Ecological views implemented in the project

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Theoretical background

The theoretical background consists of five parts: general background, architectural background, classification of the representative resident, general ecological views and ecological views implemented in the project.

General background

Thailand, or what is known to many as Siam, is a very complex yet simple country in many aspects. It might sound paradoxical and yet this is exactly the core of the nation. Where on one hand the people are extremely proud of their colonial free history and at the same time adapt any traditions of their liking no matter what their heritage might be, celebrating New Years at least three times of the year e.g. The city of Bangkok is one of the largest and most polluted in the world, yet in the countryside the rice paddocks and pineapple farms can reach as far as the eyes can see. And no matter if you live in the slums and the walls around you are deteriorating, the TV-antenna or satellite dish will be ever present, more often than not covering half the façade, working as a reminder that you can never be too poor for a TV. When looking at the building techniques of the Thais it is very important to bring along a little bit of this knowledge to get a better understanding to what otherwise is quite puzzling to the Western set of mind.
When it comes to Thai architecture there is an incredible amount of thought put into details, but at the same time it does not matter if the walls are crooked, if there is a large hole in the ceiling or if your air-conditioning apparatus covers half of the window. In Thailand function follows form follows function, meaning if it does not work out the way it was originally planned creativity will find a way around it.


The population of Thailand is increasing drastically every year. With numbers over 62 million people at the moment and a predicted population of over 75 million in 2050 [17], the problems of migration to the cities is becoming apparent. Bangkok with all its suburbs is covering more and more land and huge mubahns and skyscrapers are popping up everywhere. Quite often these building projects run out of funding and whole ghost communities can be found all over the larger cities of Thailand, especially in Bangkok. Even if entire families are forced to share a tiny room in the slums, an enormous building can stay abandoned for years right next-door. Contrasts such as these are very common in Thailand and the planning technique used is very often only short term especially in the building industry.


Religion plays a very large part in the life of the Thais with Buddhism being the main religion. According to statistics from 1991, 95% of the population is Buddhist followed by 3.8% Muslims, 0.5% Christians, 0.1 % Hindu and 0.6 % belonging to other religious groups. Further into the report the effects of religion in the building industry will be discussed. [17]
Thailand is located just north of the equator (17°-20°N) and has a tropical monsoon climate with three seasons; the wet, the cooler and the hot season. The periods depend on the monsoons making the winds blow from the south four months a year and from the north eight months. The rainy season starts normally in May and ends in October and it rains a few hours every day. Longer rainfalls are unusual. The temperature in the low level districts is about 30-35 °C in the day and some degrees colder during night time. Sometimes, in August and September, typhoons occur with heavy winds, rainfall, thunder and lightning that can continue for about three to four days. During the cooler season, which starts in November and finishes in February, the humid and damp winds from the Indian Ocean are swept away by dry northern winds from Central Asia. The sun however, is still shining strongly and the temperature reaches 30°C in the South, but in the North the temperature can fall down to 10°C after sunset. Rain occurs very sparsely. In December, the green vegetation starts to turn brown and drop their leaves to prepare for the approaching hot season. This warm time of year is short, from the middle of March until late May. The sun rises higher and higher and the temperature can reach 40 °C in the afternoon. The warmth and the increasing humidity make longer trips and physical activity straining. [18, 30 & 32]

Architectural background

The Thai society has deep roots in the agricultural field and the people have for centuries been separated into owners and labourers. The defining moment of the abolition of slavery occurred as late as in the turning of the century from 1800 to 1900 but the old way of thinking still remains. The agricultural lifestyle of the majority of the people has produced a type of house which still fills the purpose of bringing the family together in a secure environment. In the report this type of house will be referred to as the traditional Thai house. In Thailand there are several different types of houses depending on where in the country they are situated. The houses in this report relates to the houses of the Central region mainly because this is the area where Pattaya is situated.
The traditional Thai house did not however fulfil the needs of the many foreigners who during the late 19th century immigrated to the kingdom. The great immigration of an upper class from the West brought a new way of constructing buildings for a different lifestyle, so far only exercised by the noblemen and the king. The new houses reinvented the skyline and exposed the Thai population to a wealth usually hidden behind high gates. In other parts of the world these houses are referred to as colonial style, but as Thailand was never under the control of another nation it is very important not to use this expression which conveys the association above. This type of house will therefore be called the Western influenced house in this report.

