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Architecture For The Underserved, For Under $15k

My inbox is often filled with photographs or renderings of glitzy new developments, glinting under the sun. Of course, it looks great, but lately, I find myself tiring of hearing multi-million budgets, LEED ratings over again. I absentmindedly wonder, "How many of these buildings will truly be assets to their community long after these stats are lost in the ethers of the Internet?" (Can you really count something as lost in the Internet, anyway?)

I found my appreciation for architecture re-kindled with an introduction to the work of this year's European Prize for Architecture winner, Norway's TYIN Tegnestue. The duo was established 2008 and made their name designing community-sensitive structures in underserved areas of Thailand, Uganda, Sumatra and Norway. Theirs is an "architecture of necessity," where beautiful form serves a true purpose.

TYIN involves the community in the design and building of their work and their materials are sourced nearby or from local merchants. Many firms follow these processes, but the product speaks for itself. TYIN's structures are warm, appealing and feels organic. Here are some of my favorites.

Old Market Library in Mini Buri, Bangkok, Thailand
cost $4,500

The library was built in a 100-year old market building over five months. Built in Mini Buri, an area that's become almost slum-like, the library was designed to strengthen the sense of community. Regular community meetings helped designers figure out the real needs of the neighborhood, but also allowed neighbors to help by drawing, building models and even clearing garbage.

The project used local and re-used materials. Bookshelves were wooden boxes from earlier projects. The cladding used old, decayed wooden pieces from the surroundings. Internal structure was made from a local second-hand shop. I love the use of color and fabric to soften the space.


Safe Haven Bathhouse in Ban Tha Song Yang, Thailand
cost $3,800

Bathrooms are invariably the place where people most vulnerable, and thus, need more sense of comfort. This new sanitary building was made to meet the needs of orphans. It included toilets, personal hygiene facilities and laundry. The original structure was narrow, dark and had concrete flooring that accumulated water and dirt. TYIN strived to create a more dignified alternative. I don't know about you, but that's one bathroom I would prefer rather than a dark, smelly outhouse.




Soe Ker Tie House in Noh Bo, Tak, Thailand
cost: $11,000

Everyone always imagines their own little place. Perhaps harking back to that impulse, TYIN designed these structures with the children of the Karen refugee tribe in mind, so they could have place to call home and play.

Due to its shape, it was called "Soe Ker Tie Haus" or "Butterfly Houses." Its form (specifically the shape of the roof) isn't just design fancy, it promotes natural ventilation within the sleeping units, at the same time it allows rainwater to be collected. The homes feature bamboo weaving technique that can be found in local homes and crafts. Bamboo used in the homes were harvested from within a few kilometers.


All photos via TYIN.