Thai Architecture

 

Thai Architecture at Wat Thewarat

Wat Thewarat, magnificent example of Thai Architecture, Rattanakosin era. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

There is something that repeats itself regardless of the country or culture which we are in, and that is the fact that architecture embodies a nation’s identity, but in Thailand, we  really could say, it gets an incredible high level. While watching Thai buildings we are able to see Thailand’s spiritual and monarchical traditions and at the same time  recognizing  its rural roots or, its rich mix of local and foreign influences. We need to learn to “read” Thai architecture to know what those buildings are trying to say, to convey.

Therefore, we can find more than one Thai architecture and , in turn, each one with a  regional “touch”. We have done our research from different sources, but when time arrived to put all together, we decided to follow the guidelines offered in a more than interesting book, that we highly recommend to buy if you are really interested in this issue: “Temple and Palace Elements- Architecture of Thailand, by Niti Sthapitanonda , Brian Mertens

So, in this section we will introduce you to  the Traditional Thai houses, temples , palaces and we will try to show you the harmony in which local and foreign styles blend in Thai architecture. Also there will be something about where modern Thai architecture is heading.

 

Traditional Thai houses

When thinking about Thai Traditional houses, the image that first comes  to our minds is their most refined expression, the beautiful Thai houses of the Central plains that developed during the prosperous Ayutthaya kingdom. This classic Siamese dwelling is considered one of the most alluring types of traditional houses of Asia, combining gracefulness with easy adaption to topography, climate and life style.

 

Traditional Lanna House

Traditional Lanna House, located in Lampang, north of Thailand. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

Usually a  large house may have three or more rooms grouped around an elevated and ample terrace that acted as an outdoor family room. This high platform is necessary  during rainy seasons when the land tends to get flooded and during the dry season, as  storage of the loom and livestock.

Because land was abundant, people tended to move from one place to other with all their possessions, including their houses , so houses  were made made of wood of bamboo  using a modular system of pre-fabricated wall panels and gables up to the tiles, that could be erected on site, any site. Once and once again.

 

Traditional Thai wooden House

Traditional Thai House. Main stair to getting to the elevated terrace . Sukhothai city. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

But, it would be a mistake to believe that all houses had the same design all over the kingdom. Regional differences are important and can it be seen in the choices of the sizes, materials, the pitch of the roof, layout of the interior and function.

 

North eastern Thai traditional house

Traveling to the northeast of the country, it is easy to find this type of houses, that clearly differ in design and materials used for its construction with the wooden houses of the Central Plains. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Inside a traditional Lanna house Thailand

View of the interior of this beautiful Lanna Style traditional House, that clearly belonged to a rich family, from the terrace into one of the rooms. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

 

If Only I’d known…

We don’t need to go upcountry  to  see and admire a beautiful Thai traditional house. Going to Bangkok for a day, will give you the opportunity to visit two of these jewels: a house from the Central Plains,Jim Thompson House and Museum and  a house from the North, Lanna style, The Kamthieng House Museum.

Jim Thompson House and Museum,was built by Jim Thompson, an American who is famous for developing the Thai silk industry in the 1950’s, and who can also take credit for the revival of interest in the traditional Thai house.

This is not a single traditional Thai house but it was formed from parts of six antique houses grouped together, originally from central Thailand, sits on a klong ( canal) across from Bangkrua, where the weavers whom worked with him, were then located.

 

For more information about this house and Jim Thompson ‘s legacy, visit:
www.jimthompsonhouse.com/museum

 

We’d like to share with you a gallery  of photos taken when we went to this charming house. Enjoy the tour… sadly we warn you that photos  are not allowed to be taken inside the house.

