Baan Jew

Baan Jew, translated as ‘Tiny House’, is a compact modern dwelling on a 220-square meter corner plot near Chiangmai University. Kwanchai Suthansoa and Tanit Choomsang, the Executive Director of Plankrich Architects, designed the 165-square meter house set within a small garden for Nawaree Summasanti, a retired automotive engineer.

Tanit Choomsang studied architecture at Ratchamangala University of Technology Lanna in Chiangmai and then pursued a Masters in Urban Design at the prestigious University of the West of England in the UK, before returning to Chiangmai where he set up practise in 2005 with fellow architect Khwanchai Suthamsao, a graduate of King Mongkul Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, and civil engineer Sakchai Thongpanchang.

Plankrich Architects is an inventive architectural practice whose other notable projects include Baan Khun Kaew and Mo Rooms, a twelve room boutique hotel in Chiangmai that the venerable Dr Sumet Jumsai has hailed as ‘one of the most exciting designs I have ever seen’. Plankrich is based in a striking minimalist modern office, also designed by the practise, with a cake shop at the entrance for staff and passersby. In mid-April 2011, when I met Tanit, his two fellow directors were outstation during the Songkran Festival and I was informed they were ‘driving to China’.

Built for just one million baht (£30k), the simple two-bedroom Baan Jew demonstrates the architects’ ability to create a beautiful object on a limited budget. The ground floor of the house is raised one meter above the level of the garden and entered by a short flight of stairs. The house is designed to make the maximum use of available space and is built without excess. Materials are modest. Walls are fair-faced concrete and floors polished cement. Ceilings are relatively low at 2.7 meters and space uses are planned to overlap. Cross-ventilation is achieved by opening the entrance door. An open-sided staircase gives the appearance of additional volume in the living area. A steep internal ladder gives access to a roof deck from the upper floor, and a roof light along the boundary wall introduces daylight.

The lesson to be learned from Baan Jew is that it is not necessary for a house to be large or for money to be lavished on expensive materials. Here, simple, clean lines and the manipulation of space and light create a tiny jewel.

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