Villa Amanzi, Phuket, Thailand.
Nestled in a cascading, west facing ravine with a dramatic slab of rock defining the northern edge and a stunning outlook over the azure blue of the Andaman Sea to the south, our commission; to do this demanding but ultimately spectacular site justice, was both daunting and exciting. The defining elements are the rock and the view. They dominate at every juncture. They resonate on first approach, through the migration from public to private space, in the living and in the family areas, in the gardens, in the bedrooms; and they continue to command respect down the tropical jungle steps that arrive at a secluded rock platform, flanked by the same seam that welcomed you 60m above. Constant reference to these elements instills a feeling of solidity that contrasts with the openness of the house, reinforcing the dynamism and vibrancy that pays homage to the magic of the location.The home grows out from the rock; the bedroom element rests between it and the wing that strikes the perpendicular, rising vertically from the slope. This composition defines the open living and dining space that is simply a transition between two garden areas. It is intimate but open and the uninterrupted clear span creates a bridge under which the conventions defining indoor space disappear. Cantilevered over a massage sala, the swimming pool completes the composition. It is the focal point that draws the eye to the view and instills a calmness that provides balance with the energy of the architectureAllocation of Living Space The provision and allocation of living space in the house is carefully distributed over the three main levels of accommodation. At the main entrance or Entertainment Level, the principal open living and dining space forms the core of the entertainment function. The terraces, swimming pool, dining sala and barbeque area all refer and rely on this main space and together, complete the composition. Supporting this function are the kitchen, storage, laundry and staff areas. Above the Entertainment Level is the main family Bedroom Level. The master suite is accompanied by a further three bedrooms, all of which, including their bathrooms, command uninterrupted ocean views. Sliding doors can be opened front and back to encourage the monsoon breezes to cool the rooms.Below the Entertainment Level, two further bedrooms, a private spa and a large games and family room complete the home on the Guest and Spa Level.It is from this level that access is gained to the steps leading to the rock pools and the ocean.Planning Restrictions The principal planning restrictions on the west coast of Phuket are a series of set-back zones from the Mean High Water Line (MHWL). These zones control density, site coverage and height limits. Located within the 3rd of these zones, a band that has been designed to allow low density and low visual impact development, Villa Amanzi is well within limits and therefore enjoys generous green space around it.Project Relationship with Surroundings From the outset, the goal of the design has been to make the home harmonise with its location and surroundings. This has been achieved by carefully analysing the survey and topographical information and designing the building to tuck into the site, capitalising the drama of the rock that runs through the home and defines it; from first approaches all the way down to the rock pools at the ocean frontPoints of Architectural Interest The main natural elements of the project are the stunning view across the Andaman Sea and the dramatic seam of granite that defines the northern boundary. Whilst using the house, constant reference is made to both. At certain locations one is almost forced to touch the rock; at others it is viewed from a distance, but it is always there inside and outside the house, an architectural constant. The view is the second constant that is venerated in all the major living spaces and it is brought into the home through the transparency and operability of the walls. The design of the home further emphasises these elements by seeming to grow out of the rockface. With all doors open, the bedroom bridge creates a covered living space with gardens either side that meld and cause the line between indoors and out to disappear and encourage a lifestyle and use of the home that is unashamedly modern but quintessentially tropical.Safety, Security and Wellbeing Safety and security are crucial elements in being able to fully appreciate and relax in a home. Fortunately, Thailand is renowned for its hospitality and respect for personal safety. This has enabled Villa Amanzi to be designed as a very open and natural home. In addition, the sheer rock face to the north, the sea to the west and a ravine to the south create natural barriers enhancing the feeling of seclusion. Coupled with the openness and dynamism of the house a true feeling of wellbeing is experienced.Innovative Technology The isolated nature of the site, on very steep terrain, made the construction extremely difficult. This necessitated the construction to follow a bottom up procedure. The principal foundations for the swimming pool wing, the lowest built element, were socketed into the bedrock creating a stable platform from which the whole house grew. The bedroom ‘bridge’ created a specific challenge as the transportation of large prefabricated elements was severely restricted. To reduce the structural impact of this element, the design called for a large Vierendeel truss that had to meet tight tolerances. The solution was to go back to basics and use the available welding skills from local shipbuilding to fabricate the truss on site one element at a time. This involved back-breaking hand winching of each member into place, but the end result is outstanding.Eco-Friendly and Energy Saving Sustainability has been a real driving force for the design of Villa Amanzi. Phuket enjoys a monsoon climate where the wind direction is predominantly east to west in the dry monsoon and opposite in the wet season. This has enabled us to harness the monsoons cooling potential by enabling the west and east sides of the house to be opened up. This works so well that the owner has commented that they have never actually used the air conditioning in the living and dining space. Additional sustainable initiatives incorporated in the villa include: • Rain Water Harvesting• Heavily Insulated Roofs• Operable Louvres for Shading• Low-e Glass to Windows• Conserving Existing Trees• Maintaining Existing Topography• Centralised Air Conditioning• House Infrastructure Prepared for Photo-voltaic Cells• Sustainable Bamboo Flooring• Salt Water Swimming Pool• Indigenous Species Used in Landscaping