Jim Thompson House

This is not the original front of the house, but it is the first sight of it , as soon as you cross the gate that separates it from the area where the restaurant and shop are located. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Front door Jim Thompson house Bangkok

Although  this  facade  was the back of the original house, when JimThompson lived in it, it gives us the opportunity to observe the wall panels, and the eave brackets,which are of different style downstairs than the ones on the first floor. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Entering Jim Thompson's house in Bangkok

Looking through the door, we can have a first glimpse of the house interior and start admiring… Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Jim Thompson house decoration

Walking along the brick paths in the so lavishly-green garden, although our guide mentioned that in Jim Thompson’s times it was much more elaborated, we could get this shot of one of the many Buddha images exhibited inside, as part of Thompson’s collections. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Beautiful outside decoration at Jim Thompson house

Again, immersed in the greenery of Jim Thompson’s house garden we got this shot . Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

 

Now, lets go to The Siam Society  grounds, where The Kamthieng House Museum is located. This excellently maintained 19th century northern Thai  house is a more than interesting way of learning  about of  the Lanna people’s architectural style but  also its lifestyle, ritual, art. Enjoy the tour…

Lanna house architecture showing entrance to the house

As it was in all Lanna houses, next to the gate and before entering, people should wash their feet pouring water from the jar , using the water dipper. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Thai House Kamthieng house at The Siam Society Bangkok

View of the whole Kamthieng house as soon as you pass the gate. It seats in a manicured garden in grounds of The Siam Society. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Thai traditional house at Bangkok

The Kamthiseng house that follows the traditional layout of Thai traditional houses, seats on stilts, and in the space under the house, we can see the loom arranged in the same way it used to be in Lanna times.. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Clean teak wooden floors at the  Kamthieng house

From the terrace, common to all rooms ,we had a glimpse of the immaculately clean floors of the Kamthieng house before entering one of the rooms. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

inside the beautiful Kamthieng House in Bangkok

Interior of the multi-use room of Kamthieng House. We can observe not only the roof structure but the organization that allow the Lanna people to carry different activities in it. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Sleeping arrangements in Thai traditional style

Sleeping area of the Kamthieng House. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Common area for all traditional Thai activities

Common terrace of Kamthieng House, where rituals and different activities were carried on. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Traditional thai Kalae acting as decoration of rooftop

Contrasting against the modern buildings, the traditional Kalae, a wooden decoration extending from the gable end peaks, thought to represent the horn of water buffalo, defines Kamthieng house as a traditional Lanna house. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

You could find more information visiting The Siam Society Website:  www.siam-society.org

 

If Only I’d known…

Although a visit to Jim Thompson House and Museum or Kamthieng House Museum are a good excuse for going  to Bangkok for a day, we have in Pattaya a beautiful example of a 100 years old wooden Thai house which were located in central Thailand, dismantled and brought to Pattaya to be assembled in grounds of  Rabbit Resort , a few meters from the Dongtan Beach.

Wooden terrace in Thai traditional house

A wooden Terrace communicates the different rooms of a Thai Traditional House. Rabbit Resort, Pattaya. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

hundred year old teak house at rabbit ressort Pattaya

Details of the interior of a beautiful one hundred years old traditional teak House brought from Ayutthaya area assembled   in grounds of Rabbit Resort, Pattaya. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Thai Temples and Palaces

It is easy to see the great contrast that exists  between the plain and charming simplicity of Thai houses and Thai Buddhist temples and palaces  which are the most symbolic an ornamented  expression of Thai Architecture.

One of the main things that we remember after reading about Thailand, back at home, is, without any doubt, the sight of the beautiful, delicate spires on the top of the roofs of Thai temples. And several times, if not always, we found ourselves wondering whether  such stylized, gracefully -shaped structures have any meaning, apart of the aesthetic aspect.

Yes, they have. And here comes into consideration another important side, that shouldn’t be overlooked, which is  the symbolism that Thai architecture convey, especially  in religious architecture: the Thai’s view of the world, strongly influenced by Buddhism, is shaped by a 13th century Siamese treatise on Therevada Buddhist cosmology called the Traiphum, or The Three Worlds. We found an easy explanation while reading “Temple and Palace Elements- Architecture of Thailand, by Niti Sthapitanonda , by Brian Mertens:

This  doctrine explains time, space and human existence within a Hindu- Buddhist system of hierarchical strata. In this ordered system, for living beings, time comprises cycles of birth and rebirth in which one hopes to attain a higher cycle of existence through the accumulation of merits by doing good deeds in each rebirth.

