Baan Thai Now

Page 1


CONTENTS Preface Introduction

16 17

Ruean Sivakorn Khum Khun Chang Monsereenusorn House Baan Rim Mae Nam House on the Pond Ruean Thai Amphawa Ruean Thai Mahidol University Baan Bueng Kum Khoong Thongdaya Ruean Thai Chulalongkorn University Baan Mahabhirom Baan Thai Ayutthaya Khlong Sra Bua Tamnak Plai Noen Baan Soi Suan Plu Villa Mahabhirom Howie’s Homestay Baan Rimtai Baan Hariphunchai Nai Lert Park Heritage Home

24 40 48 66 84 92 114 130 142 162 178 192 210 222 228 236 258 270 284

Ho Phra Trai Pidok Jim Thompson House & Museum Ruean Thai Bangkok University Suan Pakkad Palace Khum Khun Phaen Ruean Thai Chao Sam Phraya Ruean Kamthieng Ruean Chao Mae Yodkham Baan Sao Nak Ruean Phaya Kham Mongkhol Wang Chaomueang Phatthalung Isan Village Baan Thai Echo Valley

308 310 312 314 316 318 320 322 324 326 328 330 332

Baan Thai Garden Baan Thai Detail New Thai House Baan Thai Creator Baan Thai Builder

334 356 372 382 388

In ancient times, Thai people’s houses were called in several names including Baan Thai, Ruean Thai, vernacular houses -- so-called Ruean Puen Baan, and traditional Thai houses -- so-called Ruean Thai Derm. The traditional Thai houses have been dictated by traditional vernacular architecture styles for thousands of years spanning from the kingdoms of Sukhothai, Ayutthaya to the period of Rattanakosin. The traditional Thai houses could be found in flat areas in the central region close to the banks of canals and rivers, reflecting the people’s living style through waterways. Presently, the traditional Thai houses are seen in provinces in the central region including Ang Thong, Sing Buri, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Suphan Buri, Chai Nat, Ratchaburi, and Phetchaburi. All of them become beautiful and picturesque scenes and Thailand’s inherited trait. As time passes by with rapidly-prospering cities, these impressive pictures have gradually faded away. The traditional Thai houses usually feature a wooden structure with durability of 100-200 years. Some parts might be carefully preserved, while the whole of some traditional Thai houses have been fabricated by people who are immensely fond of the beauty of the traditional Thai houses. Modern architects also assemble the traditional Thai houses with advanced construction techniques, making them to fit the current living styles. So far, we have seen the traditional dwellings in different places nationwide. Most of them have been built with fondness and faith of the traditional Thai houses. Presently, they might not be built close to the banks of canals and rivers like they were in the past. Some of them might be situated on the high lands or in the middle of big cities and some might be in the mountains or the forests. Every single Thai house is well adapted to its surrounding environment. These days, traditional Thai houses have a wide range of very attractive and elegant styles. Many people wish to see and visit the traditional Thai houses. However, it is relatively difficult, given their different locations nationwide. Most of them are of private owners and it may be too complicated for the general public to visit them. Nevertheless, many long for someone to publish a book gathering stories and photographs of the traditional Thai houses for next generations. These records will provide knowledge and encourage modern people to preserve the traditional Thai houses. I am the one who is deeply attached to the beauty of the traditional Thai houses for a very long time, following their developments in each era from the old times to now and dreaming of writing a book telling stories

of the traditional Thai houses in each period. Moreover, I desire to see their physical developments and conduct comparisons, analyses and interpretation of them. Today, my dream comes true with a traditional Thai house book ‘Baan Thai Now’ published by Li-Zenn Publishing, following requests of both Thai and foreign readers. This kind of the book has not been available in stores for tens of years. In the meantime, a number of newly-fabricated or newly-built traditional Thai houses have emerged with solid supports of the government, institutions and private organisations. My team and I have searched owners of the regional Thai houses, contacting more than 40 of them across the country. I am very pleased and proud that many people value the traditional Thai houses, join hand to preserve the invaluable Thai heritages and fabricate them with gorgeous touches. Some traditional Thai houses are functioned as museums, some are multi-purpose places for activities and some are beautiful, private living residence for contemporary living styles. Now, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all house owners who are highly committed to build and perfectly preserve the traditional Thai houses and gave the permission for my team to gather information and take photographs. I also thank all architects in all fields who created these dwelling places and all Thai house builders who work hard to maintain the traditional Thai house construction architecture. This is regarded as preservation of the arts on the traditional style house construction and retaining these Thai house-building artisans for the nation. My deepest thanks go to M.L. Piyalada Devakula Thaveeprungsriporn who devotes her time to writing an interesting and useful introduction about the poetic senses for ‘Baan Thai Now’. Thank you to the staff of Li-Zenn Publishing for the hard work they have done in searching for the houses, contacting the owners for permission to take photographs and gathering information until all is completed as expected. Finally, I wish to thank the sponsors for their generous support in producing this book.

Nithi Sthapitanonda

National Artist

Ruean Thai: The Poetic of the Senses


Walking on the wooden floor … its elasticity made me conscious of my own existence; the weight I put into each step created soft creaking noise. My feet could sense the elasticity that the planks yielded to each of my steps. It was as if the floor recognised and responded to my being there.1

Much has been said about the historical and formal aspects of traditional Thai houses. Conventionally, the traditional houses of the river plains in central Thailand are particularly known for their unique features—clusters of wooden pavilions on stilts with high pitched roofs and elegant details. Such configuration is an inherently clever and artful answer to the geographical and climatic constraints as well as the socio-cultural makeup of the area. According to various literatures on the subject, the central Thai house, generally referred to as ruean thai, is elevated on stilts so as to avoid heavy flooding during the annual monsoon season.2 Its trapezoidal post and lintel structure ensure the house remains intact against lateral forces in severe monsoonal storms. The house is built primarily of wood, sometimes bamboo, which are quite abundant in the area. To protect its inhabitant from the strong sun and high amount of rainfall as in tropical climates, the house has rather broad eaves and high-pitched roofs. Large evergreen trees also help lend the living spaces with pleasant cool shades very necessary in tropical dwelling. Another unique feature of ruean Thai lies in its spatial configuration. Functional spaces are accommodated in separate pavilions connected by an elevated wooden platform or a terrace called chaan. The sleeping pavilion, in particular, is configured in such a way that from the highly enclosed interior space, one must pass through a semi-enclosed veranda—rabiang—before one steps out into the chaan. It is in such semi-enclosed, shaded ‘transition’ spaces that make for comfortable tropical living. And it is this loose cluster configuration that allows through ventilation in all the living spaces, thus enhancing thermal comfort, while also permits future expansion (by adding more pavilions) which corresponds to the extended nature of traditional Thai families. Perhaps, a truly intriguing yet largely unarticulated feature of the Thai architecture lies in its poetic dimension—the rich and multifaceted layers of sensory experience and meaning that await exploration. Such characteristics of Thai architecture—the Thai spirit, so to speak—capture many architects’ and designers’ attentions due to their contemporary design implications. Experiencing the houses A house is an embodiment of its dwellers. It fuses into one the very being of the dwellers and the place to which it belongs. At the same time, it answers and asks back once again the intertwined existential questions of who we are and where we are. In just this manner, the central Thai house—ruean thai— has long been recognised as a reflection of the life and culture of the people in the Chao Phraya River Plain. An old saying ‘plook ruean taam jai phu yuu; phook ou taam jai phu nawn’ tells the story. Literally meaning ‘Build a house according to the heart of its dwellers’3, the house, therefore, has long been an identifying ground for its people, it tells the story of who we are. An exploration into the poetic dimensions of ruean thai unveils its rich multifaceted essential characteristics that may reflect the identity of the people and culture around which it has evolved. These characteristics can be discussed in terms of five experiential characteristics, namely: 1) The Tree and rom reun Quality; 2) Verticality and a Sense of Hierarchy; 3) Enclosedness, Rhythm and Enticing Nature; 4) Graceful and Refined Nature; and 5) Memory and Root.

