BANGKOK, April 29 -- A village in western Japan has taken five Thai college students under its wing, training them in wooden architecture as the Southeast Asian country hopes to put such structures back on the map.
Mitsue, a village located in Nara Prefecture, aims to revive its aging yet key forestry industry through a plan to export model homes using local timber to Thailand, where wooden architecture has become a dying industry. Forest occupies about 90 percent of the area but, due to a prolonged drop in the price of timber and depopulation, the village where the forestry industry once thrived began seeking alternatives to make use of its abundant natural resources, according to the crowdfunding website for the project. The idea was hatched when the village reached out to professor Shin Murakami of Sugiyama Jogakuen University in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, on advice for a town renewal project. Murakami had been conducting joint research with Bangkok's Sripatum University on environmentally friendly wooden architecture.
Although timber has been a predominant building material in Thailand in years past, there has been a noted decline, mostly due to a lack of good quality teak wood and coarse timber, which is easily infested by termites brought on by the country's tropical climate. Most of the buildings in Thailand are now made of reinforced concrete, and the culture of wooden architecture has not been properly handed down through generations due to a lack of technology to support the industry, according to the project website. At Murakami's suggestion to export model homes using the local timber, the three parties signed an agreement to collaborate on the project focusing on popularizing wooden architecture in Thailand. The five Thai students, who study architecture at Sripatum University, later came to Japan. The students' three month training from March includes learning about the designs of stilted houses for Thailand, as well as gaining an understanding about construction processes through observation.
Oros Loasantisuk, 26, one of the five students in the program and an aspiring architect, touted the advantages of the village's hands-on practical approach. "The designs of wooden architecture may differ from country to country but wood is environmentally friendly," the student said.
"We hope they learn about the brilliance of wooden architecture, Japan's high technology, and the high quality of housing here," said Takefumi Nakako, who works in the department of community development for the village. "We'd be happy if (the experience) leads to the spread of wooden architecture in Thailand," he said.