Universal Design in Baan Mankong, ChiangRai
Tar-Saeng Studio is a community architecture studio using ‘Universal Design’ at different scales, from product design to interior design to architecture. Recently Tar-Saeng Studio ran a workshop and training series with ten Baan Mankong communities in Chiangrai, in northern Thailand on the topic of ‘Universal Design in Baan Mankong’.  

Baan Mankong, Thailand’s national programme for community-driven slum upgrading, has been running for more than 10 years, so while several communities have already accomplished their goal of securing housing and land, some communities are still in the building phase and others still in the planning stage. The aim of the workshop was to use Universal Design knowledge as a tool to encourage residents to continuously improve their living conditions following successful securing of land and housing – the first stage of Baan Mankong, already achieved by many communities all over Thailand. 

The studio aimed to try to create a learning ground with the BM members starting from the network of Chiangrai in order to bring together and share experiences of living conditions, pros and cons, obstacles, risks based on the physical, social and financial aspects. Many BM members are aware that during the design stage, securing land is the first priority, either for the community, the individual or as a building envelope; however in overlooking the importance of architecture in the design phase, houses are often missing ‘qualities for future of living’ as they fail to consider essential housing details, such as:

1. Second floor usage. If house owners are older, they may use the 2nd floor only for storage, rather than regularly as a bedroom. Without planning for it the first floor becomes mixed-use, between grocery stores, bedroom and storage.

2. Injuries. If house owners are parents, and did not plan for special floor tiles in the bathroom, the tiles can become slippery, and the children prone to accidents and injuries due to slipping.

3. Parking. Some communities are having a ‘car issue’, as parking was overlooked during the first planning stage. Some residents use their parking area for housing, and build their houses to the outside edge of their plots. With no choice but to park the car on the street, this may block traffic flow in case of emergency.

4. Void space. Most communities did not plan any appropriate functions for their ‘empty green space’, both physically and financially.

In many cases communities ended up abandoning them, or using them as additional storage areas, in some cases storing construction materials becoming particularly dangerous for small children. TS studio created a series of workshops and training based on 5 different activities originating from the lived experience: 

1. Sharing both on individual houses and communal space

2. Community mapping making

3. Understanding 7 important rules of Universal Design and how it is related to the present living conditions in Baan Mankong communities of Chiangrai

4. Making design guidelines on tested areas

5. Construction skills sharing and ideas gathering on how to push the tool of Universal Design forward to other BM sites and networks.

The result of the workshop and training series was that the Chiangrai Baan Mankong network began to understand the longer term risks of short term planning on their communities. In addition the new communities ready to enter the planning phase are interested in using Universal Design rules and putting more focus on house design and proper planning of communal open spaces, but such a change in focus possibly requires readjusting the future financial plan of their BM project.

Three communities who have already secured their land and housing, agreed to dig out some of their unplanned money left over from the construction budget, and use in combination with their landscape improvement budget to make 3 pilot improvement projects: improving the ‘green’ communal open spaces in appropriate ways for use by ‘everyone’ especially elderly, children and disabled in their own community. The design process will take place in the beginning of 2015 for 3 months. The construction will depend on the preparedness of each community’s construction team. | Ploy Yamtree

For more information, write to Ploy at
Tar-Saeng Studio
Universal Design in Baan Mankong, ChiangRai
Universal Design in Baan Mankong, ChiangRai
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