1.  The Tree and Rom Reun Quality In the Thai context, trees and rom reun quality—a cool and refreshing sensation associated with the tree shades—are practically inseparable. Trees are crucial elements in the experience of ruean thai, whether in terms of formal analogy or (the self-evident) construction materials. In fact, trees are ever-present in daily life of the dwellers. Take Tub Kwan pavilion4, for example, the old chand tree standing right at the centre of the chaan (elevated terrace) embellishes the courtyard space with a cool refreshing sensation, a pleasant filtered green-tinted light, ever dancing lights and shadows on the floor and delightful fragrance from its aromatic fruits. Such a delightful experience could hardly be found in the closed stolid mass of typical urban dwellings today. In fact, as Ornsiri Panin once said, large trees are staples of the Thai village scenery. One realizes one’s approaching a village when one sees roof finials amidst dense green tree tops5. And here goes one of the long rooted local wisdoms. Beside the delightful sensations they provide, trees bear rich, multifaceted layers of associations and meanings. First is the notion of trees as a shelter, which is played out in many ways in the Thai context—physical/formal, sensorial, and conceptual. All of these, however, seem to revolve around a simple term ‘rom reun’. Here, the term ‘rom’ (umbrella, shade, shaded) denotes the physical/formal aspect of a shelter, while ‘reun’ entails a delightful sensation in terms of sight, sound and comfort. Together, they sum up in one word the physical, psychological and aesthetic modes of experience. Another trace of the sheltering nature of trees in the Thai culture lies in the interchangeable use of the terms ‘rom yen pen suk’ (to live happily and peacefully) and ‘yuu yen pen suk’ (to live in happiness and peace). Here, what is interesting lies in the way the word ‘rom’ (shade, umbrella) is used in the place of ‘yuu’ (to live, to dwell), thus confirming a meaningful tie between the notion of shelter and that of dwelling. This sheltering characteristic and meaning of trees can, perhaps, be traced back to the significant role of trees and forests in the traditional context—i.e., as the abode of life. In fact, in the Thai culture, trees permeate every level of supernatural beliefs and symbolism. At the most common level, certain trees are believed to be spirit abodes. Bhodi and banyan trees have been held sacred. In the Bhramanic belief, the bhodi tree is a symbolic element of the universe—the axis mundi linking the upper, human, and under worlds. This last association is quite striking, particularly when thinking of the house posts as tree trunks. Considering the symbolic significance of the posts (especially the principal posts—sao ek) in the traditional house, with the many rituals surrounding it, the principle post may be seen as an axis mundi. The house, therefore, becomes a miniature model of the universe, brought near into the everyday human life. 2.  Verticality and a Sense of Hierarchy Verticality is manifest in ruean thai in various ways. Take the architectural forms, the proportion of the pavilion, the tapering lines of the columns and structure, the high pitched gable and the pointed finials; all indicate an upward direction toward the sky. Furthermore, the proportion of the interior space also suggests a vertical direction while the inside-outside relationship of the house is eloquently articulated in vertical terms. Here, while verticality implies an upward direction, a rising movement and an upper-lower relationship, all quite hierarchical in nature; it also characterises a peculiar relationship between the house and the outside world of nature, the ground and the sky. In fact, the hierarchy underlying the upward direction and the rising movement of ruean thai seem parallel to the inherently hierarchical nature of the traditional Thai society itself. Besides many traces in the course of history, clear examples of the vertical social system range from such everyday things as the way people address and greet each other, to religious and superstitious beliefs expressed in the configuration of physical environments. In Thailand’s ‘democratic’ society today, the trace of social hierarchy remains strong. The multitude of personal pronouns in the Thai language is but a fine example. For the one English ‘I’, there are more than a dozen commonly used Thai pronouns one can

choose from, depending on one’s age, gender, and personal or social status. The personal pronoun one uses in a situation reveals one’s (assumed) position in relation to one’s conversation counterpart(s)’. Another trace of verticality in the traditional Thai house lies in the unique position of the house in relation to the ground and the sky. As one can see, the house is lifted up as if dissociating itself from the ground and immediate surroundings, opening up instead to the sky. The inside-outside relationship here is vertically articulated—the inside is the upper, the outside the lower. But why? An explanation, on the one hand, might be based upon our subconscious conception that the ground is the realm of the known, the finite, the things tangible, or something equal or inferior to human. The sky, on the other hand, is the realm of the unknown, the intangible, the superior, the infinite somewhere human beings have long aspired to reach. As such, what the house does another part of the explanation is that, in such a wet-rice agricultural society as central Thailand, the soil/ ground becomes second to water in its productive role6. For the rice farmers here, it is rather rainwater that is the heart and soul, the main economic catalyst. In contrast to death and disease of the ground, the sky means the sun and rain, the very essential agents of life. By opening itself toward the sky, then, the traditional ruean thai thus enhances and corresponds to the Thai reverent attitude toward the sky. 3.  Enclosedness, Rhythm and Enticing Quality Enclosedness and a Sense of Rhythm In ruean thai, the sense of enclosedness and rhythm characterises one’s spatial experience. In contrast to the shut-in and monotonic space of an urban villa, ruean thai’s courtyard space and veranda offer a sense of privacy and security while still in touch with nature. In fact, at Tub Kwan, as in most typical ruean thais, there are different levels of enclosedness—from the bright and relatively open chaan, to the semi-enclosed veranda, and finally the dark and fully enclosed interior. Moving around, one can also feel a hint of rhythm, both the repetitive/modular architectural elements, and that of the movement itself. Let me expand upon these related features of the traditional house a bit. Here the sense of enclosedness characterises the experience of being within a space. It is the feeling of a comfortable embrace, a sheltering nature, of something ‘closed yet open’. Spatial rhythm, on the other hand, suggests a clear demarcation of spatial boundaries and the resulting rhythmic movement through these spaces. To put this compartmenting nature in its cultural context, we need to look no further than the traditional Thai view of space. In contrast to the absolute Newtonian space—infinite, similar and immovable7, the Thai concept of space indicates a series of definite, segmented ‘realms’, each with its own distinct characteristics and specific set of rules. When entering another space, one has to ‘transform’ oneself to correspond to that new space’s set of rules8. One manifestation of this spatial concept lies in the Tri Bhumi cosmology, the very conceptual system underlying various forms of classical Thai arts and architecture. In this tripartite system, each of the ‘three worlds’ is subdivided into regions and/or strata, each with its specific rules—specific kind of existence allowed to be in that little sub-stratum. To move up into a higher sub-stratum, one has to acquire the existential characteristic of that higher plane, most commonly good deeds or merits. In a modern context, this existential transformation can be manifest in terms of bodily gestures, language, or the way one dresses. In this light, it seems that this view of space still plays a subtle yet crucial role in the lives of those in modern Bangkok. Drawing-in and Enticing Quality Drawing-in and enticing quality suggests a kind of inward movement toward the house and a sense of mystery, an alluring attraction associated with femininity. At Tub Kwan, besides the drawing-in nature of boundaries and the poetic contrast of darkness and light at the entrances, it is the enticing indirect approach, which gently reveals the house as one progresses toward its central chaan, that lends the old house an air of mystery.

