Bonnie Chu

Bonnie Chu, who is studying at The Architectural Association, London (Diploma Unit 7: 2006/07) was shortlisted in the Architects for Health’s First Student Health Design Award (2007) for the following submission. For contact please email:

Reconstruction – People and Places – Mae Tao Clinic (along Thai/Burma border)

Within the international community, architects are type cast as exporters of predetermined solutions, rarely given opportunity to respond appropriately, sensitively and effectively to specific and real emergencies. At the core of any impact are children, their welfare and successful healing creates a catalyst for the community to rebuild lives and esteem. AA Diploma Unit 7 explores the philosophical, social, political, economic and technical response to long term disaster relief and the re-socialisation of children and communities in conditions of extreme hardship.

We focused on real situations, developing projects for Mae Tao Clinic on the Thai-Burma border. Within this context, the operational approach to defining the project programme involved interaction with users, and the generation of networks, facilitated by links to NGO’s in the international community. We developed design strategies encouraging the contextual aspects of technology and resources matched with working methods which are driven by participation together with collaboration with manufacturing. These strategies were realised through demonstration of component evolved design and a contemporary understanding of low-tech construction logic and material strategies.

Reconstruction – People and Places responds to the needs of the Mae Tao Clinic and its patients with a route that promotes subconscious healing. Mae Tao Clinic is extending its facilities in a new location one mile away across open fields from its current location. Accessibility to the new site is limited, with limited facilities around it. The route provides a safe pedestrian route with seating, cooling and shading from the heat of Thailand. Having liaised with Mae Tao Clinic, one of their hopes is to establish rehabilitation facilities for landmine victims to complement their already successful prosthetic making workshop. The proposed route is made up of five ‘stations’ that induces healing through hot and cold therapies and pain relief in forms of sound and aroma therapies. These were established in conversation with a physiotherapist working with Clear Path International, the NGO that supports the Mae Tao Clinic’s prosthetic making workshop.

Rehabilitation extends beyond physical treatment into reconstructing communities (socially) and re-skilling (economically). To engage with these two aspects of rehabilitation, the route is designed for other local user groups such as the nearby schools, local residents and foreign NGOs.

The route takes form in a series of bamboo bent into catenary frames that set out a rhythm to the experience along the route. These frames are then ‘cladded’ with different materials or technologies depending on the performance requirements of the station. For instance, the Heat Therapy station had cardboard and glass cladding to utilise adiabiatic evaporative cooling and maximising on solar heat. Technologies that are used include solar water heat panels (made out of recycled materials), heat induced cooling chimney and intensifying scent through greenhouse effects.

There are over 1 million people worldwide (in developed and undeveloped countries) that require physical rehabilitation. Only 10% of those receive treatment due to lack of funding and trained physiotherapists. This proposal offers rehabilitation to those who needs it, while engaging the public at the immediate level and stimulates development on an urban level. More than 10% should receive treatment and this proposal offers solution to one of the two hindrances to lack of treatment facilities.

With thanks to Simon Beames, Kenneth Fraser, Dip 7, Queen Mary’s Hosptial (Roehampton), Tim Beames and Lobke Dijkstra.

The Architects for Health
First Student Health Design Award
was sponsored by


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