ELEMENTS AND PARTS OF THAI ARCHITECTURE

STILTS IN TRADITIONAL THAI ARCHITECTURE

In his “Study of Thai Traditional Architecture,” Wattana Boonjub wrote: “Thailand's agrarian community is situated on low-land flood plains and adapts to the setting to make a living. In general, people settled in fertile river basins that provided sufficient water for farming. That made it necessary for people to build houses on high stilts on high ground to stay above the water during floods. The importance of water for Thai society has led to the coining of the term ``water season'' in addition to summer, winter and rainy seasons. [Source:Wattana Boonjub, The Study of Thai Traditional Architecture as a Resource for Contemporary Building Design in Thailand , a Thesis for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy, Program of Architectural Heritage Management and Tourism (International Program), Silpakorn University]

High pillars or stilts: Regular rain-induced floods during the wet season and surging seawater in November and December make it necessary for people in the central plains to live on high stilts. Such feature is common for Thai houses. Round-shaped pillars are made of large timber that comes in a long, round shape since timber was abundant in the past. Redented rectangular pillar s were developed from a type of chedi known as chedi liam yaw moommai in which smaller angles are made evenly at every main angle, giving a curved look. It is a distinctive characteristic of Thai architecture. Chote Kalayanamit said such chedi, whether they are of 12 or 20 angles, would have its top decorated with bua thai motif. Its base comprises 3-layered chudansingha. Nor Na Paknam explained in Art Dictionary that the sao yaw moom means rectangular pillars with redented angles.

It should be noted that Thai builders do not erect the stilts at a 90-degree angle from the ground. Instead, each stilt leans a little toward the centre of the house structure. This makes Thai houses more resistant to strong water flows or winds and is an efficient way of ensuring structural integrity. Another advantage of stilt construction is the provision of under-floor space for various activities, including rice grinding and weaving. The space serves as storage for cart wheels and farming tools. It can also be used for storage of cattle when surrounding areas are flooded. In terms of construction technology, the inclined stilt construction method produces a triangulation effect, which is stronger and more rigid than parallelogram forms.

Ventilation in Traditional Thai Architecture

Traditional Thai houses are well known for their ventilation, thanks to the elevation of the floors from the ground. More importantly, Thai houses are designed to ensure both horizontal and vertical ventilation flows. Vertical ventilation is possible with the use of thatch for the roof, which is the house's hottest spot. Hot air rises and eventually flows through the thatched roof and is replaced by cool air drawn through the spaces between wooden floor planks. [Source:Wattana Boonjub, The Study of Thai Traditional Architecture as a Resource for Contemporary Building Design in Thailand ]

Different floor levels facilitate horizontal ventilation. An elevated open-decked platform is the lowest part of the house while the upper part is the platform in front of the rooms, which are the house's highest part. Between the levels, there is space for wind to flow into the house unimpeded. In addition, the open space enables people in the house to monitor activities on the ground. Some argue that the balustrade on the open-decked platform may form a barrier, preventing wind low. In reality this is not the case as traditionally architects understood the problem and place the wooden grill on the upper half of the balustrade. More importantly, some fences or walls take the form of Fa Lai (sliding panels) that can be slid open when fresh air is needed. Thanks to the above-mentioned design, there are no unventilated spots in Thai houses.

Roofs in Thai architecture

Roofs are the quintessential elements in Thai public architecture, shaping the character of the buildings with their elaborate structure and decoration. The ornamented multi-tier roofs are, however, reserved for temples and palaces as well as public buildings such as government offices, university halls and monuments. Commercial buildings that breach this tradition, as a few hotels have done, are frowned upon. [Source:Wattana Boonjub, The Study of Thai Traditional Architecture as a Resource for Contemporary Building Design in Thailand ]

This is because, in their decoration, the tiers with multiple layers and height above the ground symbolise the prestige of the buildings, which extends from the paramount status of royalty, Buddhism and the Thai nation. The more ornate the roof is, the higher the status of the building or of the person who commissions it demonstrate. Two or three tiers are most often used, but some royal temples have four.

Multiple roof tiers basically provide weather protection but their rationale is more aesthetic than functional. Because temple and palace halls are large, their roof areas are massive. To lighten up the roof’s appearance, the lowest tier is the largest, with a smaller middle layer and the smallest roof on top. Multiple breaks in each roof lighten it further — a double-tiered roof might have two, three or even four breaks in each tier. The slope increases with each tier, from a gentle 45 degrees gradient on the lowest, to over 50 degrees on the highest. In central Thai architecture, the lower tiers telescope a short distance beyond the top roof at the gable ends. On northern temple halls, the tiers project further, often over a redented floor plan that starts narrow at the entrance and grows wider towards the altar.