One important thing the drawing-in quality seems to convey is the notion of the house’s controlled relationship with nature. That is, it ‘lets nature in’ with moderation, instead of reaching out toward its natural surroundings as perhaps in the case of a Japanese Sukiya (tea-house style) dwelling9. At Tub Kwan, nature is let into the house through the central chaan, in forms of the large sheltering tree, the sun, the wind, and the rain, among other things. The chaan thus becomes a layer of artificial ground above nature’s ground—a ‘refined nature’. This idea of abstracted nature is evident in the various Thai visual arts and crafts. I will come back to this refined, abstracted characteristic in the discussion of the upcoming pattern, graceful and refined nature. 4.  Graceful and Refined Nature—A Feminine Aesthetic? Graceful and refined nature constitutes another salient characteristic of traditional Thai houses. Normally both the physical forms and the spatial experience help contribute to gracefulness. Based on the Thai adjectives, on choy and on waan10, the graceful quality seems to embody a hint of sweet gentleness, an ideal characteristic of women rendered by much Thai classical literature. But why ‘feminine’ characteristics? Is there any trace of their significance in the Thai culture? Well, indeed. First of all, feminine characteristics pervade the various forms of Thai arts. One best example lies, perhaps, in the abstract, streamlined curves of the Sukhothai style walking Buddha image (13th-15th century A.D.). In fact, Silpa Bhirasri has pointed out the resemblance between the serene, faintly smiling oval face of the Sukhothai Buddha with that of Thai women. That the artists tried to capture the characteristics of the Tai race of Sukhothai is understandable, but why the female traits are somewhat beyond logical explanation. We may assume, then, that the feminine characteristics conformed more to what these artists held as their aesthetic ideal11. Tracing further back in time, it seems to me that this refined taste associated with femininity may have its root in the long established roles of women in the wet-rice agricultural society of the Chao Phraya River Plain. With the high labour demand in such a society, women became a crucial force in the field12. Moreover, as labour exchange networking was highly significant, it is in fact women who were in charge of the labour exchange activities. In the traditional society, Thai women had long enjoyed their comparatively influential status13. In language, too, there are omnipresent indications of matriarchal influence in the mother compound words: e.g. mother of water = river; mother of iron = magnet; mother of strength = car jack; mother of cowrie shell = hood of a snake; and even mother of force = military commander14. The word ‘mother’ or mae in these terms connotes the idea of the centre, the source of power or support. When it comes to the Thai house, the term mae sri ruean (she who graces the house) comes to mind. Perhaps, the house, with all its graceful and enticing characteristics, was in the Thai’s mind a realm where women graces their presence through a subtle yet powerful exercise of control and support15. 5.  Memory and Root—A Celebration of Nostalgia It is perhaps the enticing and intimate qualities from the previous sections that lead us to this last characteristic, that is, the expression of memory, age and tradition. On the one hand, the notion of memory suggests richness in place experience that reaches beyond the immediate presence. Also revolving around the notion of time, age and tradition hint at a charm of things that has been touched by human use and elements of nature, as well as the fascination with one’s past and identity. At Tub Kwan, for instance, it is the weather-worn look of the wooden surfaces and the patina of age on the earthen roof tiles that add a unique charm to the house—that of memory, of time. It evokes images of use, of human touch, of history which then furnish the house with a mythical dimension, a dignified, solemn, or khlang, atmosphere. In the end, it seems that what matters most here is that the sense of memory, age and tradition does not only make room for one’s imagination, but gives one a reassurance of one’s identity and purpose of being. And that is perhaps what makes ruean thai so tempting, especially when compared to the

vast, all-seen-in-one-glance space of the urban villa that is a part of the all too familiar daily urban life. It stirs up imagination. It is a locus of dreams. It is a celebration of nostalgia. In the end, it seems that what matters most here is that the sense of memory, age and tradition not only make room for one’s imagination, but that they give one a reassurance of one’s identity and purpose of being. And that is perhaps what makes ruean thai so tempting, especially when compared to the vast, all-seen-in-one-glance space of the urban villa that is a part of the all too familiar daily urban life. It stirs up imagination. It is a locus of dreams. It is a celebration of nostalgia. epilogue

Tradition … cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves in the first place, a historical sense, which … involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence…. The past should be altered by the presence as much as the present is directed by the past … the difference between the present and the past is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past’s awareness of itself cannot show.

T. S. Eliot, ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’

The journey began as a search for the poetics of the traditional house. What had been learned and rediscovered along the way, however, turned out to be much more gratifying and worthwhile. The product of tradition—ruean thai—acts as the tip of the iceberg leading us to vast issues lying just beneath the surface. Each of the five characteristics finds its meanings traceable to the various aspects of Thai culture and unveils in front of us the various issues that had been buried under rapid change in the Thai society over the course of modernisation. Tradition is no static ‘thing’. Rather, as this essay unfolds, it becomes clear that it serves as a mirror reflecting hidden or forgotten world views and issues in a society; a lamp, shedding light upon probable answers to present-day dilemmas. And it is such simple things as the everyday language and gestures, among others, that reveal themselves as a means by which traces of forgotten meanings from the past re-emerge into light. Tradition is also a process in which the old interacts with the new, a selecting and filtering process wherein time is an essential agent, and we human are thus inherently conditioned by it. M.L. Piyalada Devakula Thaveeprungsriporn

notes 1. Piyalada Devakula, “A Tradition Rediscovered: Toward an Understanding of Experiential Characteristics and Meanings of the Traditional Thai House” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1999), 84. 2.

Sathienkoset, Plook Ruean Tang Ngaan (Bangkok: Ong Kaanka Kurusapha, 1983); Ruthai Jaijongruk, Ruean Thai Derm (Bangkok: The Association of Siamese Architects, 1996).

