The typical university student lounge of yore was often a spare room with tables, chairs, and vending machines. But in the last decade, schools have been stepping up the design quotient to create a more fun and appealing interior. Such is the case at Bangkok University, where Thai culture and a new patron have enabled an exuberant, expressive space for young people—the Imagine Lounge.
Students will always adapt any communal space as their own, acknowledges designer Pitupong “Jack” Chaowakul, founder of Bangkok-based firm Supermachine Studio. “When I was in school in the 1990s, the Internet was just becoming available, but now students rely on their smartphones and WiFi. So the ways in which they use educational spaces evolves with technology,” he explains.
His firm has amassed a portfolio of projects that incorporate bold colors and patterns (see interview, page 72), and despite its small size—only four employees at the time of this commission—Supermachine Studio was called on by Bangkok University’s new leading trustee Petch Osathanugrah to renovate a two-story, 11,300-square-foot space into a student lounge. A former pop singer, Osathanugrah launched an initiative at the school to encourage creativity across disciplines, and this energy was translated into a playful aesthetic for the lounge.
Work, play, and everything in-between
The two floors, located within the university’s new Landmark compound, are zoned to keep academic activities on the lower level and playtime upstairs. The ground floor offers a variety of study spaces, from desks and internet stations to flexible, casual meeting areas and a small café lined with bookshelves. The main double-height volume of the lounge is furnished with a “super chandelier” that hangs above a large modular sofa—both custom-designed by Supermachine Studio. The sofa’s design is a take on traditional benches called krae, common in Chaowakul’s rural hometown, and used for everything from sleeping to eating and working. Students can move sofa sections, whose backs flip up like beach chairs, to create endless configurations, or they can remove the sofa entirely to make room for projecting films. The chandelier, a cage-like frame accented with 400 beer bottles, serves as a blank slate for students to redecorate, possibly using flowers or teddy bears, Chaowakul imagines.
A café-like setting for casual study
The ground floor’s bold, chevron-pattern PVC floor draws students from this main volume into the Reading Cave, which is a series of 15 study rooms containing more traditional seating options. These spaces are delineated by OSB ribs, cut manually and installed to wrap from walls to ceiling. To prevent the spaces from feeling too cave-like and dark, the designers punched several holes in the ceiling, including one outfitted with a kitschy pink periscope that allows students to keep tabs on classmates on the mezzanine level above. When study time is over, they can access the upper level by ascending two different sets of stairs—one lined with manga (Japanese comics), and the other, a spiral stair encased in a 21-foot-tall acrylic bear. Although the bear was initially painted black and white like a panda, the designers anticipate students will change its theme and colors each year.
Leisurely activities for everyone
Unlike the quieter lower level for study, the upper level is dedicated to play. Two pitched-roof huts are set perpendicular to one another, forming a village that accommodates noisier activities. The pink karaoke hut—which cantilevers partially beyond the balcony and over the main volume—has white circles of MDF applied to the surface as polka dots. The other volume, which contains a music rehearsal space, is clad in wood slats on the exterior and lined with acoustic panels arranged in a blocky pattern on the interior. At one end, swinging barn doors open to create a large performance space between the huts, and bold injections of color pools in the gray leveling epoxy flooring further define the “yard.”
Other activities on the mezzanine to keep students occupied between classes include a stress-busting kung fu practice corner and a dance area complete with a pole, DJ booth, and disco ball. Classic recreation equipment is also provided, including ping pong, darts, and billiards—the latter of which offers a twist. The custom pool table is double the average length, and beyond the usual six fixed holes, it boasts four moveable and raised holes so that the landscape of matches is ever-changing.
Following one of Supermachine Studio’s design presentations during the review process, Osathanugrah commented that, “it is fun, but very boyish,” and asked the design team to incorporate an activity that would appeal to female students. Though Chaowakul is a fan of the color pink, he was stumped to come up with entertainment options for college-aged women, he admits shyly. His solution was to design a makeup/vanity counter featuring what else but custom pink lamps and seating.
11,300 square feet on two floors
Interior designer: Supermachine Studio. Interior designer: Pitupong Chaowakul. Interior design project team: Nuntawat Tassanasangsoon; Suchart Ouypornchaisakul; Santi Sarasuphab; Wattikon Kosolkit. Contractor: Keen Interior. Consultants: KCS Consultant. Lighting: Superma- chine Studio.
Wallcoverings: OSB panels; wood panels. Paint: TOA. Laminate: Wilsonart. Flooring: Hanwa (PVC tiles). Ceiling: painted concrete. Lighting: custom (chandelier); Lumitron (recessed, track, fluorescent/industrial); United Lighting (pendants/ chandeliers). Seating: custom (sofa); Hawaii 50 (task, lounge/ reception, cafeteria/dining).