Further dividing each tier’s surface are coloured-ceramic tiles in concentric patterns, which help make a single tier look as if it has multiple sections. These configurations transform the roof’s seeming scale, enlivening the aesthetics of the entire building. Instead of building a massive roof that visually weighs the building down, Thai architects create a roof with a dynamic series of forms that appears to soar. In this way, aesthetics suit the intent of veneration.

Slope of roof: Some traditional Thai buildings have steep roofs of more than 45 degrees. The steep slope is said to be homegrown among local Thai artisans. The height takes about 4/5 of the pediment's base and the angle is between 45 and 60 degrees. Buildings with slight slope (less than 45 degrees) are influenced by Western architecture, which was developed from Greek and Roman. This roof style is called song chua baen or flat triangle pediment. The height of the roof is 1/4 of the pediment's base. This form of pediment can be seen on the famous Greek Parthenon.

House Roofs, See Homes in Thailand

Chaan

The chaan or thi nawk chaan (terrace) is an open air elevated platform that links parts of buildings together. Since the ground of the house is normally damp or inundated, chaan becomes the family’s main living area. Another important function of chaan is to connect surrounding buildings including the ones that are built to accommodate extended families. [Wattana Boonjub]

Chote Kalayanamit says this part of the house is necessary for Thai families because their houses normally have no fence and the ground is regularly flooded. The utility space provided by chaan during floods is even more practical for households who live near canals and riverbanks. It enables dwellers to sun-dry their things. Some house owners convert this area into a garden with a variety of decorative plants.

Chaan has a similar meaning to chaan laen, a chaan that connects a cluster of buildings. Some chaan are so large they extend to the ho klang , a medium-seized multi purpose hall. Other chaans are decorated with pot plants like those at a kuti (monks’s residence). Some house owners allow a big tree to grow through the chaan, providing shade over the area like a Chinese court. Nij Hincheeranan says verandah is a place where family members spend at leisure time. A sheltered area with natural light, it can also be used as a reception area in case there is no ho kwang in the house. Nor Na Paknam explains that a palai is an extended part of the eaves supported by pillars. The area underneath is like a hall with no walls.

Secondary Elements of Thai Architecture

Walls (panang). In Thai architecture dictionary, Chote Kalayanamit defines panang as a partition that separates the interior from the exterior or divides the buildings. It can be made of stone or brick. MR Naengnoi Saksri observes that the wooden walls of the houses that belonged to middle-class owners in the reign of King Rama VI had the planks placed horizontally. [Wattana Boonjub]

Windows and air vents (Ban krathung ) is is a type of glass window that is well conserved and still used in the present day. Ban fiam consists of a series of folded window panels used to divide the rooms. Most of them are made of teak wood. MR Naengnoi Saksri gives a definition of ban fiam as an adjustable wooden wall comprising many partitions that can be folded together.

Ban perd. The origin of ban perd window remains unclear but some believe that it was developed by Khmer artisans since the neighbouring kingdom had used chang banchorn (window makers) long before Thailand. The pattern and size of the window depends on the climate in each region. Windows of the houses in central region feature double casement windows that swing inward to open. In the south, the house’s windows are almost as tall as doors, springing up from the floor and containing two panels.

Size and location of open-air vents. Steep, fixed glass or vents are small, each equal to the width of a brick, and vertically placed higher on the wall. This can be seen from windows and ducts in Christian churches and ancient viharn. The air vents serve as windows in classic Thai architecture. This style was popular during the Sukhothai, U-thong, and early Ayutthaya periods. In Sukhothai, the walls in viharn buildings were holed to make a series of narrow vertical, rectangular windows. The light that shines through these windows makes the room look subtle. Compared to large windows, small narrow windows like this help add the feeling that the walls are intact.

Verandah grills are called luk tang in due to their vertically placed position. It is a part of verandahs or stairs known as Bang Khan.

Plank floors are commonly found in classic Thai wooden houses since timber was then still plentiful. Somjai Nimlek said there were two types of floor planks; the longer timber and the shorter timber. Old houses are mostly floored with the longer timber thanks to the abundance of wood.

