Ekaphap Duangkaew principal, EKAR Architects × Han Garam
Han Garam (Han): Located in Thailand, this building is a mixture of residential spaces for people and various programmes for dogs. In terms of the client’s request, for whom this building was built, what were the aims for its use and what was the most important aspect behind the design of this building?
Ekaphap Duangkaew (Duangkaew): At the beginning of the project, our client bought a parcel of land without any pre-existing buildings. The aim was for his dogs, Great Pyrenees, to be able to live freely and run around this grassy field. After setting this intention, he planned to retire from Bangkok and to return to his hometown to live a quiet life with his beloved dogs. The day he asked us to design this new home, he was just beginning to find a way for his beloved pets to live in their own house in which he could also reside. He wanted to share one half of his dog’s home and their grass field with other dogs and other pet lovers as a dog hotel and treatment service. He never asked us to build a residence that would be considered aesthetically perfect, but a place in which he could happily live side-by-side with his dogs.
Han: You divided and positioned the building according to individual use on a site of approximately 1,500m2.
Duangkaew: As you can see in the plan, site areas 2 out of 3 have been consigned to facilities for dogs, including the hotel, a salon, a garden, and also swimming pool. The reception area for dog owners, where they can interact with their dog, and sometimes other visitors’ pets, is located in the main building by the roadside. The dog hotel and salon is located in a separate building near the canal on the other side of the road in order to control the noise levels that could interrupt their neighbours. The client’s private residence sits in the main building, but the garden also creates a quiet private space set away from the public spaces. It is a haven where he can maintain his privacy, as well as keeping peace of mind with his dogs in eyesight.
Han: Looking at the aerial photo, the architectural scale and shaping of the roof appear to be in harmony with the surrounding buildings.
Duangkaew: Referring to our design intentions, we just want to be as humble as possible, not only in terms of our human to human relations or human to dog relations, but also remaining humble before architecture and its existing surroundings. So, we began by researching the local history. Nakhon Pathom has rich alluvial soils and receives abundant rainfall that is supplemented by irrigation canals. Therefore, this province has long been understood as a cattle town, where farmers raise livestock such as pigs and chickens to export to other provinces. It results in the appearance of a local architecture that mostly serves a variety of livestock, so this sensitivity to animal needs also features in our building. The purpose of the low lying roof of the chicken and pig barns is to match the scale of their users, and as it is built by the local people, building the small house is much easier in terms of our construction knowledge and experience, and also much lower in construction cost.
Han: The analysis of context did not end with examinations of the physical environment but also continued into contemplation of more abstract relationships. What did you study to better understand the relationship between dogs and humans, and what drew you to develop this particular architectural language?
Duangkaew: The word ‘context’, for us, is not only used in application to the local environment or any of the physical elements but it is also included the abstract thing, the relationship of the users. What we started to study is the dog’s behaviour in their connections to humans, we found that dogs are happiest when their owner is around and the closer we get to them, the more affection they feel. In other words, they can feel and perceive through the distance between them and the human. To respond to this, we reduced the distance between human and dog through our chosen ‘scale’.
Han: You focused the results of your analyses on the roof. What role does roof play here?
Duangkaew: The roof is based on the shape of the local building, but the slope of the roof creates boundaries between users. It indicates a deliberate space in which people can walk or people can sit and whenever we want to enter the dog’s space, we need to bow down to get closer to the dog. Even you are made stranger, reducing the distance demonstrates generosity. A proper seat height with a proper roof height makes the dogs’ owners focus on their dog at a similar height. Also, by elevating the grass field we match the height of eye contact for the human who sits and the dog who stands right at the top of the slope, also reducing the distance between them. The lowest roof that’s about to touch the ground not only defines the space for the human and the dog, but also is designed to create privacy from outside. Concerning the roof material, we selected the bitumen-based roof tile which is more friendly to the user who gets closed, instead of ordinary metal sheet, because the roof leans very close to the visitors, so, it needs to be welcoming to the touch. The transparent roof and opening used at the middle has its purpose, allowing the natural light to shine directly into the courtyard.
Han: Other than these dog-friendly designs, the column and the pool are also notable design elements. Duangkaew: Exactly, dogs normally pee on walls, wheels and columns. The exposed concrete columns was intended as a place for dogs to relieve themselves. The column’s base is designed in a round shape and it makes it easy to clean. The garden has a small path to walk through and relieves stress by stimulating dogs’ olfactory senses. The pool also has a good length and height step for the dog to get up or get down. The material used on the floor, not only at the swimming pool, but all of the floor materials, need to be rough to prevent any long term impact on the dog’s health. If floors are polished, they will cause muscular and joint issues when the dog is older.
Han: You’ve considered other lives aside from dogs. What are some of the architectural devices that allow us to communicate with them?
Duangkaew: ‘Other lives’ includes dogs, trees, flowers, birds who might live in the trees, and insects who cluster on the flowers. We intentionally removed the roof guttering and made rectangular shaped openings on the roof. Big trees grow up into the air to reach the direct light from the sun, and rainwater falls into the garden and waters the plants. We think dogs are so easy to relate to, while trees don’t necessarily impact our emotional landscape. We hope that people will see our intentions through the architecture. Obviously, it’s not supposed to be solely focus on the physical architectural elements or the detailed design, but our strong belief is that we want people who see or experience this architecture to understand each other, to be respectful to each other, and not only to their neighbours or dogs, but also to other living beings on our shared planet.
EKAR Architects (Ekaphap Duangkaew)
Tirayon Khunpukdee, Sorapat Maneewong
Nakhon Pathom, Thailand
house, neighbourhood living facility
Gross floor area
Building to land ratio
Floor area ratio
onduline (roof tile)
GRD + RHive Design and Consultant
Jan. – July 2018
Sep. 2019 – Feb. 2022
14 million THB
Landscape Atchitects 49
Ekaphap Duangkaew is an architect based in Bangkok, Thailand. He founded EKAR Architects in 2015. His representative works include Dog / Human (2022) and Walk / House (2020), and the Walk / House project which received the International Architecture Awards 2022 by the Chicago Athenaeum.