DIP2017: A chat with Primary Workshop: What is more important than a house is how to fill gaps between age groups (TH/EN)

Co-Habit, a platform that encourages interaction between a homeowner and a new house member of a different generation, is the brainchild of Pimpipat Hongdulaya, the principal architect and co-founder of Primary Workshop, an architecture and interior design studio, who is one of the teams participated in the Designing Impact Program 2017. Aimed to help younger people find long-term living or working space, foster multi-generational living and interaction, and generate income for the seniors who live alone, the platform matches apartment seekers and older landlords based on the type of space provided, basic interests, lifestyles, and mutual benefits between the two parties. Whether to exchange favorite books, share secret recipes, discuss technology, among other cross-generational activities, these interactions are priceless byproducts on top of having a place to live and work.

What are the opportunities that you see in Thailand’s aging society?
We notice that there are more single people who prefer to live alone as they age. We want to design a product that serves this population because one day we may end up using it. The program’s premise is to design for the next 33 years. We see opportunities among people in our generation today who will become single and older in the future. Being architects, we want to design housing for single people to live happily.

We want to design a product based on an assumption that we are the target group. Our design is grounded on our own needs, not business or commerce. We center the design around the demand of the target group – the elders.

What are some new insights that you gain from joining the Designing Impact Program?
What I have learned from interviewing the target group is that the elders do not want houses; they are looking for something more to complete them. We are architects, so we only thought about designing houses. But after chat sessions with the elderly, we discovered that the secret of longevity is interaction and activities, and we can use a house as a tool. This new insight opened our eyes. We used to aim to solve a problem with only the architectural knowledge that we have. Now, we realize that we can do so with other bodies of knowledge as well.In the Designing Impact Program, we have to base our assumptions on information from the target group. We need to find out how they think and how they live, especially in Thailand where cross-generational relationships are a sensitive issue. This made us decide to change the plan of designing a house.

What is more important than a house is how to fill gaps between age groups. It is a special thing that we need to design to fill the holes in the hearts of the occupants. Whether they are single or not, growth and longevity with good mental health is achieved through interaction and participation in activities.

What are the challenges you faced during the program?
At the beginning, we came in as architects and artists. We thought this would be an opportunity to design without a commercial aspect. But having joined the program, we realized it was not about designing what we wanted, but something that could make an impact. The design must come from actual needs. Our finished product tells us that we do not deliver what we thought we could; we deliver more. It broadens our horizons, taking our idea to the next level and turn it into a platform. We did more research and bought some books. It’s a fun sort of challenge.

What are the fun experiences you had during the program?
We have opened doors to something we did not imagine before. Throughout my entire life, I thought I would just do my best as an architect. Although I was not the best, I needed to focus on it solely. Having joined the program, I can see that I can do other things like business. I have found new possibilities even though I am not sure if I can do it. It’s like studying another field. I opened myself up to do what I never thought to do before. I was stuck with the idea of just being an architect. Now, that thinking has changed.

What is your team’s definition of designing impact?
It is a design that is not for just one person, but for all. I want to design something special that can extend and develop to make good things happen.