Kalae is a decorative part commonly found in traditional Lanna style houses. It is V – or X-shaped wooden decoration extending from the gable end peaks (panlom), thought to represent the horns of water buffalo. It is about 70-100 centimeters in length, with 2-3 inch breadth and 15-20 centimeters width. Wiwat Temiyaphand says kalae is a type of panlom wood with the ends appearing in V-form. They come in delicate, subtle forms.

Chua is a triangular-shaped pediment made of wood with the objective to protect the building from wind, sun and rain. There are several kinds of chua including: - Chau luk fak - Chua bai prue - Chua roop phra arthit C) Brackets or posts Tropical climate requires Thai houses to have lower eaves for weather protection. The extended eaves need support from brackets or posts called sao nang riang, which are placed on the sides. Brackets for monks' kuti or viharn are called khan thuai.

Spires and Other Roof Features on Temples and Palaces

Roof spires designate buildings of the highest status, especially royal palace halls. Indeed, the Thai term for a roof spire means ‘spire of a palace’. Since the mid- Ayutthaya period, the royal palace architecture has called for a cruciform floor plan topped by a roof spire. This shows Ayutthaya’s embrace of the Khmer-Hindu concept of the divine king, or devaraja. The roof spires of royal structures and prangs symbolise Mount Meru, which is the residence of gods and the divine centre of the universe. The cruciform structure signifies the intersec tion of axes at this centre. [Source:Wattana Boonjub, The Study of Thai Traditional Architecture as a Resource for Contemporary Building Design in Thailand ]

The main type of the spire is style which has multiple tiers of redented squares diminishing in size as they ris e towards a thin conical tip. Each tier is decorated with rows of miniature gables. In palace buildings, these feature tiny finials which represent nagas and garudas. Roof spires are featured on top of most spire halls in the Grand Palace. The Maha Prasat spires have seven-tiered bases over roof tiers decorated with garuda figures grasping nagas, an icon of Thai royalty. Other less prominent halls, prasat, have five-tiered spire bases.

Some spires, instead of having square tiers, have round rings like a crown, which is called ‘mongkut’ in Thai. These spires often grace the buildings constructed during the reign of King Rama IV, whose name was King Mongkut. Some prasat roofs may be topped by a spire of a bullet-shaped prang, as seen on Prasat Phra Thepbidorn or the Royal Pantheon at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and above the City Pillar Shrine in Bangkok. The prasat spires are also often built on temple halls, crematoriums, gates and spirit houses.

Roof Finials. Every roof edge apex has stylized attachments that essentially transform the structure into a huge piece of sculpture while hinting at mystical concepts. Most of them are decorations fixed at the bargeboard on the edge of the roof at the gable ends. While the bargeboard protects the roof covering from the wind, its decorative roof finials embodies guardian figures that protect against bad influences.

Usually covered in glass mosaic or gilding, roof finials are sculpted in an undulating, serpentine nag sadung shape evoking the naga. Its lower finial is called a ‘goose tail’, referring to hongsa, the Thai name for Hamsa. Although this name may suggest that the finial is shaped like a hamsa figure, it now usually takes the form of a naga’s head turning up and facing away from the roof. The finial of the naga head may be styled in flame-like kranok motifs and feature multiple naga heads. A roof with multiple breaks or tiers has identical finials at the bottom of each section. Some old temples in Lanna and Isaan have a Laotian-style metal finial in the form of a multi-tiered umbrella of state fixed at the centre of the roof ridge.

Another part of is the large curved finial is called a ‘sky tassel’. Perched at the peak of the roof and resembling the beak of a bird, it perhaps represents Garuda. This finial is often erected ceremonially to signify the structure’s status. The intriguingly indeterminate shape of one symbol, which resembles both bird and reptile, has led to several assumptions about its symbolism. One theory suggests that it may represent Garuda in his mythical struggle with Naga. Another theory indicates that it may represent the celestial goose Hamsa. For example, on some temples, especially in the north, they are explicitly carved as Hamsa. Other figures are a deva divinity or budding lotus. Whatever the mythical animals they represent, the , figures are all benevolent divinities, suggesting the protective powers of Buddhism and the temple’s role in guarding the faith.

