Q&A with Duangrit Bunnag, World-Renowned Architect

Cromly chats with the award-winning Thai architect about sustainable architecture and design and more.

Updated on June 21, 2017 20:06 pm

Jerni Camposano


Thai architect Duangrit Bunnag was in Singapore recently to share his expertise at the Kohler's First Design Forum. With the theme "Delivering Sustainability as Standard," the Design Forum offers a platform for the exchange of ideas on sustainability, architecture, and hospitality in the Asia Pacific region.

Duangrit, who established his own firm Duangrit Bunnag Architect Limited in 1998, spoke about how ecological and purposeful design can reduce the impact on the environment. He believes in doing away with excess and sticking to the bare essentials. He challenged the attendees to reflect on the importance of this concept not just within the domains of design but in the context of their day-to-day living as well.

The Naka in Phuket, designed by Duangrit, was named Building of the Year at the ARCASIA Awards 2015.

Aside from his architecture firm, Duangrit oversees several companies involved in furniture design, F&B, publishing, fashion, real estate, hospitality, among others. An advocate of creating balance in the global ecological system, he also invests in Ecofuture, the company that invented a new methodology to reduce global carbon footprint commercially.

Learn more about the world-renowned architect below:

Was being an architect your childhood dream?

As a kid, I already decided I wanted to be a scientist, a nuclear physicist. I was pretty nerdy. I always thought I was going to invent something scientifically and make a difference to the world.

When I was 16 or 17, I just realised I didn't like the subject of chemistry. So I decided to drop that (dream). I looked at the context within myself of what I could become. I could draw well, I loved communicating with people, I loved structures. So I thought I could be an architect.

Who inspired you to become an architect?

My uncle, he was a famous architect. I was inspired by him in a certain way. He allowed me to know that the architecture profession is not that bad. When I went to the university, I took up Architecture.

Residence Windmill C23 in Bangkok, Thailand

Why architecture?

It's too hard, it's too complicated, it's too tiring. But now, I'm happy I'm an architect. I never think of myself as anything else but an architect.

Share with us a memorable project.

At the time I was in Los Angeles, I designed a very interesting project: a high-rise building which has two parts. One part was like a tower on the ground, the other was in the orbit of the earth. I discussed with a scientist on how large should that part of the building be on the orbit of the earth to reflect the sunlight on the building without destroying the building. There's a mechanism inside to reflect the sunlight from the satellite piece to actually get the sunlight into the building at nighttime. It's a tower you operate day and night. And I was only 25 years old at the time!

What is your favourite project among all that you've done?

It's like asking which of my children I like the most. Each of the project is special and different. There are projects I like more than the others, but not for particular reasons.

Villa Noi in Phang Nga, Thailand

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

Everything can be your inspiration: the table, wall, ceiling.

Tell us about sustainable designs.

The question is whether there is such a thing as sustainability. (Some designs) create more garbage to the world. How do we make sustainability real? What is the ideology of sustainable architecture? I think it's keeping the balance to make sure everything is kept in their ecological system. The more you try to add, the more you create trouble. Some of the beachfront buildings I designed, they don't have air conditioning. You don't need it.

Residence Sukhumvit in Thailand

What is the most fulfilling thing about your job?

I meet so many people: the worker on the side that I can share lunch with as well as with top business people in Thailand. I love it when I designed the house of the princess. I love it that I've met with the Prime Minister, politicians, and become good friends with them. But I also like it when I meet people in the streets, when I'm about to design a project and tell them about it.

What I like in this career is I have the chance to meet with people and from time to time, make a difference so that they feel better about their lives.

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Photos courtesy of The Jam Factory


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