3. Or metaphorically, “let one marry according to one’s own wish.” 4.

Tub Kwan Pavilion is an aesthetically acclaimed traditional Thai house, a part of the Sanaamchand summer palace complex, Nakhon Pathom province.

5. Ornsiri Panin, Baan Lae Moobaan Peunthin (Bangkok: by the author, 1995). 6. See Clifford Geertz, Agricultural Involution (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press), 30-1. 7.

Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994; reprint New York: Penguin Books, 1996), 361.

8. Nithi Eawsriwong, “Peuntee Nai Khati Thai” in Phakhaoma Phasin Kangkengnai Lae Eun Eun. (Bangkok: Matichon Publishing, 1995), 130-49. 9. In a Sukiya house, a rather static and calm horizontally oriented interior space opens out to the moon-viewing platform, which extends itself out beyond the broad eave into the embrace of the garden and the reflecting pond. The platform’s level is merely a foot off nature’s ground, where at one spot a stepping stone emerges to greet the bamboo plane. As such, the house seems to encourage its dwellers to immerse themselves in the natural surroundings, to step down into the garden. It is a unification of man and nature. 10. On choy means “graceful, gracious” or elegant, while on waan is the quality in persons or things that are “sweet (in manner), suave, and gentle.” Here the term is employed in the sense of something sweet, and gentle. 11. “The body has a graceful undulation, the trunk swinging lightly to the side, and the hanging arm rhythmically following this curve. The head is shaped like a lotus bud, the neck spreading at its base merges harmoniously into the shoulder. Each detail, as for example, the delicate outline of the lobes of the ears which curve a little outward serves to emphasize the harmony of the whole composition. The hand, in particular, are modeled with a grace and elegance.” See Silpa Bhirasri, An Appreciation of Sukhothai Art Thai Culture, New Series No. 17 (Bangkok: The Promotion and Public Relations Sub-Division, The Fine Arts Department, 1990). 12. Similar observation was made in William Clifton Dodd’s The Tai Race, Elder Brother of the Chinese: Results of Experience, Exploration and Research (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Torch, 1923). 13. It seems to me that the modern concept of gender “equality” is an entirely Western idea, which in turn imposes many negative views on the social status of the Southeast Asian women, e.g. the idea of Thai women as being socially suppressed. In fact, as one Thai female colleague once mentioned to me (and I shared her view), many Thai women had a hard time sym pathizing with the Western feminist debates on female equality. Not that we approve of, or surrender to, blind discrimination based solely on the gender, but we rather believe that women are powerful in a different way, and although indeed some tasks seem equally appropriate for both men and women, yet there are many things that women can do better than men, and vice versa. After all, shouldn’t we celebrate constructive difference between the sexes, rather than blind equality? 14. William J. Klausner, Reflections on Thai Culture 4th ed (Bangkok: The Siam Society, 1993), 295. 15. This is not to be confused with the notion of domestic realm/ “women-in-the-kitchen” in a western context, as the “house” in this sense encompasses all the physical, formal, and spatial senses of a dwelling place. In the Thai context, as well as other parts of mainland Southeast Asia, women take care of economic (rather than domestic) matters in and outside the house.


A house is an embodiment of its dwellers. It fuses into one the very being of the dwellers and the place to which it belongs.


RUEAN SIVAKORN Location: Owner: Architect/Designer: Interior Designer: Landscape Architect: Completion:

Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima Luqman and Chumsri Arnold Bishop International Agora Landscape Architects of Bangkok 2001

Ruean Sivakorn is especially interesting in its location on the hillside of Khao Yai, Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima as most Thai houses are situated on a flat area, near canals or rivers. Due to such geographic factors, houses in Ruean Sivakorn were specifically designed as single-storey buildings on reinforced concrete floor slabs. They are aligned down the ground slope; while those following the traditional placement lie in a group and connected with a terrace. However, each of them receives seasonal winds and is surrounded by a wonderful view of a wide natural garden with high trees. The front entrance landscape offers a refreshing and pleasant feeling of an astounding Thai-style water garden and colourful lotus plants. The architecture is the traditional Thai style, delicately built with gold teak wood by masterly craftsmen from Ang Thong. The main building has a three level roof, making the space underneath higher than general Thai houses. It is mainly used for relaxing but also has a master bedroom. Another building is a formal dining pavilion with four-sided glass walls through which provides a surrounding scenery of a garden and a swimming pool. There are also another four buildings placed in the same alignment on a grass field. One of them is a library and working area. The rest are bedrooms. The background of the house begins with the first owner’s love in the charming traditional Thai houses. He, living in Hawaii, the United States, employed an Ang Thong craftsman (Sor. Ruaycharoen) to make his dream complete. But when the work was finished but not yet transferred out, the owner had died in an accident. So the house had been kept in the store for years before an English-Thai couple knew of it and wanted to buy the house for their land at Khao Yai. They asked the same architect to proceed with the transfer and recompose it and another firm (Landscape Architects of Bangkok) to work for the landscape. The interior design is created by the owner’s wife and also assigned to Agora. The house is one of the outstanding Thai architectures with its impressive beauty surrounded by forests and mountains.

24 25




MONSEREENUSORN HOUSE Pak Kret, Nonthaburi Kiatchai Monsereenusorn Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pinyo Suwankiri 2016


Location: Owner: Architect/Designer: Completion:

If building a house is compared to writing a poem for both have rules and forms, the aesthetics of this construction would be related to proportion and distance that require delicacy to create a beautiful and excellent work. The owner is a house collector and happy to learn about traditional Thai houses. So not only has a love, he has a true understanding of them. These traditional Thai houses are built in the area of the current large family resident next to the riverbank. They function as guesthouses for the owner’s foreign business colleagues and friends. He himself stays overnight here sometimes when missing Thai houses. There are nine of them in the typical group. The main side of the houses faces towards the Chao Phraya River. The architectural plan is asymmetry. The design of a double staircase to the main house suits the placement of the group houses and makes a grand entrance with a lotus pond lying along the river. Compared to historic houses, this can be characterised as one of the noble houses. The group of ‘nine’ houses, referring to longevity and promotion to a higher rank according to the belief in numerology, includes two reception pavilions at the left and right sides, the owner’s bedroom which is the main large building, the children’s bedroom at the left and a kitchen and a dining room at the right. All the nine houses enclose the central wood terrace where there is a Gold Apple tree surrounded with benches at the centre. There are also kitchen and multipurpose buildings aligned out of the group of nine houses. The main house, a semi-detached house with an in-between gutter, is clearly divided into three parts: bedroom, dressing room and restroom. The interior design of each room showcases movable furniture in Chinese and modern Thai styles, which is the house owner’s beloved antique collection. The functional and sizable space is designed to suit the modern life, such as the guest room or dining room furniture sets. There is a food preparation area but no cooking space. Since the house owner often makes merit, the back house is thus provided for religious activities like Buddhist ceremonies and offering food to monks. Without a pathway connecting with the bedroom house, this multi-purposed house has its own staircase. The proportion of the structure that is different from general Thai houses creates a magnificent look especially with reduced-corner posts. The folding doors around the house can be opened widely, offering panoramic views. The houses are delicately designed with every interesting detail, such as Chinese patterns on the owner’s favourite antique collection and carved motifs differently used in each house -- Cotton rose only for the main house and the guest houses. Braced wood pieces compose the house frames, instead of using large timbers. Wooden fa pakon and fa pakon look fak wall panels are neatly assembled by skilful craftsmen. With a funny and clever design by the architect, the windows towards veranda are created in octagonal, triangular and circular shapes with panels that can be opened and closed. 48 49