Pediments on Thai Temples and Palaces

The large triangular section at the end of a gable roof, the pediment is the most prominent exterior element of a Thai public building. Standing high over the entrance, it inevitably becomes the most decorated part of palace and temple buildings. Its degree of embellishment corresponds closely to the building’s status in terms of sponsorship and royal affiliation. [Wattana Boonjub]

In the Ayutthaya and early Rattanakosin periods, pediments were usually decorated in carved wooden relief that were lacquered and gilded, and sometimes featured glass tiles set into the grooves or applied to the surface. Plaster relief later became popular, usually painted or inlaid with glass tiles, or left bare in the case of modest rural temples. During the reign of King Rama III, plaster relief was often adorned with crockery mosaics made of Chinese ceramics.

Pediment reliefs show figurative designs and abstracted floral motifs of Thai, Chinese, Khmer and, sometimes, Western origin. These motifs serve as a background for pediment guardian figures and as foreground designs on the pediments of secondary structures such as sala and gates. The pediments of temples under royal patronage often centre on the figure of the god Narai sitting astride his vehicle Garuda.

Sometimes the emblem of the king—who is regarded as the embodiment of King Rama of the Ramakian epic, who is a reincarnation of Narai— is used on the pediments.. Narrative scenes from the Ramakian epic are depicted on the pediments of some important temples in Bangkok. Other divinities selected for temple architecture include Indra on his mount, the three-headed elephant Erawan; Brahma on his goose, Hamsa; or Siva on his bull, Nandi. Guardian figures such as Rahu and Kala sometimes appear.

Eave Brackets on Thai Temples and Palaces

Eave brackets are among the most inventively carved wooden elements in Thai temple architecture, and their design is a good index of a building’s vintage and stylistic heritage. They did not seem to appear in the Sukhothai period when roof eaves were supported by peristyles.When these outer rows of columns began to be structural role of transferring the weight of the roof eaves to the columns or walls. Late Ayutthaya temple halls were sm aller than their predecessors. Thus their eaves did not need extra structural support. Nevertheless, brackets continued to be used, but as decorative and symbolic elements. They became slender and increasingly stylized. [Wattana Boonjub]

The figures on eave brackets usually embodied guardian figures such as naga, hamsa or deva intertwined with floral and cloud motifs. Preferably carved on one piece of wood, they were often gilded, and sometimes decked with glass mosaic. From the 19th century onwards, cement or plaster began to be used in the carving of eave brackets.

Brackets enhanced the roof’s appearance of soaring lightness. When massive outer pilasters and columns were eliminated, they were replaced by these slender limbs. They improve the temple hall’s proportions and composition - echoing in reverse the diagonal lines of the sloping roof and amplifying the rhythm of the columns, windows and bargeboard finials. Regional variations are especially interesting. Artisans in northern Thailand and parts of the northeast were probably pressed to be creative because each bracket was carved differently, unlike the identical set mandated in central region. Figures such as monkeys, demons and devas typically appear with arms and legs raised as if they are supporting the roof.

Doors and Windows in Thai Palaces and Temples

In palace and temple architecture, the heightened status of the interior space is suggested by the elaborate decoration of doors (pratoo), windows (naatang), air vents and eave brackets (khan thuai). These elements demonstrate some of the most beautiful ornaments in Thai architecture, including plaster or carved wood relief, painted designs, gold-and-lacquer work and glass mosaic. Doors and windows of temple and royal structures have a larger surface area for the embellishment, compared to that of houses. The embellishment also helps shed more light on the objects and the ceremonies that take place inside the buildings. [Wattana Boonjub]

Traditionally considered as the passage between differing realms, doors and windows, especially in palaces and temples, are decorated with special motifs in order to ward off the entry of evil spirits. Panels are carved or painted with images of guardian demons or other auspicious figures and designs. Statues of guardian demons, warriors or beasts are also placed outside the buildings for additional protection.

Outdoor Elements of Thai Architecture

Sala or pavilion refers to a free-standing roofed structure. There are several Thai names for different types of pavilions, depending on their utility and location. A pavilion sited a short distance from the main residence or located on the banks of canals or rivers is called sala while the one on a house’s terrace is called ho nang. A pavilion in palaces is known as Phra thi nang, timkot, and keng. For example, the pavilion in the Bang Pa-in Palace is named Phra Thi Nang Aisawan Thippaya-asna . Another type of sala is called salawat or salarai, which is a row of pavilions mainly built in the temples for relaxation and pleasure. [Wattana Boonjub]

Bridges without roof cover are built along the canals or rivers and connected with riverine traditional shop houses. Historical record indicated that there were three types of bridges in the Ayutthaya period. Each has unique architectural style and different hierarchical orders. 1. Wooden bridge that can take certain weights. 2. Cement bridge 3. Brick bridge - the strongest type - was reserved for royal processions that involved horses and elephants. It is also located in the areas occupied by foreign diplomats and traders.

