Water you know? : an architectural research project exploring how cultural and spiritual values attached to water can be used to bring attention to water management. The water scarcity situation in the rural Thai village, Ban Thang Khwang, is the test case
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Citation:Pengpala, A. (2015). Water you know?: An architectural research project exploring how cultural and spiritual values attached to water can be used to bring attention to water management. The water scarcity situation in the rural Thai village, Ban Thang Khwang, is the test case. A Research Project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Architecture Professional, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand.
Permanent link to Research Bank record:https://hdl.handle.net/10652/3541
This research focuses on bringing attention to the importance of water and its management to my village, Ban Thang Khwang, in northeast Thailand. On a trip home in 2014 I noticed a huge contrast between the poor condition of the village water, its outdated infrastructure and the less-vital, yet popular, technologies of smart phones, computers, and televisions with satellite receivers that were seen everywhere . This flat and arid region relies heavily on agricultural production, yet there is a major shortage of water. Ban Thang Khwang’s existing sources include a community pond and roof collection, but the water is not safe for human consumption, which means the villagers must rely on bottled water for drinking. In the past, governmental parties have proposed large-scale water projects full of good intentions for the northeast region. However, many of these never materialised and those, which did, often had damaging ecological consequences. The Thai people’s relationship with water goes beyond being a vital resource. It is fundamental to our cultural, traditional, social, and spiritual beliefs. Water-related festivals ask for rain, pay respect to one another, give thanks for water, and even include rituals, which apologise for polluting it. Yet, during and after the festivals, we continue to pollute and waste our most precious resource. Needless to say plentiful clean water would benefit Ban Thang Khwang’s health and economy. During my research Thai water-related festivals and the daily activities of general village family members were analysed through the concepts of Bernard Tschumi’s “No architecture without an event” and Lawrence Halprin’s “Motation” recording method. This analysis of the village was overlaid with a natural and mechanical water treatment process. These physical and metaphorical intersections determined the location and program of a series of architectural interventions to bring attention to water. At the village’s two major intersections, medium-scaled building designs were developed. A house for the family that maintains the school and the adjacent community water treatment facility, used cultural values and water cleanliness hierarchy to determine the spatial configuration. The second building, an internet café was located at the intersection of a festival route and a frequently travelled route by young people through the village. The ritual path overlaid with the contemporary programs of the internet cafe brings together the ‘everyday’ with a suggestive and performative architecture that values and heightens the significance of water to Thai culture. This project uses Thai culture, values and village custom to determine the nature and location of the architectural interventions with modern techniques to improve water supply. The architecture seeks to embed the critical significance of water in the everyday life of the Ban Thang Khwang village.