Location: Owner: Architect/Designer: Completion:

Pathumwan, Bangkok Chulalongkorn University Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pinyo Suwankiri 1987

เรือนไทย จุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย


Chulalongkorn University built this group of houses as a Thai music learning centre and a place for knowledge exchange and dissemination of Thai art and culture especially the ‘Pi Phat Duekdamban ensemble’. ‘Ruean Thai’ is also a place where students can learn about traditional Thai architecture of the central region, in particular the construction method of a Thai timber house ‘Ruean Khrueang Sab’ which is pretty rare nowadays. This sophisticated method developed for hundreds of years involve the pre-fabrication system and the traditional joint-making techniques to fasten together pieces of wood without nails or screws. Concerned about the loss of this traditional Thai craftsmanship, Chulalongkorn University is mandated to conserve the knowledge for children and to construct this house to be one of the national cultural heritages. Ruean Thai of Chulalongkorn University was built in 1987 to commemorate the 60th cycle birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol and the 70th anniversary of establishment of the university. At present it is used for Thai music training and art and cultural performances, including the reception of Thai and foreign visitors on various occasions. Ruean Thai consists of seven two-storey buildings: a pavilion, a main twin-roof building, a building parallel with the main building (Ho Ree), Ruean Khwang (Ho Khwang) at an angle with the main building, an office building, a rest room and a living room. All are arranged according to a traditional Thai house plan and connected with a central terrace and a veranda which leads to the pavilion in the pond. The buildings are elevated on stilts. The gable roofs are covered with clay tiles and no ceilings. Both sloping edges of each gable are fixed with panlom, a wooden board cut at an acute angle on the top end, and hook-like ngao at its lower ends. The gable are made by arranging pieces of wood in different patterns, such as horizontal lines, vertical and horizontal lines, and a half shining sun which are normally used in the traditional style. Different from other buildings, the pavilion has a three-levelled roof. The gable is deliberately decorated with traditional ornaments at the edges: ruay raka, bai raka and hang hong; the personal emblem of King Chulalongkorn and the symbol of Chulalongkorn University was carved and covered with gold leaf at the centre. The angel (male and female) corbels represent students. The space around the seven buildings is designed for a Thai-styled garden with shade trees as a natural wall separating the area from the concrete education buildings.

162 163



Location: Owner: Architect/ Designer: Completion:


BAAN MAHABHIROM Lat Phrao, Bangkok Torsak Sukpanich Torsak Sukpanich 2015

Speaking of traditional Thai houses, one often has the impression of a cluster of Thai houses erected on a riverbank or in a vast open area of big trees or a lawn or a beautiful lotus pond, but Mahabhirom House is different. It is located on a small plot surrounded by townhouses and detached homes in the centre of the Bangkok Metropolis. However, the difference makes it stand out from the urban environment although in a humble but irresistibly attractive way especially at nights. Mahabhirom House consists of five buildings which the owner bought during four years of going around several villages in Suphan Buri, as known the best source of beautiful Thai houses and skilful craftsmen. The style is outstanding from those of other provinces by the extra height. Separate origins make the houses different, especially the various shades, sizes, forms and materials of the roof tiles. Through years of weathering, the adverse changes add impressive beauty that new tiles cannot. So the owner wanted to preserve the houses as much as he could. Fortunately, with guidance from books written by the well-known architect Ruethai Chaichongrak, he can harmoniously place the different style houses together in this small plot of land. The five houses are arranged in a U shape to enclose a central court and located near a boundary of the land so that each house offers great open views and regulate access of natural light and ventilation. With the size limit, the ground floor is fully used and decorated in the contemporary style while the rows of posts and verandas contribute to a feeling of traditional Thai houses. The houses were composed by craftsmen from Ayutthaya in three years. Over 60% of the wood is from reclaimed wood, especially the floor. Most of the furniture collection is in the central Thai style. Some were bought together with the houses and renovated to suit the size of the space and today’s functional changes. For the love of nature, the central court is filled with various plants which are largely broad leaved trees and flowers, including the favourite lotus. Apart from the structural beauty, the details and elements still express the interesting characteristics of traditional Thai houses, including the wall panels with a sun ray design, the fish tail gable ends, the woven bamboo panels traditionally done by the house owner and the refuse pits which are hardly found today.

178 179


HOWIE’S HOMESTAY โฮวี่ส์่ โฮมสเตย์

Mae Rim, Chiang Mai Howard Feldman Jliya Matthayamphan Bensley Studio Architect/Designer: Bensley Studio Interior Designer: Landscape Architect: Bensley Studio 2007 Completion: Location: Owner:

With the love of nature and the scenic location, Howard Feldman and his wife asked an American architect Bill Bensley to develop their 5 acres property (12.5 rais) in Mae Rim, 20 km northward from Chiang Mai City, for a group of seven modern Lanna houses on the rustic hill slope. The designer intentionally created a modern Lanna architecture and has achieved it after the seven year construction for the beautiful structure in harmony with the landscape. Most houses have vaulted 8 metre golden teak ceilings. Modern technology in each room includes state-of-the-art entertainment and communication systems. The relaxed, yet refined atmosphere complements Northern Thailand’s rustic natural beauty with indulgent and modern comforts. Each structure was built with reclaimed and recycled teak wood. Natural light flows through walls of glass. Sloping roofs protect from the sunshine and gentle rain while recalling the splendour of the tranquil and elegant Lanna Thai era. The golden teak wood floors, handcrafted teak furniture and museum quality antiques from across Southeast Asia round out the interior design. At the centre of the area, three houses are erected in a large pond. Each is used for different functions: a living room, a dining room and a private quarter. The pavilion-style house used as a living room has deep eaves all around. A set of coffee tables is located near the swimming pool. Apart from wood furniture made by local craftsmen, there are decor antiques the owner has collected for a long time. Opposite the living room is the private quarter and nearby is the dining room and kitchen used by the owner and guests. An infinity pool connects these three houses. The construction for guest accommodation includes a Lanna-style teak pavilion, two Family pavilions (a family room and three bedroom suites). Each room has an air-conditioning system installed at the basement. The 70 square metre teak pavilion has sliding glass doors on three sides of the suite and 110 square metres of covered terrace. The sliding glass doors open to reveal a panoramic view of the tropical gardens, a free flowing stream and spectacular mountain vistas. The family pavilions sit at the top of a slight grassy slope overlooking a beautiful terraced garden area. Connected by an outside footbridge, over a pond filled with Japanese Koi, is the large 144 square metre family dining/kitchen area. This relaxing and functional space is surrounded by floor to ceiling glass window walls that allow for restful views of the gardens and mountains. These seven houses are nestled in the verdant tropical gardens containing over 40,000 plants. Rocks and stones are used to decorate the gardens and the shady stream banks and to create a level surface. After years of being a private residence, the owner has made it over and opened it as an all year around homestay.

