A Third Type of Space

Above. Hut at the Bamboo Bridge, Pai, Mae Hong Son, Thailand [2019]. Photography: Julian Peters. 

More than in most countries, architecture embodies Thailand's identity. One of the most appealing, among the many facets of Thailand’s stunning architectural landscape, is the neo-traditional rendition of the sala nai suan found throughout northern Thailand's beautiful foothills and valleys, rice fields, waterways, and gardens. By definiton an open pavilion, the sala nai suan best represents traditional Thai culture’s deep roots in rice agriculture. Spending most of the day in rice fields and farms, farmers built them as pleasant shaded places to rest, to have a cup of coffee, or to simply enjoy the fresh air. The timeless qualities of this folkish style include its adaptation to climate, its deep sense of connection to the local landscape and culture, its suitability to an outdoor lifestyle, its elegant proportions and the enduring appeal of timber construction. Today, the best Thai-influenced contemporary architecture allows these and other qualities to shine through, without resorting to sentimentality.

Mixing elements from the timeless craftsmanship and wisdom of both traditional Thai and Japenese wood-based construction and carpentry, and re-created for modern residential living, the sala pavilion is a free-standing, single-storey building typically located in a private backyard or back 'garden'. In this type of spatial relationship, the two spaces which are seperated by distance - the interior dining space and the pavilion space are linked to each other by a small, straight path of natural limestone cobbles. Since this field of space is completely enclosed by rear facade and the U-shaped configuration of high walls, this space is naturally introverted. The ancient Greeks coined the word temenos to indicate a piece of land, 'cut off or set aside to create a sanctuary; a safe or protected space, isolated from everyday living spaces. The architecture comprises of three 'prospect' and 'refuge' motifs used by builders, artisans and designers to create structures, still amongst the most functional, beautiful and endearing in the world. 

The heart of the sala pavilion is a deeply delightful broad terrace or chaan, around which waking hours are spent engaged and enjoying outdoor pastimes such as reading and writing, coffee and al fresco dining, yoga-like practices, contemplation and meditation. From a bird's eye view, this terrace is the single largest part of the private backyard, occupying as much as 40% of the ground plan. The terrace deck is built upon an elevated plinth of concrete and clad in a large number of solid timber floor planks; laid side by side across its width, and with a precise 5mm gap in between each. A traditional post-and-lintel skeleton frame, exalted upon bases of tapered granite, forms a double colonnade that not only supports the sheltering elements that protect the 'interior' from the climatic elements, but also allows for a sense of continuity between the pavilion and the landscape. Thus, views seen through the colonnade become part of the spatial experience. The 'hidden roof' or noyane, a type of roof widely used in Japanese Buddhist temples, is composed of a true roof above and a second roof beneath. The true roof - low sloping roof planes extending outward, to form broad overhangs, and clad in shingles - is externally visible. The second roof - the inner structural elements - is only visible from under the eaves. 

The beauty of the sala pavilion is achieved with almost no decoration. Its aesthetics are embodied in its form and structure: the shapes of the elements, and the lines and proportions of the building as a whole. Crafted primarily from unpainted solid wood such as European oak, its colours and surface textures are humble, natural, and yet rich, warm and highly restorative. The decorative elements are limited to the intricate and elaborate inner structure and joinery of the 'hidden roof' and a dedicated 60% of land usage for landscape - that is meant to be seen and enjoyed while seated on the terrace. That 60% is creatively arranged through the insertion of an 'avenue' - a line of lush greenery running along each side of the terrace - to create a close bond with Nature; and an area of white gravel with a single tree that represents the synthesis of the cycles of Nature, living beings, and time. 
Note 1
Click on any image to open the Lightbox Gallery and display all images in fullscreen mode aswell as switch between them horizontally.
Strategic Diagramme

Fig.1. Dead Space

Fig.2. Intervention

Fig.3. Prospect

Fig.4. Refuge

Note 2. Dead Space
Semiprivate and private residential outdoor space in which one sees concrete covering land which once supported hundreds of varieties of plant and animal life; a hedge or a tangle of bushes; one or two private cars, and the preternaturally ugly ‘wheelie bin’; but few people, if any, because conditions for outdoor stays [the key word is staying] is more or less impossible. Under these conditions most residents prefer to remain inside, what are most certainly sensory-reduction environments, in front of the television – the greatest mind control tool ever created.

