Naiipa Art Complex
A boldly designed community mall built around the existing trees on-site.
Awarded Wallpaper’s design award in 2015, the Naiipa Art Complex has created a stir thanks to architect Chanasit “Dew” Cholasuek’s bold design for a community mall built around the existing trees on the site.
It stands in the backyard of owner Sabhat "Kaey" Rakitawan’s house, winding between the trees planted 30-40 years ago by his grandparents. The idea, he says, came 4-5 years ago when the design team were briefed to create a community mall without having to uproot any of the old trees. Apparently, Naiipa is the very first project of its kind in Thailand, with the designers having to work in unison with arborists and tree surgeons to follow the lines of the trees.
“It wasn’t just my idea,” says Kaey. “Back in the day my father wanted to build a house under these conditions but we didn’t have the knowledge to do it. So when I was planning to start Naiipa Art Complex, my biggest concern was preserving the trees—it’s the first thing I discussed with the design team. My father and I both believed this concept could become a reality.”
Head designer Chanasit “Dew” Cholasuek says that, though challenging, the project was hugely rewarding: “I was so happy after receiving this brief. As a designer, I want to preserve trees but I also know that this comes with a high cost. Concepts like this are feasible to do in Thailand, but the client needs to have a lot of confidence. No matter what we say or how much we convince them, if the owner of the land doesn’t care about doing it, then the project won’t happen. I hope Naiipa Art Complex can lead with an example of good design projects to show people that there’s a way of doing something commercial without harming nature. In Thailand, there are still too few design studios which are serious about the environment.”