The traditional Thai house (the ruen Thai derm)

In the Thai culture, family is at the core of all values and this is also reflected in their architecture. The traditional Thai house is built and arranged around the family structure. The heart of the building is the parents’ bedroom around which the other rooms branch off. The houses are arranged in a modular fashion with each room separated from the others but still connected through open roofed passage ways. The system allows easy modifications of the buildings as the family is growing. Since all walls are prefabricated it is easy to build and move the houses in case of an unforeseen event.
The modules are arranged around a square forming a natural centre where a tree or a small pond is the focal point. From every room the entrance is facing the veranda and this platform creates easy access from one room to the other. Each module is designed as a separate building with a large roof overhang to protect residents from sun, heat and rain. As the roof overhang of one building is connected to the next, a sheltered walkway is formed.
A Thai house is very easily distinguished simply by looking at the roof. The saddle roof has an unusual height compared to other countries and the roof overhang ends with fine wooden carvings. The carvings have two common workmanships. The first one is the Naga style which is a reminder of the seven headed snake Naga who was a protector of Buddha and therefore also functions as a guardian for the inhabitants of the house. The second style is called the Fish tail style and the carving simply has the shape of a fish tail or fin. The slope of the roofs can reach very high figures and the choice of roof covering must follow in order to prevent leaking. The roof ridge is commonly decorated with a finial at the gable walls.
Thai houses are built so that all walls lean in towards the centre of the building making the floor area larger than the ceiling area. This construction has several advantages such as increased stability, more easily made attachments of the prefabricated walls, increased air circulation in the building and giving a lighter and more graceful appearance to the building. Further information can be found on §4.1 Building technology.
Because of the climate in the South East Asian region, windows and doors are arranged in a very different way from the Scandinavian standards. The windows are positioned in the direction of the wind and with minimal area facing the sun. This results in the traditional Thai houses being quite dark and the new generation Thais consider them too gloomy for their taste. During the day the windows are covered with wooden shutters in order for air to circulate while the heat stays outdoors. Another reason for these shutters is to keep the mosquitoes and other insects from getting into the living area.
To reach the living area, a staircase, usually with two branches, is mounted on one side of the building reaching a locked gate. Depending on the size and structure of the building more staircases and gates can be added. The staircases can have many different designs as long as the number of steps is kept at an uneven number or it brings bad luck to the household.
To be protected from monsoon rain and reoccurring floods, the Thais build their houses on high posts. That way they can also take advantage of the wind circulation to cool and air them from beneath. In the rural areas they use the space underneath the houses to keep the animals and machinery. But where it is more populated the outdoor room is scarcely used and leave the substructure exposed for passers-by to admire the architectural details. [2]

European influences in early 20th century Thai architecture

Due to a mishap in late 17th century involving a foreign high official allowing French troops in the country, the king of Thailand banned foreign involvement in the country for 150 years. In 1851 the new king in power regained diplomatic relations with the West to avoid his country to become colonized. [3] This allowed new influences and ideas to cross the Thai borders and brought new aspects to the Thai architecture. Among these effects we can see buildings which display a blend of Baroque, Rococo, Renaissance and Art Nouveau. These styles grew in popularity as a consequence of a foreign-educated aristocracy arising in Thailand. These new designs required innovative materials such as bricks, concrete and plaster which until then had been sparsely used in residential buildings in the kingdom. These materials have however always been commonly used in temple buildings, large Buddha statues etc.
The houses that then were built are recognized by their grandiose chateau like appearance in large gardens. Everything seems to be built to impress the visitors, whether looking at the interior or exterior, the eye for detail is always apparent. When entering the large gates one is greeted by the pompous driveway with heavy foliage on both sides. A few large welcoming steps lead up to the entrance through which one is lead into a large hall.
The inhabitants of these houses were in the country for business and had a lifestyle surrounding representation through dinners and other leisure. This building is therefore organized in a much more segregated way with dining halls, specific tea rooms, library, and smoking rooms etc. in the representation part and bedrooms in a separate part of the building. The cooking and cleaning facilities were placed further away with a separate entrance for the servants and deliveries. [4]