Note 3. Intervention
Floor, wall, and ceiling planes serve to define and isolate a portion of space. Of these, the wall plane, being perpendicular to our normal line of sight, has the greatest effect as a spatial boundary. It limits our visual field and serves as a barrier to our movement. Intervention is a procedure often distinguished by a small, non-structural cut or subtraction of a parapet – the wall plane below a window facing a semiprivate front yard or a private backyard. Without a parapet to block, a window gives way to a door-window, merging inside and outside, home and garden - both visually and spatially. 

Note 4. Prospect
People prefer environments and spaces that provide unobstructed views or vistas from multiple vantage points, so that internal and external areas can be easily surveyed and contemplated for both opportunity and hazard. In natural environments, prospects include open terrain, copses of shade trees, an understory of herbaceous flowering plants, bodies of water, and evidence of human activity or habitation. In human-created environments, prospects include open or semi-open floor plans, deep, elevated terraces and balconies, the generous use of windows and glass doors, louvred or slatted filters and screens, and thickly planted shrubberies less than or equal to 1m [42in].

Note 5. Refuge
People prefer the edges, rather than middles of spaces; spaces with ceilings or sheltering canopies overhead to provide protection from weather; spaces with few access points [i.e., protected at the back or side]; and spaces that provide a sense of safety and concealment, retreat and withdrawal – for work, protection, rest, contemplation or healing. In natural environments, refuges include enclosed spaces such as caves, dense vegetation, and climbable trees with dense canopies nearby. In man-made environments, refuges include roofed, open-air architecture, lowered colours, temperatures or brightness, and translucent [or semi-opaque] shades, blinds, screens or partitions.
Isometric Impressions

Fig.1. Mid-terrace @ private backyard with sala pavilion and karesansui garden 1.50

Fig.2. Rear-facade beside sala pavilion and karesansui garden 1.34

Note 6. Sala pavilion
An offspring of the traditional free-standing, open-sided sala pavilion found throughout the river banks and gardens of northern Thailand’s foothills and valleys, and the refined shoin-zukuri open, timber-floored corridor or verandah of a traditional Japanese Zen Buddhist temple or house; the solid timber superstructure consists of a broad terrace or chaan of slatted floor planks [across its width]; a post-and-lintel skeleton frame exalted upon post bases of tapered granite bases [along its length]; and a hidden roof or noyane: comprising of a true roof above and a second roof visible only from under the eaves [along its length].
Note 7. Karesansui garden
Typically located in the more secluded and spacious private backyard, and coupled with the sala pavilion, the traditional kare-sansui or dry garden of Kyoto’s Zen temples, has been inverted so that it is possible to experience at close range and with considerable intensity, the green of nature, rather than white, ‘empty space’. With this in mind, an avenue or pair of parallel ‘living screens’ - evergreen shrubs, flowering perennials, and water features – borders the terrace at the front and back. In the space where there is neither architecture or greenery - the space within space - a large square of white gravel or sand and a single tree defines a both open air and shaded summer season resting space. 
Note 8. Living screen
An expanse of closely spaced shrubs, grasses, sometimes ornamental trees, and curved water bowls, planted and trained along the periphery or edge of a deck or terrace. Its special character is primarily the result of how it pursues its mission, which takes it far beyond fulfilling the typical role of clipped hedges as garden elements for separating or dividing space, privacy or seclusion, screening an unsightly view, or perhaps protection from wind, rain, and sun. Although meeting all these on a high level of artistry, it is to the eyes and mind while resting, that they make their chiefest appeal.
Orthographic Impressions

Fig.1. Whole-house roof plan 1.40

Fig.2. Whole-house ground floor plan incl. enfilade [marked red] 1.40

Note 9. Enfilade
A common feature in grand European architecture from the Baroque period onward, an enfilade is a series of rooms in which the doors entering each space are aligned with the doors of the connecting space, to facilitate movement through the building, and to provide a vista [a pleasing view] through successive rooms. In a contemporary context, the enfilade is a series of door-windows that allow the heart of the dwelling - the living and dining spaces – to be lightly divided without destroying the concept of a generous, fluid and almost uninterrupted corridor or network of indoor-outdoor spaces and places along the north-south axis.

