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Kantana Film and Animation Institute, Thailand (shortlisted 2011–2013)

The Kantana Film and Animation Institute for undergraduate studies in film and animation is owned by the oldest film production organisation of the country - Kantana Movie Town. It is situated in the latter’s massive lands covering an area of 162 hectares (400 acres), amongst farmlands and villages of Nakhon Pathom. The facility is located 56 kilometres from the capital Bangkok, in Klong Yong town in Nakhon Pathom Province, Thailand (Ali, 2013). The building successfully integrates modern materials - concrete and steel - with an extraordinary use of Thailand’s traditional building medium - brick (Figure 4.11). Enclosed within their rippling brick walls pierced by irregularly placed square openings, the five main functional areas of the complex - lecture hall, library, studio-workshops, administration, and canteen - are arranged around two prominent intersecting, open-air, cobbled walkways.

Kantana Film and Animation Institute, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, by Bangkok Project Studio/Boonserm Premthada Source

Figure 4.11 Kantana Film and Animation Institute, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, by Bangkok Project Studio/Boonserm Premthada Source: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture/Cemal Emden (photographer)

Planted with 10- to 20-metre-high peep trees, these walkways are called “inserted forests” by the architect, who was keen on creating a building that complements and blends with nature, not competes with it. Nature is the main inspiration for the design, and the building is a direct reflection of Thai culture. These wide walkways centrally run through the layout on east-west and north-south axes, allowing efficient pedestrian circulation and connections, good ventilation, additional natural shade, interesting plays of light, and areas for quiet meditation and inspiration. Within its brick walls, the building stands on a reinforced concrete post-and-beam frame system (a prevalent construction system in the province), and partition walls are hollow concrete: a successful blend of modern materials - concrete and steel - with an extraordinarily innovative use of Thailand’s traditional brickwork, as seen in the stepped and banded work on brick temples. Being located on rural grasslands and surrounded by rice fields, animal farms, orchards, vegetable farms, and orchid farms (Ali, 2013), the building of the institute is fully integrated into a contemporary and surrealistic, ageless, intriguing form.

House of 40 Knots, Iran (shortlisted 2014–2016)

The architect of this project is a professor at Islamic Azad University, who is aware of the dilapidation of Tehran’s historic architecture over the last 40 to 50 years, due to the rapid modernisation of Tehran. He won a local architecture award for designing a lower-middle-class residential building in 2012, which enhanced his reputation in Tehran. Consequently, a client with a tight budget approached him, suggesting using ordinary stone and materials as a common solution in that area (Radoine, 2016). The idea behind the House of 40 Knots was, in 2012, extraordinary for its time. Therefore, the architect faced many challenges not only from the client convincing him to use brick instead of stone, but also from the municipality for the innovative faqade design. Regardless, the client still received a discount on his annual tax from the authorities by applying brick as the main faqade material, which is the appropriate material for this local context and climate (Radoine, 2016).

Creating a small and low-budget apartment building in Tehran does not leave much space for creativity, yet an architect can try to do something with the materials, textures, outer envelope, and light. Therefore, a modern interpretation of the ancient mashrabiya was conceived by using the bricks available in the local market (Radoine, 2016). In this building, the two entities of Iranian historical architecture, brick and carpet, are fused into a contemporary facade that appears as a collection of intricately interwoven modules (Figure 4.12). Intentionally, the architect avoided designing different components separately. He used a series of loose rules that allow both sides of the repeated units to be visible: from the outside they appear as an integrated texture, and from the inside they appear as window parapets embedded into the masonry (Anon, 2016).

House of 40 Knots, Tehran, Iran, by Habibeh Madjdabadi, Alireza Mashhadi Mirza

Figure 4.12 House of 40 Knots, Tehran, Iran, by Habibeh Madjdabadi, Alireza Mashhadi Mirza

Source: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture/Barzin Baharlouei (photographer)

The design of this residential building involves three major facades that anchor it in its district as an imposing architectural ensemble. It faces a mosque and elementary schools in the south and abuts a residential building on the west and other residential neighbourhoods on the north and east sides. The surrounding houses are architecturally sober and make heavy use of stone cladding, a common practice in Iran and Tehran because of the abundance of such material. The building is accessible from all sides, and its entrance is well exposed. The landscape around the building is limited, as its location in the densely built downtown area makes it hard to have large green areas. In addition, the plan makes a clear distinction between private space - two bedrooms and a bathroom used only by the household - and the area accessible to both residents and guests, consisting of a living room, kitchen/dining room, and a second bathroom (Mostafavi, 2016). There are two apartments on each of the upper storeys, designed for middle-income families; the size of the units ranges from 75 to 88 square metres. The main structure is a steel frame erected on concrete foundations. Inspired by local technologies and utilising local materials and labour, this contemporary residential building responds well to the local social and environmental context.

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