236 237

BAAN HARIPHUNCHAI Mueang, Chiang Mai Chulathat Kitibutr Chulathat Kitibutr 2002


Location: Owner: Architect/Designer: Completion:

Baan Hariphunchai is located on the bank of the Ping River. Chulathat Kitibutr, National Artist has opened this place to be the ‘Cultural Learning Centre and Tourist Attraction in the House of National Artist Project’ since 2008. His concept is to create an ideal garden town imitating an old city; that is a cluster of traditional houses surrounded by paddy fields and trees, within the fence and moats. Also, it includes an area for exhibiting Lanna art and cultural works as well as craftsmanship. The objectives are not only to preserve old houses of different times and various ethnic cultures but also bring them to life by adjusting the function to suite the modern lifestyle. The group of two-storey buildings includes a main house, houseguests, a restaurant, a ‘garden house’ and a banquet hall. Some are traditional Lanna wooden houses moved from other places, such as Long Khao and ‘Ruean Yong’ Thai houses from Lamphun. They were renovated to be more beneficial with the use of contemporary materials. Some of the ground floor structures were strengthened with reinforced concrete columns while others were totally changed to concrete. The bed rooms are on the ground and the second floors. Each has a bath room inside, which is different from traditional Thai houses but more convenient. There is a roofed walkway connecting the house to the hall and the front veranda connecting a swimming pool raised above the base flood elevation of the Ping River beside. The house is normally spared for guests but reserved for the owner at some times. ‘Ruean Colonial’ is one of the two-storey houseguests in the western modern and Lanna style. Recycled wood is used for house posts and the design focuses on the ventilation with a more-voidthan-solid plan. The ground floor is composed of a living room, a rest room and a kitchen. The roof is covered with long-lasting cement tiles instead of clay tiles as in the old days. Later ‘Ruean Lab’ in the typical Lanna style was built adjacent to the ‘Ruean Colonial’ and was connected with a covered walkway. The function is adjusted according to activities of the owner’s daily living: an open-air living room on the second floor and a solid bedroom with air conditioners on the ground floor. The roof form of the group houses features, though with some differences from ancient Lanna architectures, the gable of Lanna’s wood houses with eaves and the pyramid roofs with an overlapping Mondop top and wood shingles, clay tiles and traditional kite-shaped tiles (cement). The wood structures were integrated with masonry and modern materials, such as clear glass and reinforced concrete. They were decorated with Lanna artworks like carved wooden frames, wicker furniture, sculptures and traditional Lanna handicrafts. The buildings are connected by the open space and the roofed walkways. There are also wooden porches and ponds and this scenic area by the Ping River contains the garden with shady trees and paddies. 270 271




“Build a house according to the heart of its dwellers,� the house, therefore, has long been an identifying ground for its people, it tells the story of who we are.

หอพระไตรปิฎก วัดระฆังโฆสิตาราม


Location: Owner:

Wat Rakhang Khosittaram, Bangkok Noi, Bangkok Wat Rakhang Khositaram

It was once a residence and throne room of King Rama I when he ascended the throne, so he ordered the renovation of Ho Phra Traipidok (scriptures hall) in the middle of water. Then, King Rama I held a cerebration and planted eight Chan trees; therefore, it has been called ‘Chan Palace’. Ho Phra Traipidok is assumed that it used as two Thai houses connected with a terrace in the middle. When building Ho Phra Traipidok, the roof was added to that middle terrace, along with the front and back walls and a door, making it triple houses. Among the three houses, the southern one is bedroom; the middle one is the hall and the northern one is living room. The pakon wall is decorated with a mural of King Rama I inside. The Buddhist Tripitaka is kept in a cabinet made from gold appliqué on black lacquer. The arched entrance outside is made from gilded carved wood decorated with mosaics. The baked-clay tile roof has Dheva eaves tile decoration on its wings. Ho Phra Traipidok received Best Architectural Conservation Award of the year 1987 from The Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage (ASA).


พิพิธภัณฑ์บ้าน จิม ทอมป์สัน

JIM THOMPSON HOUSE & MUSEUM Location: Owner: Architect/Designer: Completion:

Pathumwan, Bangkok James H.W. Thompson Foundation Bunyong Nikhrothanont 1959

The six teak wood houses of Jim Thompson House located on a halfacre (1 rai) area were bought from different places. The oldest one, living room and kitchen, built in the early 19th century was from Baan Krua silk weaving village on the opposite canal side. Other houses come from the Pak Hai in Ayutthaya. They were separated into small parts, transferred by boat to the location in Bangkok then grouped and adapted for practical use. The interior is decorated with James Thompson’s antique collections from Asian countries. For example, the living room is decorated with a chandelier from an ancient palace. On the window, there sits a Myanmar doll ‘Nat’ which is, as believed, a sacred soul from Amon Pura. Currently, this group of Thai houses becomes a museum in the possession of the James H.W. Thompson Foundation. It also won Best Architectural Conservation Award of the year 1996 from The Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage (ASA).


เรือนไทย มหาวิทยาลัยกรุงเทพ

RUEAN THAI BANGKOK UNIVERSITY Location: Owner: Architect/Designer: Construction:

Rangsit, Pathumthani Bangkok University Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pinyo Suwankiri 2004

This cluster of Thai houses is used for the source of art and cultural knowledge and activities. The houses adopt the accurate traditional pattern of central Thai hooking house architectural design with tall basement. The wooden houses contain 4 residences which are Ho Ree, Ho Khwang, bathroom and a living room. The floor inside is wood but the terrace has been changed from wood to Ferro-concrete topped with tiles to adapt to practical use. The gable roof is covered with baked clay tiles. For the gables, the sides have gable ends and wooden ngao finials while the panels feature the brahma look fak and shining sun designs. The eaves are deep following the traditional Thai pattern to shield sunlight and rain. The Thai wall uses the traditional pakon style. The houses are stabilised by round pillars of which the top is tapering inwards. The window bridge is made with the look fak kra darn doon Thai design. These group houses face a large pond, allowing a beautiful reflection in the water. The front stair leads to the pier that is used for special activities like the Loy Kra Thong event. About 80% of the houses’ area is floating on water to simulate the old lifestyle.


One important thing the drawing-in quality seems to convey is the notion of the house’s controlled relationship with nature. That is, it “lets nature in” with moderation, instead of reaching out toward its natural surroundings.

