On May 5th, 2014, a strong earthquake of 6.3 Richter struck Chiang Rai Province in the North of Thailand, destroying 73 schools affecting over two thousand students. Through the initiation of a non-profit network named Design for Disasters (D4D), a post-disaster recovery program was launched to design and build 9 new earthquake resistant school buildings in the most affected areas. Nine emerging Thai architects were assigned to design new school buildings, one for each school.
The Engineering Institute of Thailand and The Consulting Engineers Association of Thailand provided the engineering support. Thai Contractors Association linked the team to construction companies while the Association of Siamese Architects assisted in providing technical support and gathered public donation in the form of funding and construction materials through its network.
Vin Varavarn Architects assigned school is Baan Huay Sarn Yaw School. The school needed 3 new standard classrooms for secondary students who come from tribal families. The design requirements specified that the building must be earthquake resistant, easily constructed by local workers and requiring as low budget as possible. Most of the selected building materials had to be lightweight to reduce horizontal momentum caused by the weight of the building during an earthquake.
Our design principle was not to create only typical classrooms but learning spaces to enliven the atmosphere for children who were victims of the disaster. For the layout, we had proposed to combine three classrooms into one building to minimize the land use. Each classroom is punctuated by small foyers which will be used for placing student shoes and to help reducing the noise between classrooms.
The land slope had been utilized with the architecture to create an extra semi-outdoor multifunctions space under the building. The natural materials had been proposed in selected areas to illustrate how local materials can substitute expensive modern materials and at the same time, harmonize the architecture with its context. All the necessary structure elements had been designed to be exposed so as to convey the feeling of solidity and safeness and to reduce unnecessary finishing costs.
One of the design features we would like to mention is the bamboo shelves which were installed along the entire length of the building to provide space for colorful flower pots for students to take care. The shelves served as safety measure preventing children from falling as well as to create charming atmosphere both outside and inside the building. The flower pots represent our message to remind the children that in spite of the harsh and cruel realities of caused by natural disasters, nature can also bring them beauty and joy to every day of their lives.