Excerpt: Artisans Ayutthaya: The Woman Restaurant is an architectural project designed by Bangkok Project Studio in Thailand. The project calls itself “The Artisans Ayutthaya” because women are the descendants of Ayutthaya people who are determined to preserve the cuisine and craft of Ayutthaya.
[Text as submitted by architect] They are five right-angle triangular buildings made of glass blocks and framed by wood. The perimeter of each building is 8 x 8 x 11.31 m. The combined area of the five buildings (two floors, including corridors) is 310 sq. m. The walking path around the project, including the reception area and the waterfront balcony, is 640 sq. m. The total functional area is 950 sq. m. Bordering the bank of the Chao Phraya River in Ban Run District, Ayutthaya, the five glass block buildings are sparkling under the light all day and night.
Despite the same size, each building has different functions. It is my intention that these five buildings are made up of materials that everyone overlooks, but when put together, create a new value that is worth a second look. Starting with the unsold glass blocks, whether because of their least attractive pattern or its reputation as bathroom wall blocks, I added value to these disfavored items by planking them with wooden frames so that the color of the wood is reflected into the blocks. I use a clear PVC sheet instead of giant door panels and glass sheets to reduce the weight and construction budget. Sling ropes are crossed over the doors and windows to reduce the force of the wind blowing in from the rive. In addition, the door and window hinges are taken from the hinges of ten-wheel trucks’ doors and adapted to support the weight of the huge doors and windows.
I find the construction method and materials used for these five buildings challenging, both for me and the builders, because it is different from how glass block walls are generally built. In this project, we use steel as a mortar and cover it with wood, not to mention how we transform several other items into building materials. Talking about the builders, they are not craftsmen but ordinary local workers who learn to master the construction method I developed taking into consideration the level of their skills.
In addition to the interesting construction method and materials that gave life to The Artisans Ayutthaya, the background story of this place is no less inspiring. The project is located in a village in Ban Run District. One curiosity of this place is that most of the residents are unmarried or widowed women. Their daily activity is to give alms to monks in the early morning at a small run-down village temple. They try their best to earn money to repair the temple. Each of them cooks a few specialties in large pots and pack the food in smaller individual bags to offer to the monks and exchange among themselves. This is where the project began.
These modest single and widowed women aged 55-94, who cook delicious dishes but never call themselves “chefs,” join hands with their culinary skills to create the local cuisine for visitors and hope that they will return just like children or grandchildren who come home for food prepared by their mothers, aunts and grandmothers. Part of the income from food selling will be allocated to the temple’s renovation. These five buildings are named after these women. In addition to the local food, the plates, bowls, and earthenware cups are also locally and meticulously crafted piece by piece by a 60-year-old single woman.
This is why the project calls itself “The Artisans Ayutthaya” because these women are the descendants of Ayutthaya people who are determined to preserve the cuisine and craft of Ayutthaya. They are so generous that all recipes and tasty secrets are made public so that everyone can help keep the local food of Ayutthaya alive instead of disappearing with them as they age. I name these women “the breathing scriptures.”