Thai architect a finalist for top international prize in Italy

Thai architect a finalist for top international prize in Italy

A Thai woman reached the final round of this year's arcVision Prize, women and architecture - an international award for female architects, set up by the Italcementi Group, a partner of Asia Cement.

Swiss architect Angela Deubor won the arcVision Prize for this year.

Thai architect Patama Roonrakwit, who reached the final round, has worked on slum and small housing development in Thailand for more than 20 years. She was the only Thai woman architect to reach the shortlist for this year's final.

Patama was praised at the arcVision ceremony for her valuable work to help people. She built a shelter project to help people after the tsunami in Phang-nga, a province in the south of Thailand hit hard by the disaster. Juries called her an "architect of hope".

Patama was selected as one of 10 women architects in the final round for her high enthusiasm and devotion to slum work. Along with concern on sustainability and rural development, Patama is considered a pioneer architect for slum work.

She was the sole finalist out of three Thai architects for this year's award.

Since about 1995, before graduating with a bachelor's degree from Silpakorn University's Faculty of Architecture, Patama started work on housing for the poor and community development. She later got a master's degree in science (development practices) from Oxford Brookes University in England

"It was my destiny and my intent to do architecture development. At that time or even now, few architects work on slum or poor housing development. I would like to see poor people have a better living standard and quality living, which is a right that every people should be able to afford," she said.

Patama has worked on more than 40 housing development projects for the poor and community foundations in Thailand. She has also worked on informal architecture and design for middle income people, as she thinks architecture is not only for rich people or buildings, but everyone can use such skills for their home.

Patama also has her own company, Case Limited, to do rural development projects, plus a building foundation, and her own house.

She said architecture was not only a profession but about life and solutions for living. Her main focus for design and architecture is less waste, cost saving, using alternative and environmentally friendly products, and being functional.

"Some people call me a 'green architect' as I normally target zero waste and set a budget at zero or as little as possible. Since I work with poor people I have to save costs as much as possible," Patama explained.

Asked about difficulties or obstacles in her work, Patama said it is about people and their attitude. Sometimes she has to deal with influential politicians or local people, or tough agencies or officials for slum or community development. Nonetheless, she tries to talk to local people and find a resolution to problems for them through her work. Eventually, her work and efforts to understand local people win and people accept her with her work.

Patama expressed hope that more people will understand the needs of architects. People also have to pay more attention to developing housing for the poor.

Roberto Callieri and Nopadol Ramyarupa, co-managing directors at Asia Cement, which nominated Patama for this year arcVision Prize, said that Patama's work had benefited the community and really helped people, in accordance with the company's corporate social responsibility goal.

The arcVision Prize - inspired by the Italcementi entrepreneurial vision - recognises innovation and sustainability in projects and constructions, with a focus on standards of technological innovation, environmental quality, cost-effective use of resources, social responsibility, functional and aesthetic research. This year was the third edition of the award.

The prize-winner was announced on Friday in Bergamo at i.lab, the Italcementi research and innovation centre designed by Richard Meier, a building which itself integrates leading construction solutions and technologies. Some 21 designers were short-listed from 16 countries: Australia, Jordan, Egypt, France, India, Japan, South Africa, Morocco, Mexico, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Thailand, and the United States.

Martha Thorne, associate dean of IE school of architecture and design, who was on the jury for this year's award, said selected Deubor as the winner for her dedication and consistent work.

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