The coronavirus pandemic reinforced and fanned the flames of our addictions, from our unhealthy dependence on screens, incessant online shopping, ordering food instead of cooking, and online learning and work-from-home settings becoming the new norm. The Broken Home imagined by Integrated Field (IF) addresses the reality of such (and most) nuclear families of today, especially those residing in urban cities and metropolises, where inhabitants prefer privacy over joined activities, from eating alone and staying glued to phones. This residential architecture satiates a demand for privacy, with a plain rectangular volume cleaved into four sharp areas designed to fit the modern lifestyles of a Thai family.
Designed to match behaviour instead of conventional spatiality, The Broken Home simply responds to your needs, no questions asked, no judgements passed. Dystopian, bordering on unsettling, the unconventional drawing board becomes a spatial blueprint that argues that spaces and their function must respond to the realistic lifestyle of its inhabitants, rather than their aspirational ones, where ‘personal’ space is synonymous with ‘preferred’ space.
According to the Thai architects, The Broken Home is articulated as a minimal and boxy architecture that reduces ‘unnecessary’ areas, with its forthright interior design arranged to cater to the residents’ lifestyles and behaviours. “The house is special for the way it elevates a way of life and relationship pattern of a Thai family in the time of ‘digital disruption,’ utilising it as the key component of the design,” shares IF, a Thailand-based design office that believes in questioning, to understand the ‘core’ and intent of each project, and develop a design based on that.
“With a belief in this method, IF was founded by a group of friends consisting of architects, an interior architect, a landscape architect and an industrial designer, intending to work together and gather aspects in as many fields as possible to create work from the integrated inputs as our core saying, IF works in the Field of Integration,” they explain.
“Living together but apart”
IF rightly states that the present waves of disruption and unpredictability coupled with competitiveness in the business world translate to people hunting for increased quality and efficiency in time management. Most people, especially those residing in cities, are perpetually sprinting, some running, working hard to compete with the fast pace of life here. Advancements and leaps in technology, stored in devices as small as phones and tablets have brought humankind to limbo in their lifestyles, waking up to and going back to their screens. Being always accessible, from practically anywhere, has consequentially made one always available for ‘work,’ whether they like it or not. “(Even) one step slower can mean an opportunity lost, and the fear of being replaced becomes a restless urgency,” they say.
Trying to cram in optimised quality and increased quantity of work has largely been inversely proportional to adults spending adequate, healthy time with their families, at home. “Subsumed by work, one lives to make ends meet and provide financial stability for their loved ones, including the extra price paid for the sake of better convenience and comfort in life,” they continue.
The picture painted vis a vis the unusual contemporary design is all too true, uncomfortably similar to the lives we might also be leading on the daily—parents, the providers of a family, ending up bartering time with their kids and other family members in order to earn. In turn, kids grow up seeking attention, validation, interaction and negotiated joy either outside, or often, online, from social media apps to gaming communities, all designed to keep them consumed and affixed there, and in return, using their time as a currency. One need not even step out of their rooms for nourishment—apps that bring meals to your doorstep have spoiled us beyond need, bringing to us convenience in a box. This just shows an example of how it becomes redundant for a family to prep and gather for meals together, as older generations did on schedule. This way, relationships between family members get strained, with everyone becoming more and more distant, each living and doing as they please.
Privacy and living in the digital age
Integrated Field studied various statistics and data to reveal that Thai people currently spend an average of fewer than three hours with their families, accounting to 12 per cent of their time within an entire day. So instead of a close-knitted relationship between members, each individual prefers to exist within defined boundaries that lends them privacy to return to mundane life. As a result, there is a change in the homeowners’ preferences of living spaces, with a residential design with a relatively smaller ratio of common spaces (a significant reduction from 40 per cent to 12 per cent) to accommodate only the essential usages. A large family hall was reduced to a modern silo, based on the 18,000+ tweets on Twitter, with #เบื่อพ่อแม่ (translation: fed up with my parents), creating a smaller transition space that ensures inhabitants, especially children, being granted their prized privacy that doesn’t require them to physically see other family members.
The kitchen of the imaginary architecture is conceived as a fairly petite space fitted with microwaves for each inhabitant’s solo usage, owing to the ever-growing popularity of delivery food services in urban Thailand. Inside the house, a special passage allows delivery of packages and food inside, following the users’ increasing online shopping and food delivery orders. The dining table is designed to have partitions that roll down from the ceiling, earlier as a precaution, but now to provide preferred privacy. This also heeds the statistic that reveals that Thailand is the top third country in the world with the highest rate of mobile phone usage. “The dining table can be divided into individual cubicles to prevent the light and sounds from different users’ mobile phones or smart devices from disturbing each other when they are being used at the same time with gadget holders and charging ports provided for greater convenience,” says Integrated Field.
Within the contemporary architecture, smaller common areas meant bigger personal ones—the residential design’s inclusion of ‘meticulous details’ that accommodate the privacy and lifestyle of each family member remains its key component. The layout and hierarchy of access are readjusted in a way opposite to that of a regular dwelling. “When entering the house, each inhabitant can immediately enter their own room via their own individual stairway. The design creates a clearly demarcated and separated entrance for each inhabitant to enter their room, following the four axes of the X-shaped layout,” the architects explain. If preferred, quality time with the family can ensue in the common area which is connected to each inhabitant’s personal space.
The father’s private space is imagined to handle Thai people’s intense working hours, a staggering average of 10 hours per day, the highest in all of Asia, according to a statistic researched and studied by IF. The stark interior is kept straightforward, equipped with all required facilities, with a circular skylight that reminds him of the outside. The use of LED lighting with adjustable brightness allows one to work throughout the day, while the workspace setting ensures a seamless workflow for better efficiency and productivity. In contrast, the design of the mother’s room is warmer, accommodating her preferred activities and hobbies, such as at-home workout sessions or spaces for a pet.
The kids’ rooms are designed to solely adapt to them, their lifestyles and needs, with the wall fitted with essential pieces of furniture concealed inside from the table, a cabinet to bed, all of which can be pulled out when needed. “The design maximises every square meter of the room, creating a multi-functional space that can be used for various kinds of activity. The indirect lighting hidden in the walls contributes as a significant detail that adds more flare and ups the level of professionalism for activities such as live streaming sessions on social media platforms,” relays IF.
The Broken Home, a two-story geometric volume elevated on stilts, is a combined attempt between Choojai and Friends and IF, to interpret a dwelling from a different, heavily practical perspective, “a place that reflects the contemporary context surrounding modern-day individuals and their ‘living together but apart’ relationship,” they inform.
The project is initiated by Sammakorn, the pioneer of Thailand’s housing estate industry, and its recognition of the changes in Thai people’s way of life in the last five decades. “Sammakorn believes that a ‘happy life (home) isn’t about bringing people together’ but creating a space that nurtures good relationships between family members. Their intention is to facilitate a conversation that will encourage society to acknowledge these changing behaviours while encouraging people to question and think about happiness and values in life from other possible aspects,” IF concludes.
Name: The Broken Home
Architect and Designer: IF (Integrated Field Co. Ltd.)
Creative: Choojai and Friends
Production house: Yolk + Club
3D animation: IOD (Illustrations on Demand)