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Feb 2, 2012

Veteran Architect Nithi Sthapitanonda on Bangkok's urbanism

Founder of leading architecture firm A49,
whose massive projects now span the region and the Middle East,
Nithi Sthapitanonda, 64, tells us why he choose to start
his own business and how Bangkok can hope
to fix its many urbanism issues.

By Monruedee Jansuttipan | published Sep 01, 2011

Being an architect wasn’t a very popular career choice
40 years ago. All I knew was that architects designed houses.

I really liked to draw things when I was a kid.
That’s why my teacher suggested I study architecture in college.

I got into both Chulalongkorn and Silpakorn universities
but I chose Chula because I knew some seniors there
and I liked playing rugby. I played for Chula’s rugby team for three years.
Nowadays people don’t watch it anymore,
but rugby was popular back then.

I left the managing director position at an architecture firm
because I wanted to open my own company.
I didn’t just want to be an employee.
If you want to do something your way,
you’ve got to do it on your own.

I wasn’t worried about starting my own business
because I was a top manager before and
I’d made it through hard times.
I knew I could start off small and make it grow later.
I made it through a few recessions.
I know how to handle a bad economy.

I had to be really careful with customers.
You can’t just accept every job someone offers you.
If your customers are corrupt,
your business won’t survive either.

A career like mine doesn’t really have an elevated position.
I just want to give it my best.
When people accept my work,
that’s success. Society is the judge.

Bringing the firm into the international market is a necessity.
Now foreigners are starting businesses in Thailand.
If we don’t compete with them, we’ll be left behind.

I began publishing books to represent Thai architecture
when I saw architecture books representing Singapore,
Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
There were no books on Thai architecture.
That was embarrassing. I wanted to show that
Thais can design for the world, too.

We don’t have much stunning architecture because
we are not a wealthy country. Thais build houses
and buildings to live in. We don’t really care about luxury.
We don’t invest much money in architecture like Singapore.
We still have so many people living in slums.

We’re going to have more people living in slums
if the government doesn’t create a plan to help them.
They must show people that you don’t have to
move to the city to live a good life.

It takes time to improve the lives of people in slums.
Maybe we should start with education.
When people are educated they might change
to improve their own lives.

Bangkok is an extraordinary city.
It’s where the high-end and low-end meet.
The rich and the poor live together: wealthy people dine
in fancy restaurants, poorer folks eat at cheaper places,
but the taste of their food is not really that different.
You don’t find this in other parts of the world.

Architecture can improve society if you get rid of corruption.
But Thailand has suffered so much corruption
from every government.

There is so much poverty and filth and so many traffic jams.
Bangkok to me is not that beautiful a city, compared
to where I’ve been in Europe or the US.

But Bangkok has character. My foreign friends have said
that every corner of the city is different,
and that makes it interesting.
That’s what’s charming about Bangkok.
And the cost of living is very cheap, too.

We must not forget that our country has 76 more cities
aside from Bangkok. Lately we’ve seen a few
more cities became self-sufficient, such as Chiang Mai,
Khorat, Udonthani, Khon Kaen.
People who’ve grown up and gone to college
there don’t necessarily want to move to Bangkok,
so they find work there instead.
They’d rather stay where they are because
they know that those places can still expand and improve.

I would take care of the illegal signs and establish laws
for controlling street vendors, if I were Bangkok’s governor.
If you drive along the streets nowadays
you’ll see rows and rows of advertising canvases,
covering the stalls of street vendors.
We have to find a way to manage them and,
at the same time, make sure that those street vendors
can still make a living.

I’m a simple person. I don’t need any luxury.
If I had a sports car, a private jet, or a yacht,
I would have to find someone to take care of them for me,
and that’s nothing but a burden.

Happiness doesn’t always have to be something grand.
You have to find out where your happiness is.


FRAMING ARCHITECTURE: The Poetics Architectural Photography editing team would like to open a new perspective of photography, under the narrative of concepts and viewpoints of 43 people from various industries. These range from professional architectural photographers, designers from different areas such as architects, landscape architects, interior designers, through to artists who are poets, writers, musical artists, etc. They express their thoughts in order to present inspiration and attitudes towards architecture so that readers would receive the taste of 200 pictures with a variety of thoughts throughout the 43 showcases.