The Jim Thompson house

On a small backstreet in the middle of Bangkok lies a wooden house created by a person who has made deep impact in Thai history. Jim Thompson was an American architect who during World War II had been scheduled to serve in Southeast Asia. Thankfully the war ended before he had to do any operations but his fascination of the Thai people and culture made him choose a life in Thailand over going back home. Primarily he worked as a restorer at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, but later he focused on the newly gained interest in the Thai silk handicraft. Due to the introduction of the inexpensive machine-made textiles this was about to become an extinct art. After a successful promotional trip to New York, Jim Thompson and a group of shareholders founded the Thai Silk Company, Ltd. in the mid 1950’s. Through this lucrative business he managed to save the Thai silk industry and obtain the sufficient amount of funding for his later building project.
During his years in Thailand, Thompson expanded his architectural curiosity by travelling through the countryside and taking in the building techniques of the agricultural villages. This combined with his American heritage and influences from his other travels, resulted in the building of his diverse residence in Bangkok. He joined together three separate houses found in the Ayutthaya area and where they were intersected he added extra material to make the constructions into one building. The shape of the house is at first sight traditionally Thai but after a second glance one can see the changes Thompson has made in both the exterior and interior designs. He wanted a home in Siamese style but with the western facilities he was used to. This included indoor bathroom, closets, narrow corridors and western furniture. East meets West in Jim Thompson’s house. [5]
A few parts of the building are worth taking a closer look at. Primarily, the staircase is located indoors in an impressive entrance hall with imported Italian floor tiles whereas the Thai entrances are always on the outside of the complex.
Secondly, since the house consists of several buildings put together, each part has its unique set of windows with different shapes and forms. Furthermore, Thompson turned the curved wooden panels inside out in order for him and his guests to admire the floral patterns. In the living room the windows have been turned into niches for him to display part of his statue collection.
Thirdly, where the roofs of two of the houses are joined together, Thompson had special gutters designed for drainage. This might be overlooked by the average visitor but is in fact a very creative solution to what could become a major problem.
Teak wood has been the most frequent building material in Thai houses, due to its durability, its repelling effect on parasites and Thailand’s vast supply of the wood. In the late 19th century the British, French and Danish were allowed to start logging the forests in an attempt from the government to avoid colonization. These nations took advantage of the concessions to such a degree that the Royal Thai Forestry Department was initiated in 1896. Nowadays the forests are still trying to recover from the damage and several teak plantations have started in order to supply the furniture and building industries with the precious wood. Teak wood grows very high and straight, around 20 meters before the branches. This meaning that the wood can be bought without the knots which are all timbers’ weak links. The inevitable increase in price for teak has made it impossible for the average citizen to use this material and the teak building has now become a sign of high status.The hard felling of the Thai teak forests increased the market of imported timber and made room for foreign wood as maple from Canada, elm from China and pine from Sweden and New Zeeland. [6]
As roof covering, terracotta tiles and thatched roofs are most common. The terracotta tiles can be glazed or non-glazed and of different colours, red being the most frequent. The thatched roofs are made of grass or dried palm leaves sewn together.
In both the traditional Thai houses and the Western influenced houses, the wooden details by the doors and windows are very important. The intricate designs, made of local woods, are as much for ventilation as it is for decoration. In the Thai houses they are kept in their original form but the European houses usually add some colour to further bring out the patterns. The doors in Thai houses have high thresholds for two reasons, firstly to avoid small children crawling out of the rooms and secondly to keep the bad spirits of the house from entering the sleeping areas as they are commonly thought to only travel through the floorboards. The use of stained window glass was also introduced during this era. These features were mostly used above the windows and doors where the gaps otherwise left room for ventilation. The use of fans decreased the need for self ventilation even though this was the still the most common way to air the buildings. [38]
As mentioned above the Western influenced houses introduced new materials to the residential buildings in Thailand. Up until this point the use of Teak wood had kept the houses at one storey, but the stability of the concrete introduced new heights to the secular buildings. The houses were placed directly on the ground and sometimes even with cellars, a new phenomenon in these parts of the world, and contained up to three floors. Instead of spreading out over ground the new houses acquired the same amount of area through height. The surfaces for both floors and walls were, up until the Europeans arrival in Thailand, solitarily wooden boards. The newcomers brought in stone tiles and mosaics for the floors and painted and sometimes even wallpapered walls. Even though the Thai houses had wooden boards in different patterns as their interior wall decorations, they did not provide the lightness in the rooms that the Europeans were used to. [4]

