Project LeaderDr. Rapit Suvanajata
Design TeamJakwida Juntanawarangkul, Kanokwan Innara
PhotographsCourtesy of de‐sign science
From the architect. The Kukrit Institute is part of the government‐led project to create quality places in the Bangkok city centre. The project site is located in a large parcel of land owned by the Treasury Department. The institute is named after former PM of Thailand, MR Kukrit Pramoj, who was named as a World Historic Important Figure by UNESCO in 2009. The Kukrit 80 Foundation initiated the project to celebrate the centenary of MR Kukrit’s birth. The institute was officially opened to the public by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on the 20th April 2011.
Courtesy of De‐Sign ScienceThe project site is part of the new public park near the financial district of Bangkok. The urban fabric of the area represents a cross section of the multicultural society in Bangkok. The institute will serve one of the most socially diverse communities in Bangkok. Through art and cultural activities, the Institute hopes to bring together residents from the nearby government housing projects, students, academics, expats, government officers and the general public.
The architectural design of the Institute is derived from the Thai concept of architecture as craftsmanship whereby art and cultural knowledge are crucial ingredients. The design of the building as a whole is contemporary while users experiencing any particular part of the building are still able to sense and appreciate a traditional Thai atmosphere, creating a contemporary building that is beautiful and functional and that serves Thai educational and cultural activities. The design of the Institute enables the activities the possibility of expansion into the landscape of the surrounding public park.
The design concept of the Kukrit Institute reflects MR Kukrit Pramoj’s love of contemporary art and culture, it also allows for expression of MR Kukrit as a Renaissance man, a colorful political character, media personality, teacher and writer who has also mastered the art of traditional Thai masked dance and acting. The design of the building captures the dynamism of the Thai spirit and Thai culture and art through the triangular shapes of the building geometry. There are two buildings in the compound. The two buildings have triangular‐shape roofs which were fitted into the triangular‐shaped site. Surrounded by open space, the buildings have no blind side and are accessible on all three sides. The two triangles are spinning around in their triangular site by people movement.
The main two and a half‐story building houses an exhibition space, office and library. The 200‐seat ‘Sala’ or multipurpose pavilion building is used for public events and performances. The stage inside the Sala is designed so that the performance can be viewed from both the internal seating area and the public park outside the building. The design aims to create a building that is fully integrated with its surroundings, while welcoming people into it.
The ground floor plan of the main building and pavilion are linked spatially and structurally. The two buildings expand into each other, into the park and into the parking space where receptions for up to 200 guests can be held. The Institute has been enjoyed popularity from all types of users since it opened.
The large roofs and long eaves portray the character of Thai architecture and provides thermal comfort for the buildings. Asphalt shingle was selected as the roofing material for its lightweight and high‐performance insulation properties. Ceiling and flooring materials are artificial wood panels selected for their low‐maintenance and as an affordable substitute for real wood.
To fully take advantage of the park atmosphere, the location of the building columns are designed to blend with the location of the trees in the project which also are positioned to be the continuation of the atmosphere in the park. Columns are clad with custom‐made resin panels with wood‐patterned surfaces. Acting as sunshades and rain barriers, the fins are inspired by decorative patterns in Thai temples and Thai handicrafts.
The frame of the fin is made of aluminium with a hidden steel frame support. Acrylic panels are rhythmically inserted in the frames to help reduce glare and rain entering the open terrace on the 1st floor. These acrylic panels are shades of green to work like tree leaves filtering the sun and rain for the building, and also blending in with the park environment. The fins provide shade, privacy for the library and become lighting devices for the building’s perimeter at night.
Space on the ground floor is mainly outdoor space and closely integrated with the space of the public park. Section drawings of the main building show the Thai characteristic of architecture on stilts and in the building this is evidenced by the strong integration of ground and first floors. A temporary exhibition space is planned for the ground floor space to attract those passing by and act as a meeting place for visitors in a similar fashion as the space for social activities found underneath traditional Thai houses.
The first floor of the main building contains cultural and educational facilities such as a library, conference room, multimedia room and permanent exhibition. The first floor is designed to echo the spatial character of Thai houses where the main element is the open space of an extended terrace with a series of small independent units attached to it. Exhibition rooms are organized like a series of rooms attached to the main terrace. Visitors will have freedom to browse and choose where to wander each time they visit or they can simply follow the suggested exhibition order. Space flows freely between the exhibition units and downward to the temporary exhibition space through the open courtyards placed on the main circulation route. Skylights are located to correspond to these courtyards causing the trees from the ground floor to grow toward the light through the opening on the floor.
The Institute stands as a statement of how the space can be a medium that seamlessly connects movement, nature, light and activities from outside to inside and vice versa. It is also hoped that the building recalls memories of the man it is named after and the hopes he had for the future of Thai art and culture.