A swimming pool takes centre stage at this tropical modernist architecture in Thailand
The graphic geometrical angle of this unique Chiang Rai home for a plastics mogul was inspired by the surrounding landscape and natural environment.
Chiang Rai, the northernmost city of Thailand is known for its stunning natural views and relaxed atmosphere. So, when a plastics mogul wanted to build a multigenerational family vacation home in this idyllic locale, he knew exactly who to call.
He reached out to Chana Sumpalung, architect and deputy managing director of Architects 49 House Design, who had previously designed a house for him in Bangkok, to take on the challenge of creating an iconic property in Chiang Rai.
“The client, who is fond of our tropical architecture, approached us to design a new house in a similar style. They wanted something in our signature style but also something we had never done before. This was an interesting and challenging proposal to create a sense of familiarity in something different and new,” said Sumpalung. Located next to a golf course – a game the owner loves – Sumpalung drew on the natural, verdant surroundings featuring plenty of lush trees and greenery for inspiration.
“The idea came from the first time I saw the site. Just sitting there on the lawn, under a tree, I already felt happy. So why not make everywhere blend as one,” he said. “The interior should blend with the architecture, there should be no barriers. And then beyond that, it engages with the surroundings around us.”
Located on a small hill with an elevation of about 10m, he drew on this unique location to design a home that blends seamlessly with its surroundings. To achieve this, he twisted the core shape of the house to achieve a one-of-a-kind structure to fit with the slopes and hills. In fact, the sprawling 34,444 sq ft property derives its name Diagonal House from the modernist architecture that features geometric shapes including a triangle, circle and square.
“The house is a part of the surroundings, growing from the ground up and attaching itself to nature as if it were a tree. That is why the architecture is generated by the flow of the tree and does not look so blocky – and the house has a life on its own,” he explained.
Guided by the goal of keeping as many of the trees on the land as possible, he incorporated creative techniques to preserve what he could. For example, along a corridor of the house, some trees are in fact growing within the structure itself.
Sumpalung said: “We allowed the branches to punch into the roof line. Then, we made sure that they are strong enough, so that they do not ruin the whole roof. Each branch works along with the architecture.”
To create a distinctive multigenerational home, the space is designed with a main area at the centre of the house, followed by each family with their own wing, like the branches of a tree. In this manner, he created seven bedrooms and living quarters for two families and guests, which affords them sufficient privacy yet has plenty of space for interactions and get-togethers.
“The idea for the master room and other rooms is that it should feel boundary-less, like it is blurred between the inside and outside. They can open the windows and curtains and have a direct view of the golf course, which is his favourite kind of activity,” said Sumpalung.
The living and dining areas showcase the architect’s philosophy of having an uninterrupted indoor-outdoor experience with large windows that offer generous views of nature. The swimming pool – a key feature in the home as swimming is one of the family’s favourite activities – takes centre stage and contributes to the unique diagonal orientation of the house.
“If we had placed the swimming pool parallel to the house, we would have to cut down at least three or four trees that run along the facade of the architecture. So we thought why not just swim among the trees by placing the pool at a different angle” he said. “We constructed it in between the empty space that we have left. As a result, the pool angles itself into the living area and it brings you into nature.”
Careful attention was also given to the type of materials used in building the house. To reflect the owner’s fondness for gold and shine, brass features, which are often used in palaces and temples, were incorporated into the design.
“In the past, Thai architecture mostly relied on the craftsmanship of the contractor. We used these skills to create patterns that are probably hard to find now, and used materials like brass or copper to represent Thai sensibilities,” he said.
Over time, the brass will eventually change in colour from gold to brown, allowing the beauty of the space to evolve naturally in a reflection of the passing of the seasons.
Another distinct structure in Diagonal House is its outdoor circular terrace, which is built around a tree in the centre. This was prompted by the owner’s love for nature and it has since become one of his favourite places to relax at and is also used as an outdoor entertainment space.
“The circle terrace is an area to sit back, relax and enjoy the whole facade of the house. I think there are not many houses in Thailand that have this kind of space. Here, we can show off the house and feel proud of it,” said Sumpalung.
Most significantly, the house has become a place where the owner and his family can retreat to, away from the bustle of the city. This, said Sumpalung, is his greatest achievement.
He said: “I see the happiness in their eyes and the look of relaxation the owner has after spending a month here. That is what makes me feel most proud – to see people happy with what we have achieved for them because this is the reward for their life.”
Located on a small hill, the architect drew on this unique location to design a home that blends seamlessly with its surroundings. To achieve this, he twisted the core shape of the house to achieve a one-of-a-kind structure to fit with the slopes and hills. In fact, the sprawling property derives its name Diagonal House from the modernist architecture that features geometric shapes including a triangle, circle and square.