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“Modular design is a coordinated system that makes use of standardized material units without waste.” [7]
An old traditional Thai house compound consists of buildings assembled by light wooden prefabricated elements which are designed for the ability of a sudden and rapid need for alteration. Historically it could be necessary to move a house if the site had been damaged, for example during a flood and this building system simplified the process. It could also be necessary to simply add extra modules due to an increase in the number of family members. The prefabricated elements are lightweight and because of the slanting walls, hard nails are not needed to join the building. This makes the puzzle-like construction easy to change, add, remove and dismantle whenever required. The prefabricated units are of standardized dimensions which indicate a short construction time and an economical use of material.[2]
The modular system has been used in most parts of the world throughout history. The preferences of a quick assembly of the construction are illustrated in the following quote made in an advertisement for housing for English immigrants to Australia in 1827. “…a comfortable dwelling that can be erected in a few hours after landing, with windows, glazed doors, and locks, bolts and the whole painted in a good and secure manner.” [7]

Religion and beliefs

Religion plays a large part in the lives of the Thai people. Buddhism is the main religion and the spiritual elements are very apparent in the country. Selecting a suitable plot of land for the housing is more complex than “simply” making geological probes, checking wind and sun conditions etc. In Thailand one has to consider the spiritual factor as well and tradition says that this is done either with the help of crows or by sniffing lumps of earth. The crows are given three different types of beans, red, black and white, strewn on the site and only if the crows eat the white ones the site is free from bad spirits and the land may be used. Through sniffing the soil one can determine whether the grounds are usable and only if the soil smells of the lotus, pikun and matulee flowers the site will bring fortune to the habitants. [2]
The belief is that all land has its inhabitants of spirits and as a new building is raised these spirits are loosing their home. Therefore a spirit house is built in the garden as a new home for them. The houses are usually a smaller copy of the main house and are decorated with flowers, incense and small Buddha figurines.
After selecting the site one also has to consider the day of the week, the month of the year and the materials used to build the house in order for it to bring happiness to the occupants. The dimensions of the house are also important, as is the number of steps in the staircases as well as the direction it is facing. Even the name of the person who digs the first hole can make a difference to the future of the site. After the house is finished there are several ceremonies involving monks that conclude the building process. [2]
According to Western standards, after choosing the location for the building, one has to consider the conditions of the wind and the sun when positioning the building in the right direction. In Thailand other aspects play a bigger role. Since the traditional Thai houses provide the residents with sufficient natural air circulation and shade no matter how they are placed, it is more important instead to make sure that they build for easy access or to avoid neighbour clashes. In a village the first house to be built set the rules for the coming. The following houses will be placed in the exact same direction so that there are no misunderstandings regarding ownership of plots etc that could stir up a conflict. When building by the water the entrances are for obvious reasons towards the water which means the buildings could end up in any direction, but this does not seem to oppose a problem for the residents. [2]

The Thai Garden

Even the garden architects have to consider the different beliefs of the Thais. Certain plants are better than others and some are outright forbidden, though this is widely ignored nowadays. To make a traditional Thai garden there are several regulations one must follow for which plant should be planted in what area in the garden, all to give the inhabitants of the housing compound a rich, healthy and happy life guarded from bad luck, illness and evil spirits.
On the north side of the house, trees as acacia and lime together with a mixture of herbs and bushes will be growing to guard the buildings from black magic. To the northwest auspicious plants are yor and saraphi who will ward off misfortune. Citrus fruit trees like pomelo are also recommended in this quadrant. To the west tamarind, mayom and putsa are placed to protect the buildings and the people within from ill intentions and evil spirits. To the southwest jackfruit and cassia are to be chosen for their ability to ward off misfortune. To the south mango and ebony should be planted for their tasty fruits and their believed skill to convey good health. To the east bamboo and coconuts are recommended as these will bring happiness and good health according to the old traditional Thai beliefs.
For the middle of the terrace where it is common to plant a large growing tree, one should consider planting a chan, champa, champee, jackfruit or mango tree as these grow tall and get fragranced, coloured flowers or bear fruit. They also provide a pleasant and sought after shadow to the houses and its residents during sunny days. [2]
A regular Thai garden is far from what a Swede would label a garden. Function is what a garden designer has to think of in the first place with shadow as a main task. In Sweden we do not have to think about shadow in the same way as in these tropical countries. Because of our dark northern location we, the sun loving people, yearn for light all year round and want to see as much as possible of the sun. In Thailand what people need most of all is protection from the sun and therefore large trees in a mix with smaller shadowing plants are most favourable. This means that the vegetation in a characteristic Thai garden consists of a combination of trees and bushes with small and large, fat and thin, plain or patterned leaves. Among this foliage different kinds of creepers and climbing plants are added to increase the shade, as well as bringing colour and lightness to the green undergrowth by their beautiful flowers and slithering way of growth.
In this warm and humid climate the wind is an important issue to consider, even in the garden plan. In Sweden one would like to shelter from the wind, in Thailand people request the opposite. The breeze is desirable to keep cool and to ventilate the housing. One has to set the plants in the garden spaciously to let the wind easily run through the vegetation and reach the openings in and around the building. This means that to get good airing inside the house and on the verandas one has to make sure that the plants do not impede the flow of air through these spaces.
Thai gardens usually have a web of tiny pathways of flat stones leading into and among all greenery. Here and there one can see ceramic pots, large and small, placed under the houses’ eaves as well as under trees and bushes to collect rain water. In these containers, water plants like pink water lilies grow and sometimes fish swim around making the water urns a garden decoration. Near the staircase to the entrance it is also common that the Thais put a smaller pot of water with the intention of every visitor washing their feet before entering the house. [37 & 38]