There may not be any certain evidences for less popularity of gardening around the areas of traditional Thai houses as most of them have been built near canals or rivers. One common characteristics of Thailand’s traditional house is the elevation of its buildings on stilts. Only the elevated floors are used. The houses are raised due to the risk of floods during the rainy season. Generally, villagers then move their things and tools as well as potted plants up to the elevated house. That’s why the tradition of gardening around the elevated terrace emerges. The garden mostly houses potted plants including flower, bonsai and homegrown vegetables. Gardening on stilt houses has continued in generations to generations for hundreds of years. Later, as roads have been constructed, irrigation obstacles have been solved and dams have been built, seasonal flooding problems have gradually eased and villagers started to bring down their gardens onto the ground. Initially, they started with orchards and kitchen gardens. Later, flower gardens came with Thai fragrance flower plants. Fragrance flowers were then used to pay respect to the Buddha or make flower rings for monks. In the meantime, big trees have been grown as shades for the stilt houses. Some of them preferred growing trees in the middle areas of the houses for shades and scents. Today, natural gardening gains popularity at modern Thai houses where big trees exist for natural shades. Ponds with lotus plants are preferably placed close to the houses particularly in the South to have wind blow humidity into the house areas. Several houses have large lawns for family activities and open beautiful and interesting house perspectives. Being subject to the wind directions and shades for the stilt houses, big trees are usually not grown against the seasonal wind. Still, gardening potted plants on stilt houses continues its popularity these days. Most of the potted plants are popular Thai bonsai or Thai lotuses in several colors for being Thai and liveliness. In addition, beautiful and fragrant ivy becomes popular in a large number of traditional Thai houses, growing them in designated areas for shades (in the middle of the terrace or around ladders in the front) and decoration. Conclusively, traditional Thai house gardens mostly house fragrance plants, big trees, flower trees, fruit trees in the natural ways, wanting shades and wind for the houses. Typical traditional Thai houses still prefer growing vegetables and fruit trees for consumption. This is the soul of being traditional Thai houses in the old time.






Verticality is manifest in ruean thai in various ways. The proportion of the pavilion, the tapering lines of the columns and structure, the high pitched gable and the pointed finials; all indicate an upward direction toward the sky.

Speaking of Thai houses, we always think of a central region’s single-storey houses under which is a tall open space. The pictures we often have in mind are ‘gable’, a tall beautifully-decorated triangle on the front and back walls and ‘gable end’, a wooden panel covering the gable roof edge of which both ends are shaped to be similar to a Naga’s head (Thai mythical animal). Both gable and gable end are important elements that are beautifully designed and concordant with each other. Because a physical characteristic of Thai houses’ tall roof is ceiling-less, a large space under the roof is created and acts like an insulation protecting the house from sun heat. It is also a space for the heat beneath to stay before being released to outside. Together with an open terrace, a tall basement and split levels, the house has good horizontal and vertical ventilation flows. The technique for Thai house construction has existed for more than 100 years. The components, such as floors, walls, roofs, windows, doors and stairs are made in one place. They are assembled by the technique of tongue and groove pinned with a dowel in another place. This way makes the construction as well as the renovation and moving convenient. It is also useful when the wood shrinks or expands due to humidity. Some craftsmen like to use the word ‘blend’ the house instead of ‘build’ because this technique, unlike building a house, allows the finished components to be combined afterward to become a house. Craftsmen in different areas share different complicated techniques of tongue and groove joints which can be counted as local wisdom. A Thai house’s structure is usually made from hardwood. The unique carved-wooden partitions, so-called ‘pa kon’ or ‘look fak, are created from wood scraps. Wood perforating or carving are chosen to beautify, harmonise and reduce the harshness of square-shaped houses, for example, ‘ka lae’, ‘window’s bridge’, or ‘pillar’. The design usually shows the delicacy of the Thai style reflecting the faith of Buddhism of the Thai people. Furniture and other decorative items from different influences such as Lanna, Khmer, Myanmar, Chinese, Western vintage or modern styles can be pleasantly mixed and matched glamorising the atmosphere of the house. The composition of a Thai house is consistent with the direction of sunrise and sunset. Its void space makes the wooden wall a screen that receives the incidence of light and shadow. The intensity of light can change to a variety of moods through different time periods. At the same time, the changing shapes and angles tell various stories of the nature around the house. The light and sound plays make Thai houses different from other architecture in the world. Besides, the sounds of wind, rain, cockcrows and birds joining the scene create a true aesthetic life.




Tradition is no static “thing�. It serves as a mirror reflecting hidden or forgotten world views and issues in a society.

Residential architecture has been a fruitful field with regard to the application of traditional Thai forms. From the 1950s onwards the majority of Thais have intended to build a Western style house if they could afford it, preferably of brick and cement. However, architects building their own homes have been particularly willing to delve into the use of traditional forms. Thai house construction has relied on the basic wooden structure on stilts, but the traditional teak wall panels, large terraces and steep concave roofs have been replaced with simpler, less expensive components. Often, the owners paint their house in cheerful colours, such as blue, yellow, green or red, another difference from rigid tradition. These houses are less elegant than the classic versions, but are appearing in their own right and easier to adapt to the owner’s specific needs, such as in the floor plan. One inspiration from the traditional Thai wooden house is the provision of spaces integrating indoors and outdoors: terraces, verandas, unenclosed rooms and open areas underneath a house built on posts. All of these types of structures are being designed into contemporary houses, ideally making use of the traditional tendency to interlink the spaces for greater versatility, so that the hybrid spaces are not isolated but part of a corridor or network of indoor/outdoor ‘rooms’. The exacting proportions of the traditional Thai house can inspire either emulation or a sense of play. The ratios of roof height to wall heights and widths are one example. Roof features with useful functions, such as kansaad-style secondary eaves that shield against the sun and rain, are sometimes adopted. Some references to tradition are simply decorative: trapezoidal windows, for example and wooden wall panels in the fa pakon style. The house contains a dramatic staircase enclosed within the interior, instead of having outside steps rising to the terrace. Unlike traditional interiors, rooms are installed with loose furniture-chairs, tables and cabinets of rattan and lacquered wood, most of them in a Chinese style. The open area below the house is paved with slabs of stone, creating a large covered space for parties. Beyond houses designed by high-profile architects, tens of thousands of houses have been built since the 1950s.

Architect Kannika Ratanapridakul borrowed Thai forms to achieve practical results at House U3. Three branches of her family needed to fit into one compound, so she created three separate cabins in a U-shaped configuration around a courtyard, like a classic cluster house. She wanted a high-looking roof and the steep gable form proved ideal.

As in a traditional Thai house, the area under Baan Pattaya is a multipurpose room. Here, its purpose is to provide a space for relaxation at the beach.