This progress through “oceans of time” can be represented in space, as well it was, and still is, represented in paintings. The Thraiphum  represents the universe as a mandala of mountains and concentric seas surrounding the mythical abode of the gods called Mount Meru.

With this in mind , when observing temples and some palaces, we can see  Mount Meru  symbolised  mainly and most clearly  as roof spires and stupas , but  also in bases and the tops of columns. But this doesn’t finish here because you will see the mandala also represented in the multi-tiered conical forms used in royal regalia such as crowns and parasols. Amazing.

Now, you know the reason behind all those delicate and so rich in symbolism, spires of temples roofs , an iconic symbol of Thai culture…

Mount Meru, represented by stupas and roof spires at grand palace Bangkok

Symbolism of Thai architecture at its highest level: Mount Meru, represented by stupas and roof spires. Grand Palace, Rattanakosin island. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

Most  Thai wats, glimmer with dazzling mosaic decoration, impressive stucco walls, golden finials and spires of their distinctive roofs, windows and doors painfully carved, lacquered painted or exquisitely decorated with mother – of pearl inlay designs, just to mention a few details.These elements, or most of them, took their actual shape and stye from  the Ayutthaya period, which became the stylistic foundation for Rattanakosin architecture, when Rama I founded Bangkok.

If there is one place where we can see all these decorative arts together and developed to its highest level, that place is, beyond any doubt, the Grand Palace and within it, Wat Phra Kaew, or Temple of Emerald Buddha, where the lavish art of Rattanakosin’s era gets it maximum expression.

 

Now, we would like to share with you a gallery of some photos of Thai Buddhist temples, and palaces so  rich  in their design, style, and  symbolism  as it is the case of the Grand Palace complex and a few more. Stunning . Be prepared and enjoy the tour…

Wat Phra Kaew beautiful tile art

The exterior walls of the Phra Ubosot that houses the Emerald Buddha image, are covered with tiles, forming Thai designs and adorned with white, red,blue and yellow tiny glass mosaics. We could stay hours taking hundreds of pictures only here. Impressive.Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

unbelivable tile art, thousands of colorful and sparkling tiles cover every single centimeter of a huge Thai temple in Bangkok

Every single square centimeter is motive for an exclamation, for surprise. Part of the exterior wall of the ubosot of Temple of Emerald Buddha, the state temple of the Grand Palace. Micro colored pieces of glass in a geometrical pattern . Stunning. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Wat Phra Kaew Phra Ubosot

There is a great chance that this picture is the most taken of the ubosot of Wat Phra Kaew, theTemple of Emerald Buddha, the state temple of the Grand Palace. We can see and appreciate the intensity of the craftsmen involved in the decoration of its external walls. More than a hundred of Garuda images, one next to the other, all around the building. We need to be there to believe it. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

ead of one of the 112 Garudas encircling para Ubosot of the Emerald Buddha temple.

Head of one of the 112 Garudas encircling Phra Ubosot of the Emerald Buddha temple. looking at carefully at its details, we start to realize of the gigantic, overwhelming task of the artisans working in this royal monastery, all those years ago. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall

Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall is a blend of western and Thai styles. The structure is western  style while the Thai-style with a  multilayered roof  topped by a  Maha  Prasat (a spire with a seven-tiered base symbolizing Mount Meru . The upper floor of the central hall is used for keeping  the royal ashes of king Rama IV to Rama VIII an their queens, the middle floor is a large access gallery an the ground floor is used by royal bodyguards. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Arphorn Phimok Prasat Pavilion

Nestled between The Chakra Maha Prasat and Dust Maha Prasat Throne Halls is this magnificent building . King Mongut, Rama IV, ordered the construction of the Arphorn Phimok Prasat Pavilion for mounting vehicles. The building, decorated in accordance with traditional Thai architecture, has a delicate design and proportions making it one of the most beautiful building of the Grand Palace. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall

Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall is considered to be classic Thai architecture. The multilayered roof is topped by a spire with a multi-tiered base ( prasat) symbolizing Mount Meru. The design of the prasat was copied from the Sanphet Maha Phrasat  at Ayuthaya. Rama I has his coronation here, and is here  where the Royal Funeral Urn containing the body of the late King Bhumibol Aduldyadej is lying in state, during the mourning period , since the KIng’s death on October 13th, 2016 until  his cremation, October, 26th, 2017. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Maha Prasat Throne Hall Grand Palace Dusit

The most impressive of the Grand Palace buildings are the Chakra Maha Prasat Throne Hall and Dusit Maha Prasat Hall which were designed to glorify the king and to host the most majestic ceremonies. Following Ayuthaya traditions, both buildings have multi- tiered roofs topped by a spire with seven-tiered base, Maha prasat, symbolizing Mount Meru. A prasat has a five-tiered base, while a maha prasat has seven tiers, signifying its higher status. Symbolism and architecture. Amazing. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan temple in Bangkok

In 1846 King Rama III ordered construction of the Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan, as the temple is officially named. This royal temple is best known for the Loha Prasat , a multi-tiered structure 36 m high and having 37 metal spires, signifying the 37 virtues toward enlightenment. It is the third Loha Prasada (brazen palace) in the world, modelled after the earlier ones in India and Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka . In 2005, the temple was submitted to UNESCO for consideration as a future World Site Heritage .Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Wat Ratchanaddaran has 37 mondop spires

A mondop spire has multiple tiers of resented squares diminishing in size as they rise towards a thin conical tip. and Wat Ratchanaddaran has 37 mondop spires. Incredible.

Now, if you were impressed by the shapes and colours of the Thai temples, no less astonished you will be  left after watching the details . And here we are talking about the temple roofs, the wall  paintings, the minimalistic ,work of Thai artisans on their walls or any other structural parts, as  windows, doors or columns and stairs. Of course that you will find  other temples with plain – white painted walls, what gives an special beauty and sense of calm.

We thought that it would be interesting whether we give you some information founded during our research about these topic, which, hopefully, would be of some help  when you go to visit any temple.

 

 Thai temples decorations 

Walking into a Wat ( Thai term to denominate a Buddhist Thai temple ) for the first time could be a quasi-inexplicable experience. The eyes are literally “assaulted” by scores of shapes, colours, sizes that could range from huge stupas to a micro pieces of glass or glazed ceramics decorating walls.

Everything is so new for us, that  there is no time enough for absorbing  all, and much less capacity for discerning where or what to look at , what to take a picture of, so you will stand there juts staring,  and only  after a few minutes you will able to start clicking your camera…

Regardless whether you visit a temple in the central plains, the south, northeast or in the north of Thailand, if it is  in the city or in the forest, the temple’s layout won’t vary: the entire  compound is surrounded by walls with several access gates oriented to the four cardinal points, having the main entrance facing east. Once inside, you will find in all temples: the ubosot,  the viharn or  ordination hall, a stupa, a sala, the library, the cloister,etc. What  might vary  and this depends  of the  importance of the wat, is that it might be  more than one viharn or salas, but you will , invariably, find these structures .

But what won’t pass unobserved and admired are the decorations  Thai wats.  You might leave a Thai temple not being sure whether the ubosot  was small or big,  whether there was one or two viharns , but you won’t leave the temple without praising the brightly – coloured tiled roofs or the spired ones, the carved pediments  or the  lacquered doors and windows panels, or the minuscules pieces of glass decorating  walls, just to mention a few. They could be more or less lavishly ornamented, but they won’t fail to be  impressive, each on its own style, and they will remain etched in our minds when leaving the way compound…and for a long time.

 

“…Temple and palace buildings are more readily perceived through their highly distinctive elements than as a wholes. The elements call attention to themselves because are stylised so far beyond functional needs. This stylisation is partly for aesthetic purposes, to create a more complex, dynamic and visually harmonious architectural style.

