Building Thailand’s, The Nation, August 7, 2007

Architects say materials have changed but people’s’ needs remain the same

With constant innovation, advanced materials and eye-catching architectural devices, we may think architects have come a long way. Not necessarily, say some prominent “third wave” architects who represent Thailand’s third major surge of creativity in the past 70 years.

Rookie talks to four leading third-wave architects about where they are now and what will come next.

What characterises the third wave of architects in Thailand?

Duangrit Bunnag: With so many architects in the third wave, we have more diversity of thought compared with the first two waves. In diversity, there is no right or wrong. As in other aspects of life, we can always see some wrong in the right and some right in the wrong.

Third-wave architects have benefited from those in the first wave; they enabled us to work more easily and become internationally recognised. There was a time when practitioners maintained that those who earned more were more successful, but the trend has gradually changed, and there are many architects who contribute much to society.

Asae Sukayoung: The goal of the profession has never changed, which is to serve people’s basic need for housing, but the new waves are equipped with more advanced technology, high-quality materials and faster communication. All of these are double-edged swords – some are attached to new technology that limits their style. Faster communication helps us to know what’s in fashion on the other side of the world, but it’s also risky if we follow everything and are blind to environmental, social and cultural contexts.

Tonkao Panin: Despite waves of new technology, an architect’s career is fundamentally conservative, because we still work for people’s basic need to live happily. Only the outer form of architecture – materials and aesthetics – is changed by new technology. Unlike in other countries, where we see that architects have changed from artisans to artists to engineers, architects in Thailand have not yet transformed their character. One of the outstanding characteristics of architecture graduates in Thailand is having interdisciplinary knowledge, which is a good thing, because we can see many who are successful in creative and entertainment fields.

Pattama Runrakvit: A variety of thought exists in the current wave. I personally do not do grand works. I focus on human-participation projects for the urban poor, aiming not only for an architectural aesthetic, but also the community’s wellbeing.

What’s your advice for future architects in Thailand in the face of possible free-trade agreements with foreign trading partners?

Duangrit Bunnag: The work of Thai architects is no doubt competitive, but what most of us lack are skills in work presentation and public relations, which are important if you want to be competitive in today’s world. Don’t be too greedy; in this career, there are heaps of easy ways to cheat. Don’t be too obsessed with fame; it takes more than 10 years to become recognised. Don’t be too egocentric; I believe in the community’s wellbeing rather than the individual’s interests. It’s nice to see the young generation contributing to communities in the wake of the recent tsunami.

Asae Sukayoung: Think more deeply. Establish your own areas or styles, as in airports, or transport designs or ball-shaped buildings.

Tonkao Panin: New technology constantly affects our profession. Social and cultural contexts should be taken into greater consideration. Do your best to understand that in the sameness of wanting a good living, we still have differences. People from different backgrounds have different needs, so it’s important to respect diversity. Your work may be beautiful in your view, but you should understand the context and that you may need to make sacrifices for the community or society.

Pattama Runrakvit: Don’t follow fashion. Search for your own identity. Working for society does not necessarily pay less. If your work is outstanding, you may get consultation or teaching jobs in Thailand or elsewhere.

By Aree Chaisatien

The Nation


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