A YOUNG ARCHITECTURAL STUDENT AND ARTIST FROM THAILAND WON SECOND PRIZE IN AN INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION FOR THE SAKE OF EFFECTS, NOT THEORIES.
The Shinkenchiku Residential Design competition 1997 was sponsored by the magazine JA and attracted many entries from architectural students and young architects from all over the world. One of the main reasons for this deluge of interest is that Jacques Herzog, a famous architect, was the judge of the competition. The category called “House of Collaboration” specified that an architect design a house for an artist.
In fact, many people were also excited about the project because Herzog is an architect with a real vision about the visual effects of architecture, which goes beyond merely concentration on process, or profound theories and philosophies about how romantic or poetic they are. Moreover, he doesn’t perceive the merit of the architecture from its origins alone. Architectural designs, Herzog says, “must go far beyond their origins.”
This unique emphasis on the physical characteristics of the project may be the primary reason why the design competition was so interesting this year and so hotly contested as well. The jury was obviously very impressed by this Thai project, if you judge by the compliments and suggestions given in the 29th JA magazine.
Nareerat Leelawat – a senior student and major in architecture at Chulalongkorn University collaborated with an artist named Payod Kamhang-gnam, who is now the assistant art director at the Film Factory Company. Nareerat started her work by trying to understand the ideas and philosophy behind Payod’s installations, which he put together for his thesis project. Before Payod graduated, he set up a challenging brain-teaser for architects by using the word “anti-architecture” to describe them. In reality, the installation did look like a piece of architecture, which was enclosed by walls, floors and roofs. Payod also tried to create this continuous and endless shape that is linked together by planes like lines in the air. However, this architectural dimension seemed to almost restrain these imaginings within its rectangular frame. Nareerat was particularly interested in how to link these different planes.
As the aspiring architect said, she is more interested in the phenomena and visual effects of the architecture rather than the process or the ideas, which certainly seems to be in agreement with Herzog’s way of thinking. Likewise, she is not interested in the philosophy behind buildings, but prefers to concentrate on the aesthetics. She refers to the walls surrounding the space as “Fog Walls.” Whenever light reflects off them, the differences between the wall’s translucence and the space’s transparency are made manifest. The architect also set up a circulation space in the space between the “Fog Walls” to create different dimensions and a density of space. The intent is to create a seamless link between the outside and the inside.
If you’ve seen Herzog’s works like Signal Box 4 Aum dem Wolf, the Pfaffenholz Sports Center, or his latest one, the Dominus Winery in the Napa Valley, you can see why he liked this Thai project. Herzog’s work is honing a new “edge” in architecture which strives to form a continuum between inner and outer spaces. Herzog said that the work of Nareerat and Payot is an interesting attempt to make an immaterial idea into something figurative. Although the idea of using a “Glass Wall” is not new, presenting it as a “Fog Wall” is innovative. Herzog thinks this work can respond to the theme of the competition because it clearly shows how the architect lives in the space. It is unfortunate that they did not choose a better way to present the project, however, as it diminished the quality and it sounds like it could have been a prize-winner if they had put more work into the presentation.
In terms of collaborative effort, Nareerat said that although, “this work was inspired by Payod’s works, the result is not necessarily for him only.” that is a remark which tells us a lot about good architecture; it may originate from one source but can be used by different people, and yield different results, that maintain the quality and integrity of the original design.
Originally published in art4d No.39 June, 1998