Stylisation usually has a symbolic intent as well, with references to Buddhism and cosmology. It can serve magical purposes, as in the case of carved roof finials that embody guardian figures meant to ward off evil influences.

The elements tell a lot about a building itself, revealing its vintage and regional identity. In contrast, the basic structures of Thai religious architecture do not differ much according to time and place; temple halls have been built as rectangular boxes with gable roofs since the 11th century.

Most elements took on their present characteristic forms during the Ayutthaya period, which became the stylistic foundation for Rattanakosin architecture. Surviving examples of temple and palace elements typically date to the 18th century and after. Earlier elements were lost to war, theft, decay and frequent renovation.

The elements tell a lot about a building itself, revealing its vintage and regional identity. In contrast, the basic structures of Thai religious architecture do not differ much according to time and place; temple halls have been built as rectangular boxes with gable roofs since the 11th century.

The style of wats throughout the central region and beyond was influenced by the architecture of royally sponsored temples in Bangkok. These royal temples feature style and elements similar to the buildings and wats found in the Grand Palace. Indeed, many were done by the same architects and artisans.

Central-style temples were built in other regions in the 19th century as part of the crown’s extension of political influence into places that had been under other sovereignty, such as Isaan and the South. In this way, central architecture style and royal architectural style became the definitive style of Thailand.

Almost all of the elements are rich in symbolism. Guardian figures are embodied in roof finials, eave brackets and courtyard statuary. Buddhist cosmology is expressed in the courtyard layout and the odd-numbered tiered of bases, roof spires and finials on courtyard wall columns. The most sacred elements, to be certain, are Buddha statues.” *

*  We found this interesting note while reading : “Temple and Palace Elements – Architecture of Thailand, by Niti Sthapitanonda , Brian Mertens that surely enough will clarify what we were trying to convey.

If only I’d known…      

We thought important to make a short clarification about the paintings that you will find on the walls of any temple’s ordinary hall:

  • Mural paintings enliven the walls of assembly and ordination halls not as decoration, but as a visual texts of Buddha’s teachings  done in an easy way for everyone to understand and remember. The imagery which is set by convention , is also  open to stylists innovation, ranging from iconic to narrative.
  •  So having this in mind, we will find at the west end of the hall, behind the main Buddha image the representation of Buddhist cosmology , the Thraiphum , while  murals on the side and entrance walls recount the life of Buddha.
  • The entire east wall at the entrance wall depicts Buddha’s moment of enlightenment. The figure in the centre is the Mother of the Earth , who wrings out her hair to drown the armies of evil sent by the demon Mara, as they try to attack Buddha. This scene is known as “Victory over Mara”.
  • This is important, because seeing a Thai mural painting for first time, most people become rather confused by what appears to be a vivid and colorful but incomprehensible collection of beautiful details as celestial beings, gods, common people, soldiers, royal figures, ships, animals, storage and horrific beings, and more.
  •  Another difficulty for Westerns and no Thai viewers lies in the fact that Thai paintings, are two-dimensional and, as all traditional Asian art, does not use a central perspective, so, many times, depictions of long stories don’t show a narrative order, with the events seemingly arbitrarily distributed over a large panel.

 

 

Now, we would like to share with you a galley of pictures that we have taken during some of our trips, and you will understand what we mean when we say that there is no enough time to absorbe all it is for seen in each wat..