Fig.3. Ground floor plan @ rear and front threshold 1.20

Note 13. Threshold
A threshold is a transitional zone of movement or pause between two adjacent, rarely identical spaces e.g. inside and outside or spatial statuses e.g. a very public residential street to a very private living space. Contrary to the manner of connecting interior and exterior space today, which is too often and too quickly resolved by nothing more than a solid door; gravel [for its acoustic qualities], in-between spaces, and porte-fenestres [‘door-windows’] are employed to construct a more ambiguous, aesthetically-pleasing transitional zone, that fuses the house with the atmospheric qualities of the garden, nature and street, rather than muting it.

Fig.4. Longitudinal elevation @ rear passage/private backyard 1.32

Fig.5. Longitudinal section dd @ private backyard 1.32

Fig.6. Longitudinal section ee @ private backyard 1.32

Fig.7. Longitudinal section ff and ground floor plan @ back porte-fenêtre/threshold 1.20

Fig.8. Cross-section gg @ private backyard 1.20

Fig.9. Cross-section hh @ back porte-fenêtre/threshold 1.12

Mood & Ambience
From left to right: Dollis Hill Avenue by Thomas-McBrien Architects | Brunswick by Nathan Burkett Landscape Architecture | Woodland Residence by Stimson StudioSt Petersburg by MokhBluebells in Ferns by Karl GercensSalvia Amethyst [Woodland Sage] | Athyrium filix-femina [Lady Fern] | Grass by Unknown | Bamboo by Ian AlbinsonShisen-do Jozanji Temple by MugiGranite Tapered Saddle StoneKazutsu no le [House with a Wind Chiney] by Toshihito Yokouchi Architect & AssociateAmanu Lounge Chair by Yabu Pushelberg & TribuPure Sofa & C-Table Teak by Andrei Munteanu & TribuKos Dining Table & Kos Bench by Studio Segers & Tribu | Hat House by Tina Bergman ArchitectSouth London Garden by Studio CullisRobin by Peter StaniforthToluca by Terremoto Landscape
Isometric Cross-Sections

Fig.1. Section gg @ private backyard 1.24

Fig.2. Section gg @ rear water bowl/rain chain junction 1.6

Fig.3. Section hh @ rear porte-fenetre/threshold 1.20

Fig.9. Section hh @ rear portes-fenetre/threshold 1.4

Isometric Assembly Drawings

Fig.1. Substructure and superstructure 1.20

Fig.2. Substructure and superstructure exploded 1.24

Fig.3. Timber post-and-lintel skeleton framework @ midpoint 1.2

Fig.4. Timber post-and-lintel skeleton framework @ edge 1.2

Fig.5. Timber post-and-terrace structural framework @ edge 1.2

Construction or Working Drawings

Fig.1. Whole-house roof plan 1.40

Fig.2. Whole-house ground floor plan 1.40

Fig.3. Ground floor plan @ rear and front threshold 1.20

Fig.4. Ground floor plan @ rear threshold 1.4

Fig.5. Ground floor plan @ rear porte-fenetre/thermal insulation junction 1.2

Fig.6. Longitudinal elevation @ rear passage/private backyard 1.32

Fig.7. Longitudinal section dd @ private backyard 1.32

Fig.8. Longitudinal section ee @ private backyard 1.32

Fig.9. Longitudinal section ee @ timber post-and-lintel skeleton framework [midpoint] 1.4

Fig.10. Longitudinal section ee @ timber post-and-terrace structural framework [midpoint] 1.4

