GERMAN DESIGN AWARDS recognizes projects that contribute significantly in the international design scene.
Established as an initiative of the “German Bundestag” through the “German Design Council”, it supports the industry in all matters aimed at generating brand value through design. As a result, the “German Design Council” is one of the main global centers of competence for communication and design, as well as being in charge of promoting the “GERMAN DESIGN AWARDS” annually with the purpose of recognizing new developments in the design industry.
In the Edition held on February 9, 2018, the “MARBLE HOUSE” project by OPENBOX Architects, which highlights the XLIGHT enclosure that gives the project its name, received international recognition for its innovation in the “GERMAN DESIGN AWARD 2018”.
On this occasion, we recognize the work of their team:
OPENBOX Architects has been founded in 2004 by NUI Ratiwat Suwannatrai and PRANG Wannaporn Suwanntrai, architect and landscape architect who are also a team in the personal field.
The design studio has been built, based on the directors’ belief, the ‘unified design concept’ that architecture and landscape should only be designed and perceived as one. For the past decade, OPNBX has been involved in numerous projects of various building types, illustrating the importance of such unified concept, boldness and harmony between architectures, users and their surroundings.
OPENBOX has currently extended service scope to cover architecture, landscape and interior to further emphasize power of unified design concept. Boundaries between design aspects blur into one another, allowing us to create unique Identity of all projects.
Currently OPNBX expands its expectations to cover architecture, landscape, and interior design, further emphasizing the power of a unified design concept.
What does architecture and landscape mean for you?
Architecture and Landscape means a way of life. It is a reflection, a representation of Human civilization in all aspects. We, among all architects and designers, are fortunate to be blessed with such unique passions, and with eyes, mind, and skill to be in this profession.
How were the first steps of OPENBOX? How was it born and why?
Prang and I began our first step by following our passion into Architecture school. The rest has simply been to persistently stay in this course. Working tirelessly, fueled by passions to stay in the field. This has been particularly difficult during the year 2000, when we were recently graduated, when there was the worst economic crash in Thailand and the region.
Along with other architecture graduates at that time, we had to find the way t stay on the architecture career path. Prang an I moved to Singapore just to be where the jobs were. However, it turned out to be one of the best decisions as an architects. Aside from stating in the field of Architecture, we have learned so much, about design business, management skills, and carrying ourselves as professionals.
After three years, in 2004, we returned to Thailand and set up our small design studio OPENBOX Architects, to prove that our concept of ‘Unified Design Theory’ (at that time we refer to this concept as ‘A Marriage of Architecture and Landscape’) would make our works standout among in Thailand as well as in the Global scale. Since then, we have gradually grown to become OPENBOX GROUP, (Openbox Architects, Openbox LIFE, and Openbox Interior Design) as we are today.
Beauty and functionality; which comes first in your work?
Unified Design Concept has always been our core belief that design has to be perceived in totality, as how they all are in real life. We introduced OPENBOX as a team of architects believing that Architecture, Landscape, and Interior Design are best designed and perceived as one. It is no difference for Beauty and Functionality that they should be inseparable. Beauty is always a result of good functions, systematically and seamlessly embedded into design.
Your essential work tools…
Initially, my indispensable tools would be the eyes to observe, to take in the inspirations, the mind to turn observations into thoughts, and the skill to be able to express, to communicate the thoughts, and turn thoughts into reality.
Another thing that I would define as my most important tool is my ‘nature as a boy who draws for fun’. It has been known to my parents, teachers and friends that during lunch time, while other kids were playing soccer out in the elementary school field, I would only need a pencil and a sketch book and a quiet place to draw. To me that nature is considered the most precious gift, that made me who I am today.
“MARBLE HOUSE.” A project with the essence of marble and the quality of the XLIGHT porcelain tile. When and how did you choose this innovative material?
