Duangrit Bunnag’s winning forest design for Suvarnabhumi terminal spurs copycat controversy

Rendering of the proposed airport design. Image courtesy of DBALP.
Rendering of the proposed airport design. Image courtesy of DBALP.

Duangrit Bunnag, one of Thailand’s most recognizable and vocal architects, won a contest to design Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi International Airport Passenger Terminal II with a forest-inspired design.

Mockup: DBALP
Rendering of the proposed airport design. Image courtesy of DBALP

The architect’s firm, DBALP, is known for strong, organic lines that create dialogue between the indoors and out, and have made their name with resorts such as Krabi’s Costa Lanta and the Naka Phuket, as well as Bunnag being the founder of Bangkok’s hip enclave The Jam Factory.

This new wood-heavy design also invites the outdoors in — but many have pointed out that it may look too similar to Kengo Kuma’s Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum, completed in 2011 in Japan, to be a coincidence.

Mockup: DBALP
Rendering of the proposed airport design. Image courtesy of DBALP

Indeed, there are similarities in the repeating, arching, and overlapping wooden pole structures that resemble trees in both projects, but Bunnag told Thai website The Standard that his work is original and in keeping with his aesthetic and style.

No comment has been made so far by Airports of Thailand (AOT) on the copycat claims.

It’s an interesting development, considering that the last time Bunnag made major headlines was two years ago when he alerted the media that another proposed Bangkok building, Viman Pra In, an obelisk-shaped design that would have been the centerpiece of the much-maligned Riverside Promenade Project, had a copycat design.

For the airport proposal, in between the cascading “trees” that have been stirring up controversy, Bunnag’s design features a large-scale indoor tropical garden with large waterfall and greenery that would be the first of its kind in an airport.

Mockup: DBALP
Rendering of the proposed airport design. Image courtesy of DBALP

He described the design as ontological and that it should give passengers and staff the feeling of being in one of Thailand’s tropical forests instead of like they are overtly looking at one.

Mockup: DBALP
Rendering of the proposed airport design. Image courtesy of DBALP

One way he plans to do this is by replacing a standard terminal roof with a giant grid structure that covers the entire building and is made of cladded wood. The effect should mimic feeling like you are walking under the cover of trees, with light dappling through.

Check out the winning proposal video here:

The 348,000 sq. meter terminal project should start accepting passengers in 2021 or 2022, has a building budget of THB35 billion (US$1.07 billion) and a design budget of THB329 million (US$1o.1 million). Once complete, it should accommodate 30 million passengers per year and construction is expected to take 30 months from groundbreaking.

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