During the recently concluded Bangkok Design Week, architecture practice Shma Company Limited designed an installation in front of the Grand Postal Building in the Thai capital’s Khet bang Rak district. Entitled Safezone Shelter, it was designed as an ephemeral intervention aiming to purify air and provide comfort for people, while also raising awareness about “air pollution,” which has become a critical concern for many urban cities. According to the World Air Quality Index of 2019, Bangkok has 54% of total days in a year in which its particulate matter (PM) measured over the World Health Organization’s standard level, threatening over one-third of inhabitants.
The city has also constantly been facing “Urban Heat Island Effect” from a large amount of hardscape and skyscrapers with inadequate green spaces. Nonetheless, the architecture community notes that as Bangkok was selected by UNESCO Creative Cities Network as “Creative City of Design,” it’s a good opportunity to create an experimental space in order to achieve a better city and United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal No.11.
Inspired by clouds, the 150m² pavilion was designed in a futuristic organic form, depicting a clean refreshing atmosphere, while also forming a pleasant microclimate by equipping vegetation and engineering technology together.
Air quality is a factor that needs to be carefully controlled to keep good air inside. First, hot dirty air is pulled inside by a fan, passes through rows of trees and shrubs which capture dusty particles, as well as ground-covering plants that absorb toxic substances. After that, the pre-filtered wind flows through the dust filter plate and the cooling plate consequently, and come out as a purified breeze at the end. As providing comfort is also another important circumstance, various techniques are adopted to keep the shelter’s interior temperature at around 22-29 degrees Celsius, suitable for Thailand’s tropical climate.
They include using fans to release heat and create airflow, wrapping Nylon clothes around the structure to get an interior light with a diffused blurry effect – friendly for our eyes, and operating the humidifier to maintain 50 to 70% humidity level. In addition, natural scents from plants, and experimental music – made up of nature-like sounds (breeze, water, birds) is employed to provide a soothing experience while walking inside the pavilion. All of these inventive methods could further be applied to solve air pollution in other kinds of design.
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At an individual level, the architects proposed that a personal mobile suit equipped with a portable air filter could be manufactured, allowing users to move around refreshed. Looking wider at an urban scale, bus stops, recreational space under expressways and skywalks also have the potential to be revitalised with such purification systems. In the end, even high-rise buildings might become old-fashioned when a better choice like an air purifier tower could be constructed.
In conclusion, Safezone Shelter might be seen as a starting point on gaining such benefits from natural species and technological advancement, in order to revitalise Bangkok into a sustainable city that every inhabitant can take a deep breath.
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Photos: Napon Jaturapuchapornpong