In the fall of 2008 TYIN travelled to Noh Bo, a small village on the Thai-Burmese border to design and build houses for Karen refugee children. The 60 year long conflict in Burma has forced several hundred thousand people to flee from their homes. The conflict leaves many children orphaned, with little hope for the future.
A few months earlier we got in touch with Ole Jørgen Edna from Levanger, Norway. Edna started an orphanage in Noh Bo in 2006, and was now in need of more dormitories. From sheltering 24 children, the orphanage would grow to house almost 50. The Soe Ker Tie project was finished in February 2009.
The main driving force behind the project was to somehow recreate what these children would have experienced in a more normal situation. We wanted every child to have their own private space, a home to live in and a neighbourhood where they could interact and play. These six sleeping units are our answer to this. Because of their appearance the buildings were named Soe Ker Tie Hias by the Karen-workers; The Butterfly Houses.
The bamboo weaving technique used on the side and back facades is the same used in local houses and crafts. Most of the bamboo is harvested within a few kilometers of the site. The special roof shape of the Soe Ker Tie Houses enables an effective, natural ventilation, at the same time as it collects the rain water. This renders the areas around the buildings more useful during the rainy season giving the kids better areas for play and social life.
The iron wood construction is prefabricated and assembled on-site, using bolts to ensure reasonable precision and strength. By raising the buildings from the ground, on four foundations cast in old tires, problems with moisture and rot in the construction are prevented. After a six month long mutual learning process with the locals in Noh Bo we hope that we have left something useful behind and brought important experiences into our coming projects. Important principles like bracing, material economization and moisture prevention may possibly lead to an even more sustainable building tradition for the Karen-people in the future.