Tales of two cultures
The new Austrian Embassy in Bangkok gives a whole new meaning to sustainable architecture
THE VERY latest in Austrian technologies intertwine with the Thai way of living and building traditions in the soon-to-open Austrian Embassy in Bangkok, a showcase of holistic and sustainable architecture.
The brainchild of Marlies Breuss of Holodeck Architects, the building brings together several kinds of local materials and blends them with Austrian innovations in a contemporary design that creates a human-oriented environment and offers a solution for sustainable living in the future.
“The embassy represents a cultural and technological bridge and we are proud to introduce to Bangkok a holistic and sustainable design that uses the Austrian technology to maximise energy efficiency. We can generate all the energy we need with the photovoltaic cells on the roof and use the design system to control the airflow in the building. We also focus on wellbeing so you can find a common space in the middle of the wings that gives an opportunity for communication,” says the Austrian ambassador to Thailand Enno Drofenik.
Refined, perforated-teakwood facades adorn the entrance and give onto tree-lined courtyards that mimic the landscaped layout of a traditional Thai-style house.
Inside the complex are two low-rise buildings made from laterite, glass, wood, steel and concrete. Modern and smart, they boast floor-to-ceiling windows and black flying roofs that are supported at three points to give the impression they are floating.
Laterite obtained from the northern fields in Thailand was examined in a Viennese laboratory to use as a solution for the outer wall system, while teakwood from certified industrial forests was developed with a perforation system to create the optimal balance between enclosure and ventilation.
“It’s a combination of Austrian and Thai culture. We have functional spaces surrounding around the courtyard to reflect the Thai building culture and introduce Austrian technology. We adopted the idea of a Thai-style house in creating a courtyard in the middle of building for leisure time and to boost the airflow. We provide a small courtyard in front of the main gate and the big one in the centre of complex,” Breuss explains.
“Because of the climate here, we decided to keep some space open and form the buildings in a shape that opens and closes. We went upcountry for the laterite. It’s a type of soil and an attractive colour and it’s also resistant to heat and water.
“Our engineers helped us to create the flying roofs, which are inspired by Thai culture. We wanted the roofs to circle around trees. The structure of the roofs follows the tree so we use a kind of black sheet that is supported on only three points.”
Breuss has also taken her inspiration from Thai building culture for the lower concrete roof, which allows for airflow beneath. The solar cell system on the roof produces the energy for the whole building and runs the servers, lighting and the equipment in the office as well as the chillers.
“We’ve also introduced the louver system, which won us a prize in a European Union competition. This system is designed to resemble a chiller that supports the cool air to 18 degrees and this air goes to the fan coils. Another one is used in the two-storey building on the right side of the complex.
“In Austria, we need the most energy in the winter to heat the houses but in Thailand you need the heat when you produce it. You have sunlight so you must produce and use it. You need no batteries. So I think it’s the perfect instrument for energy in Thailand.”
Some of the rooms have a suspended ceiling that allows the air to come down from the louvers. Facing the residences is a spacious zone planned as a service centre and equipped with high windows to ensure privacy for the residents on the other side. This smart design also takes advantage of rain by using a cistern system for watering plants.