TEN Bangkok is a housing project that redefines
the notion of community and individuality. It offers alternative understanding
to both design and dwelling concepts while explores the fundamental
relationship between the two aspects. References to context and a
sense of place are crucial as it is a project that raises the issue
of community identity, relative to individual identity.
To what extent can both housing design and dwelling be cooperative?
If each and every dweller is involved in the design process, then,
at which point does design end and dwelling begin? How can one “own”
a place that also belongs to others?
The above questions are the pretext of TEN housing
project. The issue of cooperation between architects and inhabitants
have been the focus of CASE, Community Architects for Shelter and
Environment, which is a group originally formed in Thailand in 1996
with central interests in alternate housing visions.
CASE’s major concern also lies in the relationship between dwelling
and context. Both the physical environment and the human element of
the place are considered vital to CASE’s housing mentality. In other
words, CASE’s aspiration is underlie by economic, cultural and social
dimension of the related society.
CASE Thailand also shares its vision with CASE Japan, a group formed
by similar goal and concept. Both groups are linked by conceptual
collaboration, as well as informal exchanges of information and ideas.
CASE Japan has been offering housing solutions for those with comparatively
less opportunity and choice. Its first systematic cooperative housing
project is called TEN Osaka, which consists of ten separate housing
units coexisted in the same plot of land. It is the project where
the clients are involved in the design process so each and every dwelling
unit becomes an expression of their particular ways of life.
TEN Osaka has provided a point of departure for TEN Bangkok, which
aspires to similar concepts but is founded upon on different methodology
and approach. Its goal is to become the unique and alternate housing
creator for Bangkok’s forgotten middle class population.
addressing the notion of community and individuality, the project
TEN also originated from the current housing problems in Bangkok.
The paradox of the Bangkok housing lies in the fact that while most
real estate developers cater their products for the high-income inhabitants,
it is not the low-income urbanites who suffer from the lack of housing.
Deprived of all types of privileges, the low-incomes are now compensated
with governmental aids, resulting in various housing projects across
the city. Thus, this leaves us with people that occupy the economic
demography between the high and the low incomes. Paradoxically, this
has become a group with the most pressing housing problem. While the
overpriced housings are out of reach, the people of medium income
are also ineligible for the governmental housing aids.
They are forced to enter the deadened route of Bangkok housing, with
neither opportunity nor alternative.
||With the total provision of upper class housing by
the private sector and the governmental aids to that of the lower
class, Bangkok’s broad spectrum of middle classes are left with the
absence of alternate visions. Thus a number of questions arose.
What constitutes adequacy in housing – is there a bottom line that
is not monetary? Is the provision of housing subject, as many other
things are, to the flexible and capricious accumulation of capital
that characterizes the global economy? What constitute a house these
days? Is housing a matter of economy or is it a cultural artifact?
If housing is both an economic product that depends on the market
economy, and a cultural product that involve the particular ways of
live of the people who dwell in it, how can we bridge the gap between
the two aspects? What could be the approach?
As it seems that each and every powerless medium-income
individual is left without any housing solutions, TEN began to shift
its focus towards the concept of community.
What would happen if each of these powerless individual begin to build
up its strength through cooperation and collaboration with others.
As a collective force, will they stand a chance against the brutal
economic stream in the housing world? As an individual each of them
remains powerless, but as a community, both their economic and creative
power may multiply. Thus, a number of individuals began to form both
the ideas and the potential community.
Initially TEN was formed as a working community
of ten individuals who share their vision in alternative housing and
ways of life. Each of them is unique, resulting in a group of people
in various creative professions, including architects and designers.
The lack of buying power and alternate housing choice drew them together.
All were in search of their ideal home. They began to draft their
ideas and methods. TEN became a collaborative project which would
eventually redefine both the concept of dwelling community and individuality,
which requires working efforts from everyone involved.
TEN’s working method is collaborative, both
conceptually and physically. In terms of the physical collaboration,
the project would occupy a single plot of land, divided into ten subplots.
