“The land of a thousand smiles”, Thailand has seen its rise and fall over the years. Today its capital Bangkok is a popular tourist hotspot. The city is a cacophony of different architectural styles from different times in its journey – each having a unique story to tell, to teach and to remind what Thailand truly has to offer. Thai architecture has a wide spectrum from its ancient native forms (Dravati Period, Khmer Period), Traditional Asian Forms (Sukhothai, Ayutthai), Eclectic Forms (Rattanokosin) and modern cutting-edge styles.
- WAT PHO, TEMPLE OF THE RECLINING BUDDHA
Also called: Wat Phra Chetuphon
Built by: King Rama I in 1882
Architecture Style: Ayutthaya
What to see:
1.A 46-metre-long and 15 metres tall Buddha clad in gold leaves.
- 5 metres tall gold clad feet exquisitely decorated with mother of pearls
- 95 Pagodas around the building complex.
Other facts: The temple also includes more than a thousand images of Buddha. One of the first public Universities for traditional Thai massage practices was founded here. It has the largest Buddha statue in the country.
2. WAT ARUN, TEMPLE OF DAWN
Also called: Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan
Built By: King Taksin, 1768
Architecture Style: Khmer Style from Cambodia
What to see:
- 82 metres tall spire decorated with mosaic glass and Chinese porcelain. This massive ornate structure is called the prang. You can climb to the top most part of the spire using a railed staircase.
- Four smaller prangs surround it with statues of four gods of the cardinal directions.
- A picture of the Niratimr Buddha in the Ordination Hall. The ashes of King Rama II are still preserved here.
Other Facts: The intricate structure has a different look throughout the day, it glimmers under sunshine due to porcelain, it has a beautiful silhouette in the afternoon and it is beautifully lit in the night. Although it is known for its magnificent beauty at dawn, it is equally mesmerizing at dusk.
- WAT PHRA KAEW. TEMPLE OF THE EMERALD BUDDHA
Also called: Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram
Origin of the Buddha Figure: Circa 1434, records vary
Royal Temple built for: King Rama I in 1782
What to see:
- The jewelled Buddha is 26 inches tall, resting in virasana (yogic posture). Only available for the public when the royal family is not performing ceremonies.
- Three jewelled golden garments that symbolise the three seasons of Thailand- a diamond studded robe during summer, a solid gold robe during winter and a monks robe in monsoon.
- Emerald Buddha is not actually made of emerald; it is probably carved of jade. Even Archaeologists haven’t been given enough resources to study the idol closely.
- Its resting position and carving style are not common to Thailand. It has probably been carved in Sri Lanka or India. The journey of this exquisite figure over the centuries is still a mystery.
- It is believed that the prosperity of the Thai subcontinent depends on the Emerald Buddha.
- MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
Architect: Italian architect Joachim Grassi.
Built by: King Rama V , 1882
Other facts: The building was originally built to house soldiers or “Front Soldier Barracks”. It was then declared as the Ministry of Defence in 1887. The structure sprawls symmetrically on a rectangular plot with Doric order columns and superimposed pilaster decorations on the façade. Its landscape includes a Canon Museum, displaying a collection of bronze weaponry. The cannons used to point at the Grand Palace, subsequently the king ordered the Ministry to change the direction to ward off evil energy.
- THE GRAND PALACE
Built By: Rama I in 1782
Style: Eclectic Mix of traditional Thai and European Architecture.
Other facts: The entire building complex consists of several elements. The palace used to house the royal family, but after the abolishment of monarchy, the entire family moved out. Currently the palace houses a museum and seven royal offices. It is strategically located on the banks of Chao Phraya River. The architectural detailing has strong Buddhist and European influences. Part of the complex is the golden stupa Phra Siratana Chedi built in 1855 to enshrine the relics of Buddha and it stands out amongst the sloping roofs of the other palace structures. The stupa was built based off of the Ceylonese style which is derived from Sri Lanka.