Building and Trees and Thai Architecture

Wiwat Temiyapan says the settlement of Lanna people in the north of Thailand reflected harmonious coexistence between man and nature. House, front ground, backyard, garden and the environment altogether blend into cultural ecology. Trees on open ground In the central region, the types of trees planted on the ground are similar to those grown on a terrace in clustered houses. As it is said: ''There are big trees planted in the middle of a terrace of clustered houses or some kuti. The plants bring the buildings closer to nature and provide shade to the te rrace. Popular trees include jampi, jackfruit and mango. Others may have decorative plants like bonsai and some leafy plants.These trees are also visible in monks' quarters. [Wattana Boonjub]

Architect Julathat Kittibut adopted the concept in developing the Royal Gardens Resort in Hua Hin. He made some adjustments, replacing a terrace with an open ground and planted a number of trees. The architect, who is managing director of Chiang Mai Architect Collaborative, said: ''The change from a terrace to an open ground makes it more suitable for the place like a resort that receives foreign guests. Most guests like to gather in the lobby or at the beach for sun bathing

Trees planted near the building will serve as a heat insulator and, sometimes, may provide shade and protect the house against the rain and wind. This is also a common characteristic of Thai architecture. In general, Thai houses are surrounded by various kinds of perennial trees that provide weather protection. Some are planted right in the centre of the terrace, keeping the temperature in the house down.

Trees on the ground are similar to those planted on the terrace of the house and kuti. They bring nature to the structure and provide shade. In addition, some house owners grow fruit trees at the rim of their compounds. Trees sited next to the buildings Home owners carefully select tree species to grow near their houses to ensure auspiciousness. It is believed that certain types of trees are designated for each eight point of compass as guided by their forefathers to attain good luck and prosperity.

Courtyards in Thai Temple Compounds

Temple compounds are enclosed within walls that form layers of courtyards. These grounds assume a greater importance than do the grounds around Western churches. They are filled with a variety of key religious structures, statuary and ceremonial sites. [Wattana Boonjub]

The inner courtyard, formed by low walls surrounding the ubosot, is the centre. The courtyards may comprise prangs, the pavilions of scriptures, shrines, pavilions for meditation and funerals and auspicious trees such as Bodhi. A wall is used to separate the ceremonial courtyard from the courtyard of the monk’s quarters.

Circumambulation rites take place around the temple’s most sacred structure, which could be a or a prang that contains an important relic or a viharn that houses a revered Buddha image. Often this structure will be enclosed within cloisters. Worshippers gather before dusk and slowly walk around the structure three times clockwise, with lit candles, incense sticks and lotus buds in their hands. The three offerings and the triple circumambulation are reminders of the holy Three Gems of Buddhist doctrine: Lord Buddha, Dhamma (his teachings) and Sangha (the assembly of all beings possessing some high degree of realisation or nobility).

Courtyards of major monasteries are typically paved with bricks, terra cotta tiles, stones or terrazzo, which are often laid out in decorative patterns. The courtyards of ordinary temples are simply covered with earth, sand, pebbles or grass. Courtyards at the Grand Palace are broad and stately to suit the celebrations of the kings’ birthday and the receptions for dignitaries. Lending regal pomp are attractive ceremonial pavilions, elaborate gates and shrines housing royal insignia. Plazas and walkways are paved with decorative tiles.

Courtyard Walls and Gates in Thai Temples

Different layers of walls around the temple compounds designate the grounds as sacred. The design often follows a floor plan that complies with the Hindu-Buddhist cosmological concept, representing the centre of the compound. Gates, as thresholds between different spaces, are perceived to protect against the entry of evil spirits. When gates are built, rites are performed to invite guardian spirits to take abode and ward off bad influences. [Wattana Boonjub]

Built of bricks and covered in plaster, outer walls are usually between one meter and three meters high and 30 centimeters and 80 centimeters thick. They are typically whitewashed and decorated with ceramic balustrades, a multi-tiered column capital (hua med) and mouldings around the base. Elite temples may have walls of glazed ceramic tiles.

Inner walls that demarcate the ceremonial zone and surround key structures such as ubosot, or prang are called 3, meaning ‘jewelled walls’. This is another cosmological reference to the god Indra who resides in a heaven surrounded by walls embedded with seven precious gems. The term thus designates the ubosot as a symbol of heaven. The inner walls are low structures about 0.8 meters to 1.2 meters tall, and can take the form of balustrades, with square, rectangular of cross-shaped openings. Some walls feature balusters, which are shaped like pilasters of turned wood. Some use Chinese glazed stoneware blocks with decorative fretwork.

