The first self-sustaining cultural centre and live museum in Phuket is expected to be complete and welcoming visitors by early 2012.
The award-winning Urak Lawoi Cultural Centre dedicated to preserving the island’s sea gypsy traditions is nearing completion and set to open in January 2012.
The energy efficient design by Able Architectswas inspired by the hand-made fish-traps still used today by the Urak Lawoi tribe of sea gypsies, who have inhabited coastal areas of Phuket and surrounding islands for millennium. However, until the plan to build the cultural centre came about, the sea gypsy community was in danger of losing its identity, culture and traditional practices.
Commissioned by the Phuket Department of Public Works and Planning, Able architects was charged with designing a sustainable development that would offer the community a meeting place to continue traditional ceremonies and provide a place to earn an income by selling handicrafts to visitors.
Once the design was complete, construction was made possible with a grant of THB 20 million in government funding.
The sustainable design concept of the cultural centre won Able Architects the BCI Asia Green Leadership Award for 2011.
The centre was designed to be a contemporary, self-sustaining structure which had minimal impact on the environment by combining natural and high-tech man made construction materials.
The curved roof is a wood and hemp framework partially covered with flexible photovoltic strips of Microcrystalline film, which provide power in the form of renewable energy from the plentiful sun.
There are also many design features which make the most of natural light, shade and ventilation, allowing the building to remain cool without the need for air conditioning.
The total area of the cultural center covers 2.5 rai (4,000 sqm), including a lake and car park. The centre’s two main buildings; an exhibition area and an activities building, cover a total of 350 sqm.
The exhibition area and activities building will become a living museum, where villagers can make and sell traditional handicrafts, providing them with an income and they’ll also have a place to meet as a community, where they can perform traditional rituals, such as annual spirit boat festivities and weddings.