Pirak Anurakyawachon | Tanapol Kaewpring | Teerawat Winyarat | Tawatchai Pattanaporn | Aphiluck Puangkaew | Supachai Ketkaroonkul | Anuchai Secharunputong | Waranun Chucthawantipakorn | Sumet Jumsai | Ongard Satrabhandhu | Kiattisak Veteewootacharn | Lek Bunnag | Somkid Paimpiyachat / Chiranan Pitpreecha | Teeraparb Lohitkun | Kamol Phaosavasdi | Maythee Noijinda | Inthira Charoenpura | Pratarn Teeratada | and ’Rong Wong-Savun etc.

Nithi Sthapitanonda : A49 Group

Thai Architect Nithi Sthapitanonda
wins prestigious

international architecture award

By Jon Fernquest

June 03, 2008

The 60-year-old veteran architect
Nithi Sthapitanonda
joined the ranks ofthe world's finest architects recently
when he was elected
an Honorary Fellow of the American
Institute of Architects (AIA).

Worldwide only 13 Honorary Fellows
were named for 2008.Mr Nithi is the second Thai architect
to receive the award after
Sumeth Jumsai Na Ayudhaya
received the award in 2001.

The title Fellow of the American Institute of Architects
indicates that the architect is among thefinest architects
in the US and the world.

Non-architects who have madegreat contributions

to the field of architecture are alsorecipients of this award.
The award not only recognises the works of the architect,
the actual structures
designed by him or her,but as

Mr. Nitthi
explains:"It consid
ers whatwe've
contributed to the architectural society

including architectural designs,teachings
and writings.
It also considers how you spend your life."
"Thais in the past did not share their work

when they created things, probably
because they did not want their work to be copied.
Many destroyed their designs
when they completed the work.
Don't forget, we also copy others' work.

Copying is part of the development of the professional,

I think, and builds competition.

You should change your mind."

The work that finally clinched him the award

was hismore small-scale work such as the house
he has designed as well as his writings on

Two designs stood out from the
the Rimtai Saitarn housing
resort in Chiang Mai
and Wat Pa

His work on northern

Thai Lanna architecture

was judged interesting and

new by the peers
who selected him.

Mr. Nithi is also known for the way he incorporates nature
and the environment into his work.
Mr. Nithi is the chairman of the
architectural firm 49 Group.

In 2002 he was awarded Thailand's highest
award for peopleworking in the arts, the prestigious
title of National Artist.

Mr. Nithi
has designed ever
y type of structure from
office buildings to small cottages.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs building is one of

his most famous buidlings.
he is designing a new 5 billion baht 35-rai

Thailand Cultural Centre with a art museum
of modern art
and theatre.

He also plans to publish two books this year:
House Design by
Thai Architects,
with details of 11 designs from 11 architects
and a book on resorts and spas.

Mr. Nithi's wife, Assoc. Prof. Lersom, is also

an architectand Dean of the Faculty of Architecture
at Chulalongkorn University.

In order to be considered for the FAIA title,
an architect must submit a portfolio of works.

Mr Nithi
made three attempts.
In his first attempt in 2004,

he submitted his portfolio of high-rise office buildings.
In his second attempt, he was supported by an American
professor W.H. Raymond Yeh,
a former dean of Architecture
at the University of Hawaii,
and applied together with his wife,

as some architect couples from
and Korea had done in the past.

Nithi Sthapitanonda hopes that other Thai architects
will follow in his footsteps and and strive to

become AIA fellows also.

Even though an architect only becomes a Fellow later

in his or her carreer,the criteria used
for selection are good to keep

in mind when oneis starting a career,

or any design field, for that matter.

They run as follows:Architects are selected as

Fellows for outstanding contributions in design excellence,

education, or by their contributions to the profession

according to the following categories of nomination:

• To promote the aesthetic, scientific, and practical efficiency

of the profession;

• To advance the science and art of planning andbuilding

by advancing the standards of architecture education,training,

and practice;

• To coordinate the building industry and the profession

of architecture;

• To ensure the advancement of the living standards

of people through their improved environment;

• To make the profession of ever-increasing

service to society.(Source:


American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- the professional organization

for architects in the United States, established in 1857

and located in Washington, D.C.

Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA)

these four letters are attached after the name of the

recipient of the award, the award indicates that the

architect is among the finest architects in the US and the world,

non-architects who have made great contributions to the field

of architecture are also recipients of this award

a veteran
- someone who has been involved in an activity

for a long time ผู้มีประสบการณ์

joined the ranks of
- become a member of a group of people ขึ้นทำเนียบ

a field
- a subject of study or activity (for example, the field of medicine)


- the activity of designing and constructing buildings,

houses, and other structures สถาปัตยกรรม

- people who receive something (for example, a reward,

recipients of the award) ผู้ได้รับรางวัล

recognises the works of the architect
- show appreciation of the works

งานที่ได้รับรางวัล หรืองานที่ได้รับการกล่าวถึง

a structure
- a building or house, something that is built โครงสร้าง (อาคาร)

a profession
- a type of job requiring advanced training and education อาชีพ

a professional
- a person who is a member of a profession มืออาชีพ

- win or get something good (for example, the football team

clinched a spot in the playoffs) ทำให้ได้รับรางวัล

stood out from the rest
- his achievements made him very different from

the rest เด่นกว่าผู้อื่น

- people with the same age, job, or status as you


- includes รวม

National Artist
- the highest title given to artists in Thailand ศิลปินแห่งชาติ

high-rise office buildings
- very tall office buildings

(usually downtown in a city) ตึกระฟ้า

- small houses กระท่อม

dean of the Faculty
- in charge of studies in a subject at a university คณบดี

submit a portfolio of works
- provide documents that

describe your work (pictures, photos, plans,
written descriptions, models) ยื่นเอกสาร / รายละเอียดงานที่ทำ

follow in his footsteps
- follow his example in your own career ตามรอย

- try hard to achieve พยายามอย่างหนัก

a criterion
- something evaluated (a factor) to make a decision

or judgement บรรทัดฐาน

criteria used for selection
- all the different factors

used in selecting มาตรฐานในการคัดสรร

keep in mind
- remember (as an important fact

when dealing with something) ระลึก จำได้

a design field
- design has many fields such as product design,

fashion design, interior design, etc. การออกแบบผลิตภัณฑ์ต่างๆ

Posted by Jon Fernquest at 06:00 AM

Bangkok Airways Cargo
Facility at the New Bangkok
International Airport

Location: Bangkok

Bangkok Airways

Architect: Architects 49 Limited

Meinhardt were commissioned to
provide structural engineering design
of the Worldwide Flight Service/Bangkok Airways Cargo
at the new Bangkok International Airport.

The total construction area of the Cargo Terminal is 56,000 m2,

including 17,000m2 as express cargo.

The cargo terminal has an initial design capacity

to handle approximately 350,000 tons of air cargo per year,

with future expansion plans

over an additional 27,000 square meters.

This will give WFS an overall cargo handling capacity

of approximately 600,000 tons per annum.

THE HIT MAKER : Nitipong Honark

THE HIT MAKER : Nitipong Honark

Songwriter Nitipong Honark reveals the secrets

behind his Midas lyrical touch


Published: 28/01/2009 at 12:00 AM

Bangkok Post : Outlook

For most songwriters, their careers
begin when pop stars choose to sing
those songs they have written and
make them a hit.
Yes, that is the case for the
less fortunate ones, but for
true professionals like Nitipong Honark,
singers are queuing up
for his hit-making lyrics.

Known among friends and fans as Phi Dee, Nitipong has earned his fame mostly from writing heart-scratching lyrics and brilliant songs filled
with catchy hooks. Name any hit song off the top of your head and
chances are good it belongs to Nitipong.

Presently he has penned almost 350 songs in his 25 years
in the music industry.
His songs are behind the success of Thailand's top singers,
from pop star Thongchai "Byrd" McIntyre and dancing queen
Christana Aguilar to rock brothers Asanee and Wasant Chotikul.

To many, Nitipong and GMM Grammy seem to be inseparable.
However, there have been rumours that the man with the golden pen
has decided to walk away from the company
he has been working with for half his lifetime.

"It was only a rumour, really. I am still a member of this company,
keeping the same title, but there has been
a slight change of my role recently,"
said Nitipong, the executive vice-president of GMM Grammy.
But what exactly has changed?

Nitipong explained that as a senior member of the board,
he is supposed to be in charge of the company,
both musically and commercially.
However, in the end, he realised that he had to choose
between using the left or right side of his brain.

"[The] Music business has encountered a crisis during
the last 10 years since the digital era emerged.
People hardly pay for music or, to be precise, support the legal products.

To win this war, the company must come up with a tough strategy
and I don't see myself as a front-row warrior.
It is absolutely out of my control.

Finally, I decided to back off and let the professionals run the battle.
Now, I lessen my role in the business part and keep doing
what I do best ... writing songs," said the 48-year-old songwriter
with a trace of relief.

In 1981, while still completing his degree in architecture
at Chulalongkorn University, Nitipong recalls that during
his last years in college he spent most of the time working
in the entertainment business, from television programme
producer to radio deejay.
The following year, Nitipong became a member
of the famous early-'80s pop band Chaliang,
which was comprised of his fellow architect students.

