You are on page 1of 2

Architecture of Thailand

Influences:
Geography:
The Kingdom of Thailand (formerly Siam) is a country in Southeast Asia. To its east lie Laos and
Cambodia; to its south, the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia; and to its west, the Andaman Sea
and Myanmar. Its capital and largest city is Bangkok.
At 514,000 km (198,000 sq mi), Thailand is the world's 49th-largest country. It is comparable in
size to France, and somewhat larger than the US state of California.
Thailand is home to several distinct geographic regions. The north of the country is
mountainous, with the highest point being Doi Inthanon at 2,565 meters (8,415 ft). The
northeast consists of the Khorat Plateau, bordered to the east by the Mekong River. The centre
of the country is dominated by the predominantly flat Chao Phraya river valley, which runs into
the Gulf of Thailand. The south consists of the narrow Kra Isthmus that widens into the Malay
Peninsula.
Climate:
The local climate is tropical and characterized by monsoons. There is a rainy, warm, and cloudy
southwest monsoon from mid-May to September, as well as a dry, cool northeast monsoon from
November to mid-March. The southern isthmus is always hot and humid. Major cities beside the
capital Bangkok include Nakhon Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani,
Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Surat Thani, Phuket and Hat Yai.

Architectural Characteristics:
The Architecture of Thailand is a major part of the country's rich cultural legacy and reflects both
the challenges of living in Thailand's sometimes extreme climate as well as, historically, the
importance of architecture to the Thai people's sense of community and religious beliefs.
Influenced by the architectural traditions of many of Thailand's neighbors, it has also developed
significant regional variation within its vernacular and religious buildings.
Thai Stilt House
As the name suggests, one universal aspect of Thailands traditional architecture is the
elevation of its buildings on stilts, most commonly to around head height. A traditional house is
usually built as a cluster of physically separate rooms arranged around a large central terrace.
An area in the middle of the terrace is often left open to allow the growth of a tree through the
structure, providing welcome shade. The level of the floor changes as one moves from room to
terrace, providing a wide variety of positions for sitting or lounging around the living areas. A
Thai stilt house is a bamboo-made hut with sharp angled roofs and wooden floorboards. The
ceiling is typically high to provide good ventilation. The mattress would be usually laid on the
floor rather than on a bed. The house can be found along the beaches in Thailand, and some
freshwater sources like lotus ponds.
Kuti
A Kuti is a small structure, built on stilts, designed to house a monk. Its proper size is defined in
the Sanghathisek, Rule 6, to be 12 by 7 Keub (or 4.013 by 2.343 meters). This tiny footprint is
intended to aid the monk's spiritual journey by discouraging the accumulation of material goods.
Typically a monastery consists of a number of these buildings grouped together on a shared
terrace, either in an inward facing cluster or lined up in a row. Often these structures included a
separate building, called a Hor Trai, which is used to store scriptures.

Religious Buildings
Thailand features a large number of Buddhist temples, a reflection of the countries widespread
Buddhist traditions. Although the term Wat is properly used to refer only to a Buddhist site with
resident monks, it is applied loosely in practice and will typically refer to any place of worship
other than the Islamic mosques found in southern Thailand.
A typical Wat Thai (loosely translated as monastery or temple) has two enclosing walls that
divide it from the secular world. The monks' or nuns' quarters or dormitories are situated
between the outer and inner walls. This area may also contain a bell tower or hor rakang. In
larger temples, the inner wall may be lined with Buddha images and serve as cloisters or
galleries for meditation. This part of the temple is called buddhavasa or phutthawat (for the
Buddha).
Inside the inner walls is the bot or ubosoth (ordination hall), surrounded by eight stone tablets
and set on consecrated ground. This is the most sacred part of the temple and only monks can
enter it. The bot contains a Buddha image, but it is the viharn (assembly hall) that contains the
principal Buddha images. Also, in the inner courtyard are the bell-shaped chedi (relic
chambers), which contain the relics of pious or distinguished people. Salas (rest pavilions) can
be found all around the temple; the largest of these area is the sala kan parian (study hall), used
for saying afternoon prayers.
During the 10th century, the Theravada Buddhism and Hindu cultures merged, and Hindu
elements were introduced into Thai iconography. Popular figures include the four-armed figure
of Vishnu; the Garuda (half man, half bird); the eight-armed Shiva; elephant-headed Ganesh;
the Naga, which appears as a snake, dragon or cobra; and the ghost-banishing giant Yak.
Wat Phra Keow, commonly called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, was constructed in 1782
to house the Emerald Buddha, the most revered possession of the ruling Chakri dynasty. Just
60 cm tall, the Emerald Buddha is an ancient statue believed to have magical powers. It is said
that whoever possesses the statue will rule the entire kingdom. No one knows the origin of the
statue, but it first surfaced in the 15th century in the northern town of Chiang Rai. It was carried
to Laos in the middle of the 16th century and subsequently moved to Vientiane in eastern
Thailand. It was brought to Bangkok in the late 18th century by the future king Rama I, who was
then serving as general under Tok Sin, the last ruler of the the previous dynasty. Made of either
Jade or nephrite (close inspection is prohibited), the statue shimmers in a glass case high
above the heads of tourists. Only the king is permitted to approach the statue. In a solemn
ritual held three times a year, the king changes the robes of the statue to ensure blessing for his
rule.
Unlike most monasteries, there are no resident monks at Wat Phra Keow. The temple is
reserved for the exclusive use of the royal family.