Bunker House

The Bunker House is an intriguing compact residence located at Lopburi, some 180 km and three hours drive north of Bangkok. Like the Transverse Convergence House by the same architectural firm, this is a plastic composition in concrete. The owners of the house, Siriwan Tiensuwan and Noppasorn Duangtawee, sought out architect Vasu Virajsilip having read an article published in art4d on the Transverse Convergence House. The project architect working on the design was Ratthaphon Sujatanonda.

The inspiration for the design, Vasu attests, comes from the book Bunker Archeology published by Princeton Architectural Press. Authored by Paul Virilio, a French urban planner, the book features images of World War ll bunkers on Normandy beaches. They are, he writes ‘lonely and vigorous’. The house owners are, like Vasu himself, fascinated by these concrete structures that simultaneously express security and surveillance. Another source of inspiration is said to be the strength and fluidity of the nearby Pasak Cholasit Dam, the largest reservoir in Central Thailand. Furthermore, Lopburi has long had a connection with the Thai military it was set up as a military settlement by Field Marshall Piboonsongkram in 1938 so perhaps the name of the house is appropriate in these circumstances. Indeed, it is true that from certain angles the house does resemble a military bunker.

Ultimately, the architect has succeeded in answering the owners expressed desire for privacy while simultaneously requiring interaction with the outside. He has worked with the contradictions inherent in the request, such as ‘hidden versus visible’ and ‘secure versus open’. The house, located in a residential enclave in Lopburi, is private, yet the owners can observe life on the street and a canal beyond from their living room.

The asymmetrical H-shaped plan of the 330-square meter dwelling has two roughly parallel boxes linked by a glazed entrance lobby at ground floor level. The plan embraces two courtyards, with a fountain in the rear court and a pond in the forecourt. The use of water around the house is intended, says the architect, to reduce the ‘stillness of concrete’. Trees and landscape are integrated with the plan form.

The interior of the dwelling is designed for open-plan living, with a double-height space over the living area visually connecting with the master bedroom at the upper level that gives access to a timber roof deck. There is one guest room that is set apart from the main activity and accessed via the glazed entrance lobby.

The sculptured geometry of the house is consistently angled, and there are striations cast into the concrete walls. Horizontal metal sheets are utilized as cladding on the taller of the two blocks. Thick concrete walls and huge overhangs shield the clear glass windows from solar insolation, while openings on opposite sides of the house allow for cross-ventilation. The ‘bunker’ analogy is continued with the incorporation of slit windows in the concrete fa├žades.

The quality of detailing is similarly consistent, with narrow slots alongside the staircase to permit daylight to enter, inclined window mullions and louvers, and special attention to the detail of recessed spotlights. The staircase itself is precisely detailed and incorporates a place to sit into the second riser. Finishes include unpainted plaster walls and floors of a reflective composite marble material. Circular concrete columns, 300 mm in diameter, give a Corbusien ambience to the interior. The house is simultaneously austere and comfortable.

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