The footprint of each subplot is equal. Each inhabitant would then
act as the designer of their own home, in collaboration with their
This method of sharing a single plot of land resulted in the mandatory
design collaboration between each inhabitant. Thus, conceptually,
everyone involved would have to set their individual and collective
design and dwelling criteria. One could not simply insert one’s own
design regardless of careful consideration and negotiation with others.
Ultimately, each house would conceptually be born out of the site
and context, along with other houses. The project would thus consist
of various individual dwellings which take into account the notion
of community living. Each inhabitant would therefore own a house in
a place that also belongs to others.
Site and Location
The working members/designers/inhabitants then
began defining their ideal site and location. First and foremost the
site has to be affordable. Even though each of TEN inhabitants realizes
their economic limitation, the notion of convenient location and reasonable
access to all urban facilities is not to be relinquished.
The site has to be situated in a location that is equally convenient
for everyone. Future expansion of Bangkok’s transportation system
is thus taken into account. This means that currently the site does
not have to be situated in the most convenient location of the city.
TEN members would examine the site and its neighborhood with a magnifying
glass to determine what is possible. All aspect of the context will
be considered as a potential framework for the design.
TEN’s selected site in Minburi has shown support for this way of working
by pointing to various urban potential as works to aspire to. The
marginal economy of the neighborhood may also attract others who are
sympathetic to TEN’s way of working. It is a location where transient
creative populations within the emerging neighborhood are more accepting
of alternative housing vision, which would foster continued experimentation
along the life span of the project.
and Collective Dwelling Criteria
Ten coexisted dwelling unit means much more
than ten varying needs. TEN’s unique inhabitants can be understood
in terms of both their similarities and differences. Although sharing
certain visions, they also differ.
They may have something in common, but in details, their ways of lives,
dwelling habits and preferences are hardly similar. Thus the question
that predicates the design is: to what extent can each and every particular
needs, requirements and criteria be fulfilled? And to what extent
can each inhabitant conform to the collective living within the community.
Thus both the individual and collective dwelling criteria need to
be established before the design begins.
TEN does not result from the design of a single
creative genius. It is a housing project that each and every unit
must be born along with others; each and every design cannot be done
individually. It seems that the actual design began after the framework
of dwelling criteria was established. Yet, both the design and the
dwelling process have already started since the first gathering.
Each inhabitant has projected their visions onto the dwelling criteria,
which would eventually be translated into design. In other words,
each inhabitant begins to dwell within the project even before the
actual design started. As they work together to frame the design,
the community is formed and the cooperative dwelling has thus begun.
Architecture is no longer the familiar cult of objects, which is the
product of the architects’ determination and control. Rather, architecture
is the fruit of cooperative design where the architects are also the
clients; the clients are also the architects
Shaping and Re-shaping the Design / Shaping and Re-shaping the Requirements
In the project TEN architecture is longer created
according to the requirements of an individual client. Each design
is a result of laborious negotiation with others. Therefore each and
every design has to shaped and reshaped collectively.
As the design is transformed, the dwelling requirements of each inhabitant
are also reconstructed. The result is a unique collective project
whose sense of totality is marked by the diversity of each individual
design. Cooperative design may work if it also allows individual identity
As a pilot project, TEN faces various difficulties.
Its novelty and experimental nature means that TEN hardly fit any
pre-established programs required for most housing projects. Not only
that TEN has to establish new relationship with the usually restricted
financial program, it also has to reestablish new understanding with
both the familiar constructional programs and the existing building
These difficulties have become the creative and productive challenges
for TEN. They urge the project to examine all possible alternatives
so TEN can become a flexible housing project that is capable of fitting
into today’s changing life styles.
The ultimate goal of this project is not to serve
only a single group of people. TEN set itself up as an experimental
project in search for alternate housing vision.
This also opens doors for possibility. It may provide choice and
opportunity for those who are sympathetic to TEN working method
and concept. Thus TEN would become the provision of housing suitable
to both individual requirement and universal application as well
as particular location.
A re-definition of housing orientation as well as the relationship
between the design and the client, the community and individual
inhabitant, awareness of transforming living patterns and changing
family configurations may provide the basis for our individual house