Fig.11. Longitudinal section ff @ rear facade 1.32

Fig.12. Longitudinal section ff @ rear threshold/porte-fenetre 1.8

Fig.13. Longitudinal section ff @ rear threshold/porte-fenetre 1.2

Fig.14. Cross-section gg @ private backyard 1.20

Fig.15. Cross-section gg @ rear timber post-and-lintel skeleton framework 1.6

Fig.16. Cross-section gg @ rear eave/rain chain junction 1.1

Fig.17. Cross-section hh @ rear threshold/porte-fenetre 1.12

Fig.18. Cross-section hh @ rear threshold/porte-fenetre 1.6

Fig.19. Cross-section hh @ rear threshold/porte-fenetre 1.2


Engawa Deck

Floor planks
44x94x1994/2394mm Planed All Round [PAR] and Chamfered Air-Dried European/English [Quercus Robur] Structural Oak w/ 5x90mm Stainless Steel Framing Nails 34° Round Head [Smooth Shank].

47x100x47x100x1994 - 3020mm Eased-Edge C24 Kiln Dried Treated Softwood Carcassing Timber @ 400mm o.c., 10x70x70mm Heavy Duty Plastic Solid Square Packer @ 400 o.c.

Elevated plinth
150mm Cast-in-Place Concrete Slab on Grade with 1.2° Slope [Drainage] and 195x195x100mm Plinth, 50mm Coarse Concrete Sand/Sharp Sand Setting, 100mm Type 3 Open Graded Crushed Aggregate, Stable [Uniformly Dense] Soil Base

Post-and-Lintel Skeleton Frame

Post base
125/150mm Granite [Tapered Square] Staddle Stone with 16x230mm Steel Rod [For fixing which protrudes 30mm]

125x125x2950mm Air-Dried European/English [Quercus Robur] Structural Oak

Tie lintel
125x150x2625mm Air-Dried European/English [Quercus Robur] Structural Oak w/ 15x15x150mm Draw Pin

Plate lintel
125x150x3575mm Air-Dried European/English [Quercus Robur] Structural Oak with Upper/Lower Rabbeted Oblique Scarf Splice & 15x15x150mm Draw Pin

Vertical brace
125x125x790mm Air-Dried European/English [Quercus Robur] Structural Oak

Ridge beam
125x150x3575mm Air-Dried European/English [Quercus Robur] Structural Oak with Upper/Lower Rabbeted Oblique Scarf Splice & 15x15x150mm Draw Pin

External lighting
Mono II Down-Up LED 930 [Dark Grey] Wall Surface Mounted Luminaire

Hisashi Roof with Overhanging Eaves

Rake w/ overhanging eave
50x200x2600mm Air-Dried European/English [Quercus Robur] Structural Oak @ 34.5°

Rafter w/ overhanging eave
50x100x2400mm Air-Dried European/English [Quercus Robur] Structural Oak @ 34.5°

25x115mm Air Dried Oak Half-Lap Cladding

Gutter bracket
5x25x315mm Polyester Powder Coated [RAL 7016] 8 Gauge Galvanised Steel Flat Bar

Interior support
18x38x4800mm Treated Softwood Batten @ 400 o.c.

20x142/70x1875mm Carefully Machined Air-Dried Oak Board and Batten

0.6x3000mm Polyester Powder Coated [RAL 7016] 25 Gauge Galvanised Steel Counterflashing, 15x15mm Half Clip Fixing,  0.6x3000mm Polyester Powder Coated [RAL 7016] 25 Gauge Galvanised Steel Baseflashing, 0.6x50mm Polyester Powder Coated [RAL 7016] 25 Gauge Galvanised Steel Cleat

5x25x315mm Polyester Powder Coated [RAL 7016] 8 Gauge Galvanised Steel Flat Bar Gutter Bracket, 6x50x100mm Polyester Powder Coated [RAL 7016] 8 Gauge Galvanised Steel Angle 'Valley' Gutter, M12x90mm Hex Head Bolt BZP [10.9], 10mm Grade 80 Short Link Chain.
In-between Space 2024
Back to Top