For this project, we always had an idea about an ideal material, a single dominating material in mind. The idea was calling for something very thin, light in weight, aesthetically pleasing to provide an outer shell of the exterior, to shield the house from the heat of never ending summer in Bangkok. The same appearance was meant to be taken continuously from the exterior, to interior. Being able to use one material to do so would be ideal.
Among all candidate materials from around the world, we found that XLight, recently imported by Boonthavorn at that time, had the best technical qualities, with the most pleasing appearances.
We came up with ideas of a very unique architecture with spectacular shapes and forms. This requires an ideal material suitable for all different types of surfaces (floor, wall, ceiling, internal, external), angles, shapes and directions. The constructive process was planed to respond to such different surface types. OPENBOX design team worked closely with Boonthavorn Facade Technology to study and take apart the standard instructions to make adjustments, and create new details. Not only to achieve targeted visual effects, but to make sure the materials can withstand Thailand’s most severe tropical conditions.
Facades, interiors, all covered with one single material with which to provide continuity. How is the construction process strategized?
Not only Interior that continue with Architect but also Landscape.
Relationship between Landscape, Architecture, Interior is subtly displayed everywhere. The overall square shaped form surrounds an open courtyard in the center, allowing natural light and ventilation to reach all remotest corners. Bamboo in the center courtyard moves and sways to create the presence of the wind. The concept “private balconies” are very useful for an urban residence, surrounded by neighbors. Pockets of enclosed open terraces create privacy, but still welcome natural light and ventilation. The void above such area becomes a great feature, as the terms given by the architect, “the private sky”. Some windows have to be placed on the neighboring side. The concept of tilting of windows towards more open corner of surroundings also contributes to the form of the house. After all, it all started by having the habitants behavior and view preference to naturally form this piece of sculpture. The play of materials, space and forms flows seamlessly inside-out, and outside-in making strong connections between Architecture, Landscape and Interior.
For the construction part, we planned to keep the wall surface at the same level, and also the frame of the window. Outside of the house, we used a aluminum double layer on steel frame for cladding. Leave the perfect space for window frame to fit in and inside we used ordinary brick wall and set the difference depth for both inner wall to fit for the XLIGHT.
How do you receive this award? (German Design Awards 2018)
After project completion, we were invited to publish the project images and stories on many online design magazines. Many institutions might have accesses to those medias and started to sent invitations for us to submit Marble House for competitions.
We have found that The German Design Council was among the European’s most prestigious institutions. Therefore we made the right decision to enter and were honored to be one of the winners of German Design Awards 2018.
What are the main challenges that an architect faces?
As the technology in construction become more advanced than in the past, architects can achieve so much more in career, in much shorter period of time. Career path in architecture has always been very competitive. New technologies in design and construction, new documentation tools, new habits in how the public consume architectures through social medias make it even more competitive than ever.
While constantly trying to catch up with new technologies, the actual challenge is actually to always be aware of who you are, not to lose connections to our roots, locality, and spiritual aspects of the work.
What advice would you give someone who is starting their professional career?
Be authentic. To always remember the roots. Never forget where you are from. Locality is not just a trend. It is the true nature that allow architecture to
At the same time, be connected. Work of architects are so much related to people, human behavior, environment. We must travel more to be in touch with different places, people, cultures of the World. That is the way I keep myself and my team inspired.
Looking into the future, OPNBX aims to…
OPENBOX will explore further into Unified Design Concept and take it to the next level, where such concept should be accessible to majority, into reality.
As many architect masters who believe in Architecture to be more than a profession. Architecture should be a way of Life. OPENBOX will start with noncommissioned projects, designed solely based on our own belief. We are putting the pieces together into a new form of developments, where design become tangible products that can be chosen and purchased off the shelves. This aim to provide alternatives for the market.
We will also incorporate alternative energy into the deign. Starting from something simple like solar cell roof and electricity storage unit.“
Mr.Nui Ratiwat, Mrs.Prang Wannaporn Suwannatrai