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Simple Architecture

Jan Glasmeier

Published in 2A Magazine Issue #46– Summer 2021


Escaping the corporate treadmill
On a short career break in 2012, I landed in Mae Sot on the Thailand-Myanmar border. Mae Sot is a hub of community-based organisations (CBOS) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) serving the marginalised communities of migrants and refugees from Myanmar settled along the border. I met fellow designers and engineers working with these groups, and together we founded Agora Architects to serve the design and construction needs of the local community using low-cost, sustainable methods.
Our projects included Kwel Kha Baung Migrant School, temporary dormitories for CDC school and temporary classrooms for various local migrant learning centre’s. These buildings showcase the flexibility, durability, and sustainability of local materials and natural building, often using bamboo and adobe mud bricks. Our work was nominated for and won several awards, including the 2014 DETAIL Award, the 2AAA Asian Architecture Award, and has been featured in various international publications, helping to promote the beauty of natural building.

The power of social design
I bring my experience of working with local communities on the Thai-Myanmar border into the ethos and approach of Simple Architecture. The design process is highly collaborative and consultative at each step, ensuring that the plans are sensitive to the local context, environment, and needs of the client and community. By using affordable natural materials, we can bring beautiful, functional and sustainable architecture to everyone at a lower cost than conventional architecture and construction firms, while involving local workers and learning about vernacular construction techniques.
Projects that we’ve recently finished include the Araksa Tea House, the new Mae Tao Clinic training centre, a new campus for Champion School and a classroom building for Farmhouse 2 school.
At Simple Architecture, we are passionate about sharing the message of social and eco-architecture around the world. I’ve given lectures about social and eco design for students, academics, and the general public at universities in Thailand, Taiwan, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Austria, France, and Germany.