A Roof and No Walls

 |  January 1, 2016

Imagine a building with no walls, no beams, no columns, and no joints. Just a ceiling, that connects with the floor. A floor that is permanent but a building that is moveable. A building that is incredibly cheap and easily replicated. One that uses recycled and local resources. And one that inspires.


This was the vision of Sirisak ‘Tong’ Thammasiri, a thirty–something graduate of Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Architecture, and one of the city’s up and coming young architects, known for his passion for angles, economy, local materials and quirky designs.

It was immediately clear to me that Tong follows the Chiang Mai slow life recipe, as when I arrived at Cafe Nature for our interview, I found that he had not only forgotten our meeting, but looked as though he had just tumbled out of a comfortable afternoon nap. We sat down inside his cafe and, shaking off his cobwebs, Tong soon jumped right into things. He began by stating the obvious, which I had somehow missed completely, “I only used roof panels,” hands waving expansively at the eye-catching triangular building that now houses Cafe Nature, in the Wat Umong area.

“I wanted to build something that could not only work as a community space in Chiang Mai, but an example of what I can achieve with a small budget and local materials.”

DSC_8358Tong owns Full Scale Studio, an architectural firm which, since the unveiling of Nature Cafe, is busy working on numerous Chiang Mai projects. “I like the community spirit it has now absorbed, but the cafe is also a living example of the things I can do for clients, especially those on a low budget.”

The angular A-frame sides of the structure are filled with the traditional Thai louvre shutters, with the use of glass panes at the ground level and switching to wood around shoulder level. “By removing the walls, beams and other standard structures, it allowed me to build this for just 200,000 baht. In architecture, we work out the material budget per sq/m. The average is around 10,000 baht per sq/m — but this build cost me only 2,000 baht per sq/m.”

“What is great is that the building itself is deconstructable,” Tong continues, noting it took only two months to build. “I rent this land, so if I ever have to move, then I just unbolt and take it all away,” a great solution for a city with rapidly rising land prices. There is a second building on premises, next to the herb garden, which was built from the same idea. Made of bamboo, and joined together with metal joints, each beam or bar is replaceable if the bamboo were to perish or become damaged. “Each piece can be removed independently without affecting the strength of the overall structure,” he explained. He is even building an ampitheatre for future community events.

“All I hope is that everyone understands and appreciates the process of design,” he said, explaining that in Thailand architects are paid on average 3-10% of the overall cost of building, a marked difference from the standard 20% in Europe, leading many architects to lack inspiration in their designs. “Architects can do great things, they don’t have to create templates. “I want people to know that they can be creative, cost effective, locally respectful and innovative.”

63/9 Soi Wat Umong, Suthep Sub-district
Tel. 086 659 9775, 091 076 6100
Facebook: Cafe Nature