Jim Thompson Art Center / design qua
Text description provided by the architects. Located on a narrow street in central Bangkok, the site of the Jim Thompson Art Center was originally an outdoor parking lot that served as the Jim Thomson House Museum. In addition to creating a new art center, design qua was commissioned to integrate an existing building into the new complex. The new L-shaped structure and the existing building together form an outdoor courtyard that overlooks the Thai terracotta roofs of the nearby historic Jim Thompson House. The 3,800 square meter building is designed with the vision of creating an open and inclusive center for art and culture in central Bangkok. A place where Bangkok residents, students and tourists can come together through architecture, contemporary art, learning, cultural events and nature. Design qua set out to create a new kind of arts and culture destination that functions as a community hub.
With 3,000 square meters dedicated to artistic and cultural activities, the Art Center houses two art galleries, a library, a conference room/event space, an office, a museum shop, a café, an outdoor multi -activities, as well as two large multipurpose rooftop terraces for future programming. Parking for up to 60 cars on the ground floor is designed to be well hidden and located at the rear of the site. The multifaceted circulation within the Center is designed to encourage visitors to walk from the 3 levels on the ground floor to the galleries. The various outdoor walkways, staircases and rooftop ramps are all designed to visually connect visitors to each other so that people can easily be seen activating the different areas of the building while helping each visitor navigate the complex.
With “climate-friendly” design in mind, nearly 70% of the Art Center’s total floor space is unconditioned outdoor space. This design approach saves a tremendous amount of energy and provides long-term operating cost savings. To keep the spaces passively cooled, each outdoor space is designed with minimal direct heat gain, while allowing for maximum cross ventilation. Affordable and porous expanded metal mesh is used for the front facade to filter direct sunlight while allowing natural air circulation inside. A visual link with the street is maintained as much as possible and the surrounding urban context is deliberately framed and masked.
Sensible tropical architecture also requires “climate-appropriate” materials. For design qua, sustainable design is first and foremost about people. Architecture should be rooted in its context and is a way to connect people with nature and culture. The brick is affordable, locally sourced and weather resistant. It is earthy and cool to the touch and has the power to scale massive concrete walls up to the scale of a human hand. The vernacular Ikat fabric pattern on the long brick wall in the entrance harkens back to Jim Thompson’s textile and silk weaving heritage. A reference to the tropics and Thai craftsmanship is also evident in the use of woven bamboo panels to shade the main walkway leading to the Garden Plaza from the sun.