Outer wall gateways generally take one of three forms according to the styles of their tops: gabled, spired or Western-influenced designs such as semi-circular arches. In recent decades, temple builders have tended to install larger gateways to accommodate visitors, especially those who travel by car.

Walls and gates around buildings in the Grand Palace demarcate grounds of the highest status, from the fortified outer walls to the decorated walls around the Central Court and the Inner Court zones, where only the king and his children often have specific ceremonial designations in which many are individually named. What are now the outer walls were once the city walls of Bangkok. These plastered brick walls are 3.5 meters tall and 2.5 meters thick. In addition to fortifications and passageways for soldiers, the walls have cannon towers at junctions. The largest outer gates stand at 4.5 meters tall and 4 meters wide with ornate roofs.

Courtyard walls in the Central Court and Inner Court feature a variety of highly decorated gateways - many of them have spires. Walls around a primary palace building may have a triple-spired gateway featuring an elaborately ornate entrance for the king. Low walls around ceremonial halls and pavilions have special adaptations for royal protocol. For example, a protruding platform called k is used to mount a carriage of state, borne by elephant or horse, or a hand-carried palanquin. Another platform called is used by the king when presiding over ceremonies.

Courtyard Gardens of a Thai Temple

Gardens Courtyard landscaping shows a distinctively Thai amalgam of influences from Europe, Japan and China. If Chinese and Japanese gardens are a stylized version of nature, Thai temple and palace gardens seem to be a stylized version of these predecessors -- not a lush continuum of replica of nature, but something more constructed. [Wattana Boonjub]

The gardening emphasizes the architecture, not the plants. The ground is paved with stones, ceramic tiles or gravel. Plantings are dew and formal, with hedges well trimmed, and trees pruned and trained. Most plants stand in ceramic or cement pots, and there are vat of lilies and lotus. The greenery stands free from the buildings and provides little shade. Coupled with their stone pavements and whitewashed walls, the courtyards are often hot and so bright during the day to the point that one has to squint.

The grounds are not a sweeping vista to be viewed all at once, but are a bit like a Chinese ink painting or the landscape in a Thai mural — a maze of little vignettes: a flowering tree here, a shrine ther e, clusters of statuary and the Siamese rendition of bonsai called) . Overt Chinese influence is seen in the rock gardens, or . The courtyard’s formality contrasts with the unplanned sprawl and clutter in the village or city beyond, heightening the sense that this space is sacred and governed by spiritual laws, rather than material ones or the accidents of nature.

Palace landscaping is even more formal than the temples, with more of the pomp and regality of the 18th and 19th century European style. Lawns with huge Thai bonsai enhance the grandeur of spired throne halls. Quite informal, however, are the gardens in suburban or rural temples, which tend to feature a big open space (laan), usually used for religious events such as temple fairs. The gardens are usually unpaved and have large trees around the perimeter, often including a sacred Bodhi tree.

Thai bonsai and stone mountains originated in China and perfected in Japan, the art of bonsai was reinvented in the Siamese kingdom. Arriving from China during the Sukhothai period and from Japan during the Ayutthaya era, bonsai was first taken up by monks for use in temple gardens. Whereas the Chinese and Japanese intent is to create a miniature replica of a mature tree, the Thais aimed for something pretty, rather like European topiary, emphasizing stylized, almost geometric shapes. Explicit artifice, rather than implicit nature, is the aim of Thai bonsai called) or ‘tree bending’. The trunk and branches are drawn into diagrammatic lines, while bunches of leaves are trimmed into small globes. The little pompoms always occur in auspicious numbers of three, five, seven, nine or eleven, and usually on three levels. Larger trees, which can reach 3 meters tall, are grown in the ground.

HOUSE ARCHITECTURE IN THAILAND

See Separate Article HOMES IN THAILAND: BAMBOO HOUSES, TEAK HOUSES, RAFT HOMES, CONDOMINIUMS AND SUBURBAN CONCRETE TOWN HOUSES

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Wattana Boonjub, The Study of Thai Traditional Architecture as a Resource for Contemporary Building Design in Thailand, a Thesis for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy, Program of Architectural Heritage Management and Tourism (International Program), Silpakorn University; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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