Hand painted art on windows grand palace Bangkok

Guided Lacquered window panels , painstakingly walls painted in Wat Thewarat, Bangkok . Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Phra Rabiang wall

Phra Rabiang is the wall that surrounds the entire temple of the Emerald Buddha. The murals on the walls of the gallery depict the edition written by king Rama I, which is the most compete version of the  epic story Ramakian. The gallery is divided into 178 chambers. photo Credit: Silvia Muda

ordination hall Bangkok wall painting and thai art

We can see in this image the mural paintings covering , from ceiling to the floor, all interior walls of this ordination hall, or Viharn. Wat Mahathat Worawihan, Petchaburi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Ayutthaya period murals in Thailand

Murals in the Ayutthaya period were more iconic than realistic. Scenes from the Ten Great jakatas of Buddha’s life are shown in this picture between triangular spaces enclosing chedis. There are also some  foreigners depicted  . This mural, painted in 1734, can be found in the ubosot of Wat Ko Keaw Suttharam, Petchaburi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Buddha image at watYai Suwannaram

Celestial adorers face the presiding Buddha image at Wat Yai Suwannaram , Petchaburi. Each deity is depicted in a unique costume and expression. Painted in the early 18th century, these are considered a peak achievement in Siamese art. photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Beautiful traditional Thai decorations Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao Sucha Daram in Lampang

Detail of finials of the roof at Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao Sucha Daram – Lampang. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

North Thailand traditional temple

Detail of a gable pediment in Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao Sucha Daram – Lampang. photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Detail of a column at the top at Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao Sucha Daram

Detail of a gable pediment in Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao Sucha Daram – Lampang. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Thai traditional tile on column in Lampabang

Detail of on elf the columns of a viharn at Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao Sucha Daram – Lampang. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Grand-Palace-Wat-Phra-Kaew-Phra-Ubosot

Detail of the decorations of the exterior walls of the temple of Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Grand-Palace-Prasat-Phra-Thep-Bidorn

Exteriors walls of Phra Ubosot , which houses the Emerald Buddha image, is totally covered by minuscule pieces of glass mosaics. It is a clear sample of the expertise of artisans working in grounds of the Grand Palace. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Buddhist devotion, architecture and art blend in these tiles of the roofs of Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram ( Marble Temple), Dust area. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Buddhist devotion, architecture and art blended in the tiles of the roofs of Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram ( Marble Temple), Dusit area. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

How Foreign Architecture merged with the local

We know that  Thailand, or Siam, as this kingdom was called until 1949 when its name was changed to Thailand, all along its history, has absorbed and assimilated aspects of foreign cultures, and  that could be seen in Thai architecture, as we said at the beginning. So, learning to “read” Thai buildings, will help us to trace these influences.
Doing so, we shouldn’t forget  the amazing capacity of the Thais for blending foreign influences with the local knowledge  becoming one style in the process..and that is  what we observe today. An easy example are  the “Thai” shophouses, which were  brought by the Chinese , nobody would think of not being Thai in these days.
Going into Catholic churches in Bangkok, as  the Assumption Cathedral, or Sacred Heart church, or Santa Cruz church in  the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya river, we can see  clearly the Portuguese’s legacy in  Siam, or, the Dutch’s  when observing the old Fire Station, from the river.
Then, visiting the extraordinary and delicate Wat Benchamabophit, known as  Marble temple, Ananta  Samakhon Throne Hall or Chakra Maha Prasat Throne Hall in the Grand Palace, among many,  which were built since the mid -19 th century we can see a clear European architectural style but with an also clear Thai “touch” which shows the amazing capacity of the Thai for taking in  foreign influences, blending  them with their own , creating, in the process,  a new, rich style where both styles live in astonishing harmony…in a typical Thai style…
 
 
We would like to share share with you images of the incredible capacity of the Thais to absorbe and incorporate different architectural styles and in the process, creating an indiscutible Thai city. Enjoy the tour ...
 

China town old shop-house Bangkok

Old shophouse built in China Town, Bangkok…Who would say that they are not typically Thai? Nobody. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

A beautiful pediment done in cookery mosaic. Mosaic glazed ceramics has been used in decoration in central Thai architecture since the Ayutthaya period and became especially popular during the reign of Rama III. This form of ornament may have been borrowed from Persian or Arabic art, since Ayutthaya had many merchants of middle East origin. Wat Themarat, where Thai architecture, crafts and art blend. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

