“Laborers are the creator of big buildings that make people comfortable, but why can’t they live happily in their own style?” earnestly said Jiramet Phrueksawas, a student of the Faculty of Architecture of Khon Kaen University, one among the new generation architects.
The world keeps changing every minute, bringing ultramodern technologies. A lot of skyscrapers have been built to respond to the lifestyles of a lot of people. But a small group of people have to live in corrugated iron shacks hidden from our sight. Their comfort, convenience, quality of life are hardly ever thought of by any one, not to mention how they compare to lives on those skyscrapers!
“Laborers” is the term we all are familiar with, from newspapers, television, or various online media. These laborers in exile from their hometown can be of other nationalities and age ranges. They work hard, trading their labor for money and often are taken advantages of in all dimensions. Would it be good for them if one of their dimensions is better and comfortable living, with some time for real relaxation? This is possible by designing architectural structures with empathy towards human.”
Jiramet Phrueksawas, a 4th student of the Faculty of Architecture of Khon Kaen University, one among the new generation architects, has been inspired from the question about the living of construction laborers, one occupation that requires skills, expertise, and capabilities to create complete architectural works from plans, and have been doing so in many periods.
“In my view, laborers construct beautiful architectural works that we see. However, they do not stay or live in them. So I think at least while they are creating these beautiful structures and before they move somewhere else, having an area to change or improve their living should be good for them,” said Jiramet.
As we know, most laborers are displaced from where they live to search the capital of their lives at a place far away from home. Laborers can be Thai or foreigners. Their living sector, even though not permanent as the houses they build, should have the rights for convenience and safety, even though this accommodation is temporary. It should be the basic welfare they receive as other people who do other jobs. Jiramet’s design of “Laborer Architecture” is the work that reflects the problem related to accommodation of laborers that become prominent during the spread of Covid-19. The images of living shacks at construction sites and crowdedness of laborers were seen from all media. This inspired Jiramet to stop and think and decided to study on it by collecting relevant information and designing the work from understanding of the problems. These problems are reflected from relations of the past ways of living and what to take place in the future.
“When I was searching for data, I began to look at the life and family problems of each laborer. Some laborer came to work alone, some were with families. We had to understand their basic problems before looking at their ways of living. The living section of the laborers does not truly provide them with enough utilities. So I tried to base my design on the former designs so that changes can be met and adjusted for different situations for them to live simply but with much better hygiene.”
Jiramet’s design therefore is based on the specific occupation of “Laborer Architecture” and the consideration of the living of displaced laborers at the construction site. Some laborers crossed the border with only one baggage, some brought their family. Their dreams are like the structure that is built on and on before they move somewhere else. However, they have to adjust themselves at all time. It is not only the adults that have to adjust themselves, but also their children. These children have to change school, or some have not been properly educated, making a gap in educational problem. Jiramet therefore intended to design by adding a learning space like an activity court and sports court to support learning and growth of children.
His view towards the design outcome that aims at solving problems and takes into account the quality of life of livers who are laborers has given Jiramet the chance to present his work and relate about the “Laborer Architecture” through his design at the ASIA YOUNG DESIGNER AWARD 2021 and won a Bronze Award. Jiramet is happy with the award and believes it is only a coincidence. He thinks the competition stage has given him a lot. He was able to study the viewpoints and concepts of other competitors, on how they interpreted the issue of this event, and how they were different from his own.
Jiramet related about the first point that took him to become a designer. He said it was his aptitude in calculation and his love of structures. He consulted his mother and was supported by the family. He began to train himself from the time he was in Grade 10, with clear aim to enroll into the Faculty of Architecture. When finally he is studying in this Faculty, he laughed and said that it was different from what he thought. It was not drawing. But his world vision has opened with new viewpoints and ideas he obtains from professors and friends. It is the viewpoint that enables him to see that if one sets aside the views from the top of a skyscraper, then one will see a structure that has been designed from the stories of people who walk past one another on the footpath around the building.
“Architecture leads to better living. We have to understand people before designing. We must know what lifestyle they want, how they want to lead their lives and their daily living. Even though these are small things, we still need to know them before we design.”
What is hidden in Jiramet’s story allows us to see that under the buildings that keep emerging around us, there are a lot of stories from a lot of people who hold different occupations. These people own the stories and inspire architects to design the structures with understanding of the problem of people who live there, so that their quality of living can be raised, bringing equality. Architecture is not only the structure, the design, or the building itself, but the understanding of people who live. This will complete the work of architecture.
If an architectural structure can be compared to a mirror that reflects the story of people who live inside, then Laborer Architecture of Jiramet is like a representative that relates about the being of the laborers for the society to perceive and understand them through the contemporary architectural design. Architecture is not only the structure, but is the understanding, care and empathy towards others.
Written by Jiraporn Prathomchai and Yuthida Chosungnoen