming to you. Always be ready for the new experiences to come and good luck! Keep being ambitious and be the best you can be.”

About the Author

Allison Koh

Based in Singapore, Allison enjoys exploring the world of architecture through SketchUppers’ projects. She can be frequently sighted at the dance studio, and one of her life goals includes managing the splits one day.

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