A beautiful pediment done in cookery mosaic. Mosaic glazed ceramics has been used in decoration in central Thai architecture since the Ayutthaya period and became especially popular during the reign of Rama III. This form of ornament may have been borrowed from Persian or Arabic art, since Ayutthaya had many merchants of Middle East origin. Wat Themarat, where Thai architecture, crafts and art blend. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Grand-Palace-The-Chakri-Maha-Prasat-Halls

The Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall, located in grounds of the Grand Palace, is a typical example of a blend of western and Thai styles. The structure is western  style while the roof was built in the Thai-style with a  multilayered roof  topped by a  Maha  Prasat (a spire with a seven-tiered base symbolizing Mount Meru . Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

Modern Thai Architecture

 

BKK glass steel buildings alluirng shopping malls 1

Cement, glass, steel, the new face of Bangkok. Sukhumvit area. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

There is a period in Thai life, that started in  the late 1980s and 1990s until these days, when we could see some examples of an imported modern architecture that doesn’t contemplate Thai way of life what means, among other reasons, that doesn’t give a proper response to the exigences of  Thai tropical climate.

Therefore, buildings, especially office blocks and condominiums, were designed with entire  glass and steel facades, where no form of shade could be seen, as a way of protection from the merciless Thai sun. This type of design goes very well in other climates, more template, and where the sun rays coming in is a necessity…just to help the heating system, but not in Thailand.

Designing this type of buildings in Thailand, only means an  extremely high use of air conditioning , that in turn, means a non-sustentable architecture and life style. Yes, many buildings in this modern-stylized elegant and beautiful design can be seen in Bangkok and in these days this trend has started to appear  in Pattaya, and yes, they bring along a “touch’ of western modernism, but where are the Thai roots? Where are the sloping roofs, the deep galleries and verandas?

Of course that it is most costly for the developer to incorporate these elements without increasing the cost of the units being sold, but in the current way, the owner of the house, or the tenants or saying in other words, the people who live in these condominiums are the ones who pay the costs of the western-chic modernism.

SONY DSC

This condominium has been built responding to the exigences of Thai climate: deep balconies that not only bring its inhabitants the possibility of living outside, as Thai people used to do on the terraces in the past, but also, avoiding the sun rays get inside, which would trigger the need of turning on the air-condition during the whole day. The difference between this design and the other on the first pictures are clear and enormous. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

SONY DSC

Beautiful sunrise enjoyed in the shade provided by this deep balcony. As it was in the old times. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

But being honest, we should say that during the last years, especially in house building, we can start to see those traditional elements again been incorporated in the design, again we are seen Thai houses with a modern touch, shown through the new materials utilized.These are a good news.

Verandas, eave brackets, deep galleries, a sala and the gate. New materials, traditional Thai architecture. Na Jomtien, close to Patatya. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Verandas, eave brackets, deep galleries, a sala and the gate. New materials, traditional Thai architecture. Na Jomtien, close to Pattaya. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

“…Foreign influence shaped Thai architecture from its beginnings. The deepest layers of Thai architecture, basic structures such as temple layouts, memorial towers and mondops , were formed during the Sukhothai period from Indian, Ceylonese, Mon, Khmer and burmese antecedents. In the Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin periods, the main foreign influence were Western and Chinese, growing especially strong during 19th century.

When the first Tai kingdoms emerged in Chiang Mai and Sukhothai in the 12th century and after, there were already local settlements of Han traders, craftsmen and officials. Chinese potters helped Sukhothai to establish its famous ceramic kilns. As Thais displaced Khmer dominions in the region after 12th century, China became an important influence; there were extensive diplomatic exchanges with the Yuan and early Ming dynasties during the 13th to 15th centuries.

From that period onwards trade brought Chinese ceramics, textiles and other arts into the country, influencing Thailand’s repertoire of ornamental designs.Thai artisans adopted Chinese techniques such a lacquer painting and mother-of-pearl inlay.

Besides the external Chinese influence on Thai architecture, Chinese immigrants built their own religious and residential architecture in Thailand. By far the most important example of this is the Chinese-style shophouse, which has became the architectural setting for Thailand’s extraordinarily vibrant culture of small enterprise.

