Inspiration or imitation?

Duangrit Bunnag, the architect behind projects such as TCDC, The Jam Factory and Warehouse 30, has designed the winning bid for Suvarnabhumi’s much-anticipated second terminal.
The competition, organized by Airports of Thailand (AOT), invited private architecture firms to participate in designing the second terminal of Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is set to open in mid-2020 at a cost of approximately B63 billion.
But already, Duangrit’s design, which features a series of towering wooden brackets (much like traditional dougong) rising to the ceiling in upside-down pyramid formations, is causing fresh accusations of copycat design.
The terminal has become a hot topic on the Thai architect group “What Do Architects Think”, where many users are posting pictures of Duangrit’s latest achievement side-by-side with the work of Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, particularly his Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum in Kochi Prefecture, Japan.
The Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum, like Duangrit’s design, features a series of seemingly physics-defying dougong rising in upside down pyramid formations to create a flat surface.
Reached for comment, Duangrit was in good spirits, jokingly replying, “Oh, I thought it looked more like Tadao Ando’s work,” in reference to another legend of Japanese architecture whose work Duangrit’s has also been compared to in the past.
“I have been an architect for 30 years and I’ve never had any intentions to copy anyone’s work, but I do understand,” he continued. “Though I’m also wondering why has nobody ever said that Ando was copying Kuma.”
Duangrit also took to Twitter to respond to other online accusations that the design was in fact the work of Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei, with whom he collaborated on the winning bid. In the past, foreign architecture firms have got around Thailand’s laws making it illegal to hire foreigners to design buildings in Thailand by posing as “consultants” for local firms.
"I can assure you that I designed it myself 100%,” wrote Duangrit. “Nikken also gave a hand in airport system. This work is a very low budget, there is no foreign architecture firms that would ever accept this."
Other achitectural voices have also come to Duangrit’s defence. In a string of Tweets highlighting the many contemporary reinterpretations of dougong, architect @phisuk commented: “Architects borrow/reinterpret architectural elements all the time. It doesn't mean they copy.” Though the architect also questioned whether dougong, which are of Chinese/Japanese heritage, fit within the context of Thailand.
Other famous architectural sites around the world featuring dougong include Cafe Kureon by Kengo Kuma & Associates, Japan; Dougong Tower by Woods Bagot Architects, Beijing, China; and Dougong Cube by Terrence Curry, Wu Chaoyun, He Shen and Cheng Kun, Beijing, China.
There are other controversies surrounding the AOT competition. According to Manager Online, Duangrit was not the original winner of the competition, into which four groups submitted designs. The consulting group SA (which comprises Span Consultants; Sign-Tech Engineering Consultant; SkyParty and Asasusasekkei) originally won based on technical points, but was stripped of the title because it did not submit the original quotation paper with its proposal.  
The SA group has now submitted a letter to the board to reconsider the final result, stating that they stayed within the budget and submitted all the requirements stipulated by AOT, which, according to SA, did not include the original quotation paper.
Scheduled to open in mid-2020, the Duangrit-designed Suvarnabhumi Airport 2 will feature a multiplex building containing retail shops and restaurants and increased convenience for coach, taxi and personal car drop-off. Just as striking as the dougong pillars is an indoor tropical rainforest garden visible from baggage claim, which collects and filters rainwater.
The airport is part of a plan to increase tourists from 45 million people per year to 60 million people per year by 2020.

To see all of four of the designs for the competition, click here.


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