BTT Construction Team is a steel fabrication company, specializing in power plants, silos, and factory structures.  Their typical works are enormous, precisely engineered machines that few people even see, much less bother to appreciate aesthetically.

Project: Diamonds & Rust
Studio Name: thingsmatter
Design Team: Savinee Buranasilapin, Tom Dannecker
Area: 175m2
Year: 2016
Location: Nakhon Sawon, Thailand
Structural Engineer: Sumate Assavavimol
Builder: BTT Construction Team
Photography: thingsmatter

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When the company’s need for office space outgrew a windowless container on the factory floor, its owners wanted to build a bespoke administration building that was not merely functional, but also beautiful; something for the workers to be proud of.  thingsmatter’s solution takes advantage of the client/fabricator’s expertise, using steel not just as a convenient structural material, but maximizing its expressive potential.

The new office is clearly a cousin to the massive factory buildings around it, with an exposed skeleton of H-beams and trusses, wrapped mostly in a skin of silvery metal roofing.  But where the bigger buildings are generic and repetitive, optimized to enclose the largest possible space with the least material and labor, the small building is deliberately idiosyncratic, irregular, and intimate.

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The open office and meeting rooms are capped by separate roofs, supported by sloping bow spring trusses which cross each room diagonally.   The folded ceiling planes reflect indirect sunlight from clerestory windows, which also offer cropped views of the factory roofs outside.   A lower mass containing a small lobby, as well as kitchen, water closets and storage rooms, sits in front of the office and meeting spaces.

Facing the factory floor and site entrance, an outer wall is made from folded panels of weathering steel.  Ribs cut from the same 4mm thick plate keep the folds in place, and create a distinctive texture for the interior wall. At each end of the building, ribs stretch inwards to support stair treads, and the entire folded wall hovers above its reflection in a fish pond below.  Prismatic windows of various sizes penetrate the steel at irregular intervals, framing views across the yard to the factory.

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The folded wall is the showiest example of fabrication on display, but there are subtler steel details throughout, like counterbalanced sliding doors, and chains for plants to crawl up or rain water to trickle down.  Components are custom-designed and fabricated, rather than chosen from catalogs.  The resulting experience is less polished what we feel in most commercial buildings.  Every detail and surface has an aura of weight to it, both literally and metaphorically.  To a visitor, this results in an enhanced consciousness of the building itself – since everything is slightly unusual, they tend to pay attention to details they wouldn’t usually notice.   For the people who work at the factory, there’s an increased sense of ownership – they had a hand in making it, down to the door handle.

thingsmatter is committed to architecture as both a critical discipline and a fine art, as an instrument for cultural enlightenment rather than narrow economic gain.

Founders Savinee Buranasilapin and Tom Dannecker grew up in urban Thailand and rural America, respectively.
They began working together after graduate school at Princeton University’s School of Architecture.

The studio’s early work in Bangkok included a series of temporary interventions in commercial spaces which criticized the consumer culture that hosted them, while celebrating the opportunity for communication to a diverse audience, and the material extravagance that only shopping malls can realistically provide.

Recent work extends the working methods, tactility, and human scale of thingsmatter’s event architecture to more conventional building programs, including private residences that offer public statements on the nature of the contemporary city.


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