In the Northern part of Thailand, one encounters the Chiang Rai Residence. A project with an obscure form of landscape, merging both natural settings and buildings into a space that holds its own independent ownership, while at the same time blending in well with the context of the lives of those that dwell there.
The Chiang Rai Residence is built with the preservation of natural plant life at its core. The design keeps the existing trees that give pretext to the design, by combining the house and landscape harmoniously.
The design described as both prosaic and aesthetic, balances its overall impression as simple and charming. At the same time the topography levels set up by the design team, was carefully matched with the positioning of layered stepping terraces, therefore leaving the existing topographic forces uninterrupted.
This particular site is susceptible to drought in summer and the high precipitation in the rainy season causes soil erosion, therefore the landscape team placed a sustainable planting design and topography to alleviate the extremes.
The Chiang Rai Residence
The Chiang Rai Residence, transporting everyday affairs into new spectacular settings. The landscape team builds a new set of relationships and creates unexpected participation, creating a situation-related landscape that is never stylized but remains prosaic spaces for “natural” interaction. The project seems at odd with any architectural preconceptions one may have about how a predominant house and its landscape should work together.
Upon arrival, the obscurity of the landscape’s “form” represents not only the defeat of authorship but also ownership. Neither the house nor its owner owns this landscape. Rather, the landscape is set to be an integral part of the lives it houses. From the outside, little if anything of the landscape settings is overtly disclosed. Terrain is leveled and stratified without any legible geometric forms. Everything seems naturally drawn, pushed and pulled together by topographical forces. Instead of accentuating the house, the landscape becomes a mute or rather quiet expression, receding into the leaves of its lush trees.
Terrain and place
The first and foremost requirement is to keep the existing trees in their places. Thus, they act as a pretext to the design, giving the framework for both the house and the landscape. Along the design process, the house and the land gradually merged, becoming a design platform that accepts and welcomes both prosaic and aesthetic transformation. Topographically orchestrated, levels and their stepping terraces are carefully designed to be integrated into existing topography, creating layers of terraced landscape that is at once pleasing and functional. With collaborative effort of landscape architect, architect, engineers and client, the existing trees are carefully preserved and protected throughout the construction process.
Terrain and Living
The landscape of Chiang Rai Residence can be seen as a network of relationships. This notion of participation allows the connection between interiority and exteriority, as well as the transition between distinct activities. The connection is both spatial and actual. The terraced landscape becomes the means by which the lives could be led beyond the walls and the house could sustain the sense of flow. Only that the presence of these terraces is never apparent, at times, they seem to disappear. Thus, the hints of threshold are given but the actual separations are delayed.
As a whole, the landscape of Chiang Rai Residence is formless, as if being shaped and reshaped by specific circumstances and situations. We never felt that the place is being “designed,” to have its own distinct identity; rather, it is being built as a framework of lives. Here, the task of describing the place becomes clearer. It is to develop vocabularies that will demonstrate how settings that are distinct from one another can also be interconnected. To inhabit the place means to focus on the performances that the separate settings sustain, and to discover similarities between them. Only in this way will landscape setting be seen to exhibit not just remoteness but familiarity; that is, typicality of the lives this landscape is intended to nurture.
Terrain and Sustainable Design
The landscape team values ecosystem services of the place and intend to create landscape design with minimum disturbance to the site’s natural settings. The landscape design is proposed to interweave the exterior vertical spaces while paying respect to keep the site’s topography level. Along the slope and hardscape areas, the landscape team selected permeable paving materials of local stone and fine gravel that allow water to naturally infiltrate to the ground.
Sustainable Planting Design is a key strategy for cost effective and long-term maintenance of the beauty and healthy landscape ecosystem. The site faces challenges of low nutrient soil with high pH rate and extreme weather.
Located in Northern Thailand, the site is prone to drought in summer and risk of erosion in the rainy season due to high levels of precipitation. In response to the challenges, the landscape team carefully selected local, tough and adaptive planting species that tolerate drought, while having the ability to sustain heavy rain. Chrysopogon zizanioides, Pennisetum setaceum (Forssk.) Chiov, and Ruellia tuberosa L. are being qualified as its strong root system to hold the topsoil and drought tolerant. Planting nitrogen fixing plants like legume families such as Arachis pintoi to improve nutrition deficiency in the existing soil.The layers of plants and trees, creating distinct settings that are not only to be looked at, but these settings are also aimed to sustain their own ecosystem while welcoming changes and transformation.
In terms of water sustainable management, rainfalls are strategically managed through different leveling layers of terrain and vegetations. Following the gravity, surface runoff water will be captured and absorbed by native, water-tolerant and tough planting species which disperse throughout the site. The rain garden is located at the lowest level of the terrain to collect and store water during heavy rain, and allow natural infiltration.
Location: Chiang Rai, Thailand
Design Director: Pok Kobkongsanti
Landscape Designer: Pattaraphol Jomkhangen
Horticulturist: Piyakan Kleebthong
Construction Draftsperson: Ibrohem Wangji
Architect: Architect49 House Design Limited
Photo credit: Wison Tungthunya & W Workspace