A, D:

Pattaya House 2, Chon Buri, 2006 By Architects 49 House Design

B, C, E: U3 House, Bangkok By Spacetime


Pattaya House 1, Chon Buri, 2006 By Architects 49 House Design


Baan Chang Nag, Chiang Mai, 1992 By Architects 49 House Design

P.374: Baan Bang Sarae, Chonburi, 2009 By Architects 49 House Design



Associate Professor Ruetai Chaichongrak National Artist, 2000

Thai houses are unique and related to the culture that contributes to a feeling of peace and serenity. It’s made known from old evidences that Thai people have created their uniqueness since their beginning time of Sukhothai, to Ayutthaya and the present Rattanakosin periods. Commonly all cultures change through time, the cultural protection and transfer thus have to go along with creativity. Protection of culture is involved in preservation by imitating old things without changes and transfer of culture is related to creating new functions and structure while maintaining traditional ‘Thainess’. The beauty of Thai houses can be characterised in three aspects: form, character and rhythm. These are the ways to consider the appearance, the functions and the rhythm which includes the pitch and space between voids and solids that form the association of mass, plane and void. The design of Thai architecture strictly and meticulously followed the traditional concept. The planning is concerned with forms, sides, space and adjacent proportion by considering the size and the proportion of line, plane and mass: for example, the eaves (line), the roof (plane) and the form (mass) are well related to each other. Wood is the main building material. Different kinds of wood are used for different purposes. Teng, Daeng, and Rang hardwood is preferable to use outside buildings because of the sun and rain water while teakwood is often applied for wall panels and constructional elements, such as gable ends. Currently, other materials, such as metal, take more roles in the Thai house construction. New materials and technology progress result in the adjustment of Thai house construction to fit the usage and support more types of activities; such as the use of iron reinforced concrete in foundations, the reduction in the number of posts to increase functional spaces, the installation of glass around supporting posts to let sunlight in and push out windows with net curtain to let air flow or wood window panels to prevent air leaks when using air-conditioners, etc.

Associate Professor Dr. Pinyo Suwankiri National Artist, 1994

Traditional Thai architecture is like Thai poetry in the notion that the design has to follow the pattern and rhythm but the beauty relies in the wisdom of the person who creates the work. There are two architectural schools: local Ayutthaya craftsmanship and palace craftsmanship. Both learn the proportion of components and proper time. Although following the traditional pattern is required, the builders can apply modern materials and adjust the form according to the trend —so called the proper time. Only 60% of the work is based on design, the other 40% depends on the craftsmen who work with the architects. Actually, Thai architecture is still in high demand but craftsmen are hard to find. It’s because the new generation sticks with modern style buildings such as department stores and office buildings. However, since Thai people’s lives have been tied to Buddhism and the monarch, traditional Thai architecture is another prototype of Thai culture that needs to be continually preserved. All Thai architectures can be a ‘handbook’ of real things that our next generation can learn from for hundreds of years. In the old days, there was no ‘architect’ but ‘nai chang yai’ (head of craftsmen) who was called as the one who controlled all kinds of work, in any case of pattern drawing or other building processes. However, the word ‘kru chang’ (craft teacher) was also used by students to refer to ‘nai chang yai’. When ‘nai chang yai’ did a good job, the king would reward him with a rank ‘Khun Phra’ which was a high position. When he was to get married, the king would give him a small wooden house to be the main bedroom of the family. It was an easily made bamboo house or ‘ruean krueang sab’ with woven wall panels. When Thai children grew up, they had to enter ceremonies of topknot removal and ordainment. ‘ho khwang’, a three side house, was then built for such ceremonies. At the age for marriage, ‘ho ree’ was erected opposite to the parents’ bedroom. The house would expand according to the status of the owner, such as when getting richer and receiving a higher rank. Other types of buildings include ‘ho mok’ (a house of birds) for hanging bird cages. All these form a group of house, or a cluster, which becomes ‘ruean moo mae bot’ (a prototype of group of houses). Mostly there are seven houses in the group (‘ruean moo ched’). But for a group of nine, ‘ruean kao yod’, it has a connotation that this ‘nai chang yai’ lives long live and achieves an honoured position.

Chulathat Kitibutr National Artist, 2004

Traditional Thai houses in the northern region are often located on rivers as in the central region. The houses are elevated on stilts and provide underneath areas for many activities, such as cloth and bamboo weaving. The ground is flooded only one day and will dry soon; unlike the flooding season of the central region that lasts several months. The planning of Northern traditional Thai houses is similar to that of the central region but there is a prohibition for the sleeping area in that it is not allowed to point feet towards the location of Phrathat Doi Suthep which has housed Buddha relics and been revered by Chiang Mai people since the old times. The houses were focused on the proportion of larger solids than voids, since the weather was cold unlike the present. The voids are beneficial for receiving maximum winds and allowing natural ventilation. The living area often shows the roof structure while there is a ceiling in a bedroom to prevent animals like birds and rats as well as insects entering. Northern traditional Thai houses are built of natural materials such as bamboo (‘ruean krueang pook mai pai’) and teakwood (‘ruean krueang sab mai sak’). The beauty is reflected from the natural characteristic of the materials, no need for painting and it changes through time. The more it is used, the more beautiful it is. This is a charm of the Lanna style. It does nothing beyond the nature. Nowadays, Chiang Mai has changed a lot. New social types have appeared along with the increasing number of tourists. It has been ranked as a city with a high potential growth rate. There have been more talks about modern architecture. But before we go forward, we have to look backward to our cultural heritage. We have to know ourselves and to understand the proper direction of city development which has to go together with the conservation.

BAAN THAI NOW | The Book of Traditional Thai House First Published 2017 Copyright © 2017 Li-Zenn Publishing Limited Li-Zenn Publishing Limited Publisher Managing Director Deputy Managing Director Executive Director

Nithi Sthapitanonda Suluck Visavapattamawon Pisut Lertdumrikarn Prabhakorn Vadanyakul Kiattisak Veteewootacharn 81 Sukhumvit 26, Klongton, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110 Thailand tel: +66 (0) 2259 2096 fax: +66 (0) 2661 2017

AUTHOR Nithi Sthapitanonda EXECUTIVE EDITOR Suluck Visavapattamawon MANAGING EDITOR Pisut Lertdumrikarn EDITORIAL MANAGER Bussara Kemapirak EDITORIAL STAFF Rungrawee Surindr GRAPHIC DESIGNER Supavit Kerivananukul SPONSOR COORDINATOR Panphim Jaipanya TRANSLATOR Chuleeporn Wiriyawongchai READER GarY RayMOND PHOTOGRAPHER Krisada Boonchaleow Rungkit Charoenwat Srirath Somsawat Weerapon Singnoi VERNADOC Rungkit Charoenwat Arkapol Salachai DRAWING Ticha O.Suwan Chalida Boonmun TRANSCRIPTION RUNGRAWEE SURINDR Kawin Pantasen Sariya Chienpradit

All right reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means-graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage and retrieval systems without prior written permission from publisher National Library of Thailand Cataloging in Publication Data Nithi Sthapitanonda. BAAN THAI NOW.-- Bangkok : Li-Zenn, 2017. 400 pages. 1. Architecture--Thailand. 2. Dwellings--Thailand. I. Suluck Visawapattamawon, jt. auth. II. Pisut Lertdumrikarn, jt. auth. III. Chuleeporn Wiriyawongchai, tr. III. Title. 728.09593 ISBN 978-616-7800-90-5 Printed by Tiger Printing (Hong Kong) To find out about all publications, please visit, There you can browse and download our current catalog and buy any titles that are in print