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10 Cal Tower, Thailand: Award-winning playground project by Supermachine Studio

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on January 14, 2016 at 12:44 PM

When called upon to design a public facility or part of it, designers from different genres like artists, sculptors, architects and landscape designers find their opportunity to contribute to the society they live in. Year End assessments bring to the fore all the good, bad, fabulous or disastrous contributions made to a city, country or to the planet in general during the course of the year gone by. Interestingly, when the prestigious Architectural Review awards were announced at the end of 2015, the Emerging Architecture category was bagged by the young and dynamic Thai firm Supermachine Studio for their design of the ‘10 Cal Tower’, a public playground with a vertical twist at a seaside park in Bangsean, Thailand.

© Courtesy of internet resources

The Supermachine Studio team consists of young architects Sujinda Khawkam, Kasidis Peuktes, Mint Mintly and others led by fountainhead Pitupong Chaowakul. They were invited by Thai building materials manufacturing moguls, the Siam Concrete Group (SCG), to design a public playground along with two other firms who designed a library and a multi-purpose pavilion respectively, at an existing seaside park in Bangsean as part of the SCG’s 100 years anniversary celebrations.

Countering the perception of a playground as a facility meant only for children, with adults sitting around in a supervisory role, during the conceptual discussion stage led Supermachine to devise a facility that could be equally used, experienced, shared and enjoyed by members of all age-groups. So, rather than provide a group of playthings spread over a ground, they created this vertical labyrinth of twisting and turning staircases, built totally in concrete and finished with a monochrome of brick red paint.

The tower can be explored from bottom to top, finding ways through at least ten different routes (img 11) available within its maze, by old and young alike. They can run through it, play hide and seek, find interesting platforms and nooks to spend time with each other and enjoy it in any other way they may imagine. Its name ‘10 Cal Tower’ derives from the average number of calories burned in traversing completely through the tower once from bottom to top. It also serves as a lookout tower, offering views of the playground below as well as the sea beyond.

Located as it is along the existing treeline, the views from this towering maze enable the exploration of ones equation with nature through different dimensions. New varieties of vegetation which have been planted at the bottom of the tower are expected to penetrate through the voids in the labyrinth as they grow, adding further to the dimensions of the experience within the tower.

The architecture of public spaces is always meant to go beyond the realm of visual impact to a level of the experiential. The 10 Cal Tower, over and above decorating a public space with its sculptural form, re-interprets the playground to provide an interesting space for families, groups and communities to explore and share. Be that as it may, this structure also fires up the imagination with its potential to extrapolate into even more fantastic forms; say, what would the experience be like if it were to be painted with colourful psychedelic patterns?! The designers, in their conceptual mock-up (img 8), have already suggested swings hanging from points in the tower. Maybe, it could be replicated elsewhere with slides added to the maze.

Pirak Anurakyawachon of The Architectural Review reflected on how "this architecture of active movement shows that it can be used, not just linear journeys based on efficient route, but a delight in ebb, tide and meander." One of the jurors, David Adjaye noted what made the project unique: “what was very clear is that it wasn’t a sculpture - it was actually programmatically aware of using elements of architecture and conceptual and philosophical ideas about architecture.” Three cheers to this architecture of possibilities!!

Designer : Supermachine Studio, Thailand
Photography :internet resources

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