Classification of the representative resident

Potential members of the Thai Polo Club will have to meet certain requirements set up by the board in order to be accepted [28]. Owning at least one horse will be the strongest condition resulting in that a very specific type of clientele will be admitted. Only those who fit the profile will then be able to apply for a residence within the compound. The housing at the Thai Polo Club must be well suited for the club members and the prospective residents can be put into the three following categories [29]:
1. Long time owning – seasonal /permanent stay
2. Long time owning – weekend stay
3. Short time rental – weekend stay

Long time owning – seasonal/ permanent stay

The long time owning category can be separated into two groups, the seasonal and the permanent residents. Both groups will involve foreign couples entering retirement and looking for a quiet retreat during their later years. The only difference between the subgroups is that while the permanent residents will stay all year around, the seasonal residents will only stay in their houses during the European winter. The other half of the year will be spent in their home countries when it is unsuitable for polo playing in Thailand. Winter houses in tropical nations are becoming very common for the European aristocracy.

Long time owning – weekend stay

The second category is based on the permanent residents of Thailand, both foreigners and Thai, wanting a weekend house where they can also keep their horses and practice polo. The house can be seen as a good investment and will stay in the family through generations.

Short time rental – weekend stay

Expatriates who are working and living in Thailand and have got an interest in polo is the third representative group. They are usually stationed in Bangkok and only stay a few years in the country. Many foreigners feel uprooted and miss the security of their everyday lives in their home countries. To continue with a familiar hobby is a comfortable way to meet new friends and escape a sense of displacement.

General ecological views

The energy usage has increased dramatically during the last 50 years making the quantity of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas shrinking fast. These resources are not refillable; it will be finished when the last drop is taken. Our western living habits are to a large part the causing factor.
Environmental issues are a growing concern for people around the globe and it has been shown through a rising demand for new alternative technologies. Supplementary energy reserves must continue to be developed so that “green energy” can be produced, used and eliminated without having devastating effects on the environment. Most of the techniques already exist but are hard to put into full-size manufacturing because the lack of interested investors and uncertain results. To improve the health of the world, we all must share the burden of protecting the ecosystem and a major social change has to come about if sustainability is to be achieved.
By studying different charts concerning consumption of primary energy sources, it is shown that all countries in one way or another is responsible for damaging the Earth. Oxygen producing forests are logged, drinking water is being contaminated, the ground were crops grow is polluted and it is time we start thinking about in what state we will pass over nature to the coming generations. [21]

Table of contents
1 Table of figures
2 Introduction
2.1 Background
2.2 Purpose, goal and delimitations
2.3 B. Grimm Group
2.4 Polo
2.5 Disposition
3 Theoretical background
3.1 General background
3.2 Architectural background
3.3 Classification of the representative resident
3.4 General ecological views
3.5 Ecological views implemented in the project
4 Implementation
4.1 Methods
4.2 Building Technology
4.3 Structure plan
4.4 Building design
4.5 Garden design
5 Results
5.1 Structure plan
5.2 Compound plan
5.3 Garden
5.4 Main house
5.5 Wing with master bedroom
5.6 Wing with single bedrooms
5.7 Guest bathroom and storage room
5.8 Maid quarters
5.9 Guesthouse
5.10 Teahouse
6 Conclusions
7 References

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