WORD ON PHUKET ARCHITECTURE: The eco-friendly ‘fish trap’ design of a contemporary cultural centre for a Phuket sea gypsie community has won its architects this year’s BCI Asia Green Leadership award.
Phuket-based architectural firm Able Architects’ winning energy-efficient design for the Orang Laut Cultural Center earned the team first place in the BCI Green Design Award’s Institutional category.
Inspired by the hand-made fish traps woven by the Phuket sea gypsie villagers, a wide range of traditional and modern energy-saving elements have been included in the cultural center design.
With the aim of producing a contemporary, self-sustaining structure with minimal environmental impact, the team at Able Architects conceived a combination of natural and high-tech construction materials for the Phuket Orang Laut Cultural Center.
The entire structure rests above the ground, allowing air to flow beneath to keep the base of the structure from heating up. Hot air is channeled up through the roofs to escape at the top, allowing fresh air to naturally flow in at the base and negating any need for artificial cooling.
Measuring just six meters tall the cultural center fits snugly in its lush surroundings and is shaded by nearby trees. Part of the center stands over a pond; another existing natural cooling element incorporated into the design.
Natural architectural elements include the use of hemp materials to create the fishnet roof pattern and bamboo poles to make the walls.
High-tech elements of the architecture include transparent high solar protection polycarbonate tiles, which make up the durable skins of the buildings. The tiles provide natural lighting while filtering the sun’s rays. Metallic particles in the tiles partially reflect strong sunlight and trap heat energy.
Flexible photovoltic strips called Microcrystalline film is incorportaed into the roof design to supply the center with renewable energy.
Named after the largest of Phuket’s three sea gypsie tribes, the Orang Laut Cultural Center covers 2.5 rai (4,000 sqm). The center’s two main buildings; an exhibition area and an activities building, cover 350 sqm in total.
The center’s two buildings – an 182-sqm exhibition area and an 144-sqm activities building – will provide income for the villagers and will serve as a place to prepare for and carry out traditional sea gypsie rituals and ceremonies, such as annual spirit boat festivities.
Visitors to the center will be able to observe the sea gypsie villagers making traditional handicrafts in the exhibition building, where they will also be able to buy the hand-made souvenirs and relax in a library and reception area.
Commissioned by the Phuket Department of Public Works and Planning, the Orang Laut Cultural Center is the first such facility aimed at preserving the region’s prehistoric sea gypsie culture and helping provide them with a sustainable source of income since their villages were destroyed in the 2004 Asian tsunami.
BCI Green Award judges presented the Green Leadership award to the Able Architects team in Bangkok on May 25th, recognizing the company’s “innovative and environmentally responsible architecture’.
Able Architects’s Managing Director Pakhin Aunggulsant has long been an advocate of energy-efficient designs with a vision of developing Phuket as a hub of architectural innovation and sustainable development.
Upon receiving the BCI Green Leadership award, Mr Pakhin said it would not have been possible without the involvement and commitment of the Orang Laut community members.
Able Architect team member Torsak Jaichuen said he was proud to be a part of the the community project and was thankful to the sea gypsie villagers for the knowledge and wisdom they had imparted to him.
With Bt10 million (US$320,407) in local government funding already approved for development of the center, the public works department is seeking another another Bt10 million baht in order to go ahead with construction of the center, which is expected to be complete by late 2011.
“This award is for everyone involved in the project, especially the members of the Orang Laut community who have wholeheartedly embraced the concept of the project,” said Mr Pakhin.
Able Architects Co., Ltd. is an architectural firm based in Phuket, Thailand, and part of the AEP group of companies. Comprising specialist architects, strutural and electrical engineers, Able Architects is one of the region’s leading specialists in sustainable development and eco-friendly building practices.
Able Architects Co., Ltd. 38/5 Moo 5, Bang Yai Road, Vichit, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand. Tel: +66 (0)76-248135. www.ablearchitects.com