I think people recognise me from my days in Chaliang," he said. Nitipong began writing songs for his band and the song Kao Chai
(to understand) was the first song
he penned.
However, his first hit was actually
a piece called Dontri Nai Duang Chai
(music in my heart),
on the soundtrack for the movie
Wai Ra Reung. A few years later,
his life turned when his songwriting skills were discovered
by one of GMM Grammy's founders,
the legendary singer Rewat "Ter" Buddhinan.

"I believe I was the first songwriter in the country who
earned a monthly salary.
Back then, most songwriters got paid by piece.
Thanks to Phi Ter for trusting me enough to
add a 'songwriter' position to the company,"
said Nitipong with a smile on his face.

While other names in the same career stay inside the CD covers,
unknown, Nitipong is one of the very few songwriters to be
remembered by listeners.
Over 20 years is indeed a long time.
Some might say that it's no surprise that he wrote some
hits while working for such a long time.
But how can he keep his lyrics fresh and touching
to listeners of all ages, and at the same time smash the music charts?
"You must listen to all kinds of music.
That is the basic rule," he revealed.
"And also reading books of any kind is definitely a must.

My favourite is dharma books, and don't get me wrong,
I am not trying to say that I'm a very religious person,"
Nitipong urged spontaneously.

"I have my good and bad side just like others.
But those words in dharma books help me
focus after reading such practical ideas in life."

"It was the beautiful and simple language I found impressive.
Some quotes, examples or metaphors are perfect
material for writing a good song," he remarked.

And this is exactly what his songs are most famous for
- lyrics filled with words of wisdom that are inspired
by very simple things in our daily life.

For the last two years his face has been a regular
one in the media. In 2007, GMM Grammy decided to throw
a concert for Nitipong's 25th anniversary,
a tribute to his legendary status as songwriter.
His concert was the talk-of-the-town event of the year.
The concert was even divided into two shows
as the selected 60 hit tracks couldn't fit into a one-day showcase.

"It was quite awkward for me to be at that concert.
I don't like the 'me, myself and I' kind of feeling.
At first, I wasn't going to go but everyone insisted
that they wanted me to," Nitipong said.
And if you have seen the show,
it is obvious he was nervous on stage.

The year 2008 was Nitipong's most exciting year ever.
Last March, Nitipong surprised Bangkok citizens
when he was announced publicly as Bangkok senate
candidate number 29. Nitipong wasn't elected to be a senator;
however, he gained over 200,000 votes as
the first runner-up of the election.

The result marked a phenomenon in which a songwriter
could receive such great trust in the field of politics.

"I was just fed up to witness all the dirty business
that keeps going non-stop in our society.
So, one day I was reading a newspaper and
I checked that my background met the criteria
to register as a candidate.
At that moment, I thought why sit at home
when I can go out and do something.
Finally, I decided to give it a go,"
Nitipong said of his experience.

"I walked around Bangkok meeting interesting people,
from street vendors to preppy businessmen.
It was tough running an election campaign since
it was a whole new chapter in my life.
But it was worth it. I am still so thankful for
every vote that I received. It was meaningful."

In this Year of the Ox, it may be out of superstition
or for no reson at all, but Nitipong was invited by YoungDee,
a sub-section of Index Event Agency Co, Ltd,
to stage a concert entitled "Arom Dee" (Good Mood)
at Farm Chokechai, Nakhon Ratchasima,
where oxen and cows ran freely on the green grass.

"I told YoungDee's team to consider this place,
because it is really a beautiful location.
More importantly, unlike other concerts that are sometimes
held near a forest or national park,
this venue is a little less harmful to nature
- yet its uniqueness, I believe, could offer a different
kind of impression to concert-goers," said Nitipong
of his creative idea.

In a career that is often overshadowed by others
like a songwriter's, Nitipong's life has become
a role model for the new generation of songwriters
in the Thai music scene.
Hearing him recount his career,
it seems that everything comes easily for him.
But is there anything more in life that he would like to achieve?

"My life is pretty much settled now.
So all my dreams and hopes are with my dear daughter.
I wish she will grow up as a good person.
And by 'good' I mean never taking advantage of others.
As for me, I will try to make every day my very best."

‘Arom Dee’ will show on February 7, with over 20 well-known
guest singers at Farm Chokechai, Nakhon Ratchasima.
Tickets are 2,200 baht, available at Thai Ticket Major counters.
Call 02-262-3456 or visit