A public Thai school in Chiang Rai has been nominated for the Royal Institute of British Architects International Prize 2018.

Vin Varavarn Architects’ Baan Huay Sarn Yaw Post Disaster School represents an incredible feat on the part of the province to recover from a 6.3 magnitude earthquake (the largest ever recorded in the kingdom) that destroyed 73 schools and left 2,000 students without classrooms.

Baan Huay Sarn Yaw is the flagship development from Pordee Pordee Classroom, an initiative between up-and-coming design firms, Design for Disasters non-profit research and design initiative, and Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage to sustainably rebuild the province’s educational infrastructure in record time.

Built from organic materials, Vin Varavarn’s school is no free-form fantasy. It has all the charm of the Rama VI-era Maruekhathaiyawan Palace, despite the complete lack of adornments. The stilted structure, paneled walls, and deep eaves feel quintessentially Thai and perfectly suited to the climate.

“We spoke to the school. The director had a lot of environmental concerns. He wanted us to incorporate natural materials in the plan,” says Vin, who pushed for the use of bamboo as floorboards, a sustainable material that grows quickly in Chiang Rai's climate.

Launched in 2016, the RIBA International Prize is handed to a building that “exemplifies design excellence, architectural ambition and delivers meaningful social impact.”

Baan Huay Sarn Yaw stands out as an anomaly among 2018’s nominees, most of which come from international architectural superstars. The majority of other projects on this year’s short list are strikingly minimal, high-budget European edifices like the Museum Voorlinden (Netherlands) by Dutch firm Kraaijvanger Architects and Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Basel by Christ & Gantenbein.

Every building in the shortlist will now be visited by the RIBA grand jury before the winner is announced towards the end of 2018.