Relational Architecture: Rirkrit's Thai House

Some of the ideas that guided Rirkrit Tiravanija's constructed "space-stage" in the 2006 Walker Art Center exhibition OPEN-ENDED (the art of engagement) are behind his new home, an experimental modernist house in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Designed by the young Thai architect (and Tiravanija's former student) Aroon Puritat, the project, like Rirkrit's stage, provided a basic framework on which the architect and the artist's other collaborators could create. This art was dubbed "relational aesthetics" by theorist Nicholas Bourriaud, because it prizes relationships over aesthetics. This architecture, however, seems to cherish both values equally.

"[T]he house was born from a plan without a plan," writes Sant Suwatcharapinun in the Thai magazine art|4|d. "The only requests were to retain, as much as possible, all the trees on the property, to install a bedroom, bathroom, a sitting and relaxation area, living room, kitchen, a work room for his artistic pursuits and a photography studio for his wife Annette Aurell, a photographer from New York."

Beyond that there were no budgetary or conceptual restrictions -- other than not obscuring views for Tiravanija's family or his neighbors. The resulting home -- a U-shaped construction of glass and concrete, with wood and polished concrete floors, plus tile and lighting designed by area artists -- reminds the author of Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion, out of context in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.

But the collaboration between artist and architect reminds him of Tiravanija's art, which Puritat encountered both as a grad student at Silpakorn University and at "the land," the rice farm/sustainability project Tiravanija and artist Kamin Laitcherprasert founded outside nearby Sanpatong. Aside from open-endedness, a key aspect of Tiravanija's work, and apparently the architecture, is the Buddhist notion of "doing less" -- that is, as Suwatcharapinun writes, "not trying to embellish or make something more than what it is":
From another perspective, it is a new work by Rirkrit who worked in a different medium; from cooking and using musical instruments to that of an architectural structure. Further, those who come across this new structure and those who were involved in the development have changed. It is with certainty that this time, the efforts were subjected to more restrictions and limitations. However, it is more of a reiteration of the ‘Doing Less’ concept. Moreover, if I were to interpret it differently, presuming that it was ‘loosely controlled’, then Aroon and his friends have become a part of the architectural results. However, looking at it from yet another viewpoint, it is a house that was very thoroughly planned and designed. This is something architects dream of - collaborating with a group of people with a sufficient degree of understanding, working closely with the owner of the house and receiving feedback with efficiency.

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