Much of the Western-influenced Thai architecture was built under royal commission. King Rama IV and his successors helped to domesticate European architecture, making western style a part of official Thai style in the many royal and princely palaces that they built. These palaces have been extensible photographed and published, thus shaping Thai tastes right up to the present.

Modern architecture is another foreign influence, one that has not often been successfully integrated into a Thai context. Since 1980s, however, architects have made progress at deploying local forms in contemporary buildings , dipping back into their own national design traditions, joining counterparts elsewhere who were reinvigorating modernism with vernacular content. Thailand’s most successful results emerged in houses, resorts, museums and temples.”… ( exceprt from  the note: “Immigrant and foreign influenced Architecture” ) *

* We found this interesting note while looking information about this topic,  reading  ” Architecture of Thailand, by Niti Sthapitanonda and Brian Mertens, which is a book  really worth reading and buying, if you are  interested in knowing much more about Thai architecture.

 

We wish you will enjoy these images that we chose for you. Enjoy and discover a different Bangkok…

 

Sapan Fa Lilat Bridge built in Italian style architecture

” The Weeping” Bridge, as it is known, built in Italian style architecture during the reign of Rama V. Bangkok. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

European-and-Thai-styles-summer-Palace-of-Rama-VI_-Nakhon-Pathom-Photo-by-Silvia-Muda

Facade of one of the buildings in the grounds of Sanam Chandra Palace Built in a combination of French and English architectural style, during the reign of king Rama V and finished by king Rama VI.Located in Nakhon Pathon province. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

ual-Government-House-1Bangkok-Villa-Norasingh-actual-Government-House

Villa Norasingh, now the Thai Khu Fa Building , the Government House. Built in Venetian Gothic architectural style, during king Rama VI reign. Bangkok. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Phya-Thai-palaceThewarat-Sapharom-Hall-by-Rama-VI

Thewarat Sapharom Hall , in grounds of Phya Thai palace. Built during the reign of king Rama V but finished by Rama VI. It was used for merit-making ceremonies, receiving guests, and as a theatre or cinema. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

ual-Government-House-6Bangkok-Villa-Norasingh-actual-Government-House

One of the towers of Villa Norasingh, now the Thai Khu Fa Building in the Government House, built in Venetian gothic architectural style. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Phya-Thai-palace-designed-by-Rama-V-and-finished-by-Rama-VI

Phya Thai Palace was built at Rama V’s behest so that he might stay there and look out over the farms, plantations and livestock in the area. King Rama VI saw it built, after his father’ s death. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Parukawasan-Palace

Parusakawan Palace. Interior of Parusakawan Villa, a royal mansion clearly designed in European style., which were commissioned by King Rama V for Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanadh, the King’s 40th son.. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

We hope to have inspired you to visit more sites and while doing so, just simply being able to appreciate  the rich, beautiful and meaningful Thai architecture. It does not take a trip up- country to see the best of it, Bangkok has several hundreds temples, and our city, Pattaya, although having fewer, it is really worth to go and visit them.

History and elegance blend majestically in the Ananta Sanakhon Throne Hall. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

History and elegance blended in perfect harmony  in the Ananta Sanakhon Throne Hall. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

 

Note:

As we have said, the content of this page is the result of our research plus some comments of our own. We gathered and  just put together interesting information that we thought it would be of help, which we had  found while reading the books listed below or visiting the websites that are also included in  the list . So, you could find all this information,and more, reading:

  • Architecture of Thailand”, by Niti Sthapitanonda , Brian Mertens
  • The Thai House, History and evolution, by Ruethai Chaichongrak, Somchai Nil-athi, Ornsiri Panin and Saowalak Posayanonda
  • Unseeing Historical Sites; Unseeing Bangkok“, by Tourism Division Bangkok Metropolitan Administration

 

We just hope that you had enjoyed reading  this page, and that we had been of help. If you have some comment, please, lets know. In this way, we  would be able to  keep linking Pattaya together.

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