- JIM THOMPSON HOUSE, THE THAI SILK KING
Style: Traditional Thai Architecture
Other facts: Jim Thompson was an American merchant who was obsessed with the vernacular Thai silk in 1950s. The entire premises consists of various building materials brought from different parts of the world, from century old teak wood of the traditional Ayutthaya houses and Burmese guardian sculptures, to Italian marble flooring. The house is a testament to the rich culture of Thailand and its fusion of the European style.
- LEBUA OF STATE TOWER
Built in: 2001
Architect: Rangsan Torsuwan
What to see:
1.Golden rooftop dome of 30 metres diameter with neo-classical balconies.
- 40 storied atrium inside the building.
- The world’s highest open-air restaurant with stunning panoramic view of Bangkok.
Other facts: It is the largest building in Southeast Asia. The building consists of office units, luxury suites and 5-star restaurant.
- THE ELEPHANT BUILDING, CHANG BUILDING
Architect: Ong-ard Satrabhandhu
Built in: 1997
Other facts: The concept building represents the white elephant which is the national animal of Thailand. The owner believed that the elephantine form would bring prosperity and success. The building consists of 32 floors and is 335 feet tall. It consists of residential suites, shopping plazas and offices. The building has been listed in both “20 most Iconic Towers of the world” and “The ugliest buildings of the world”. The building can be seen from the Vibhavadi Rangsit Expressway en route Suvarnabhumi Airport.
- MAHANAKHON, BANGKOK’S “PIXEL BUILDING”
Architect: Ole Scheeren
The “Pixel Building” has a terrifying glass sky walk on its top most floor (78th floor), cantilevered on the edge of the building. The building also has an indoor observatory on the 74th floor which offers scenic 360 degree view of the Bangkok cityscape. The iconic skyscraper houses the King Power Hotel, Ritz-Carlton Residence and Penthouses by Sky Residences. The structure twists into the sky and is a major attraction point.
- SIAM DISCOVERY
Other facts: The buildings concept is “come play with us”. The architect attempts to create a space which allows the user to experience brands and mix and match brands without boundaries. The way the goods are displayed, the arrangements, the absence of cashiers seeks to break the conventional concept of a shopping mall. Moreover, the interactive textures, lighting and furniture used in both the interior and exterior space also plays a major role in attracting customers.
- BANGKOK ART AND CULTURE CENTRE
Architect: Robert G. Boughey and Associates
Other facts: This ten storied building with a circular plan is home to art masterpieces from all over the world. Apart from multipurpose exhibition galleries, it also has a library, café, shops and a bookstore. It is in the middle of the city and easily accessible. It is a must visit, due to its architectural expression and artist treasures.
- THE US EMBASSY
Architects: Shop Architects
Other facts: The building has a basic stacked form and consists of glass slats that are strategically placed to combat the hot and humid weather. The lower level has irregular juxtapositions so as to shade the entrance along with a rooftop garden. The site integrates lush green landscaping and large canopies. The building spreads over an area of 11 acres and was built over a previously smaller building.
Architect: Tandem Architects
Other facts: The form is inspired by “wai” or the Thai gesture for welcome. The building is 30 storeys tall and houses restaurants, bars, spa, swimming pool and a gym, as well as a top-floor event venue which offers panoramic views of Bangkok. The building symbolises Thai culture along with its architectural prowess and luxury finesse.
- ASSUMPTION CATHEDRAL
Built by: King Rama II in 1821
Architecture Style: Romanesque architecture
This Roman Catholic Church was built after French missionaries colonised Ayutthaya in large numbers. The whole building complex houses a number of educational institutes as well. The building materials were imported from the west and the Church was built by Father Pascal and a French Architect. The structure suffered extensive damage during WWII and was restored subsequently.
- THE SATHORN UNIQUE TOWER, GHOST TOWERS
Construction started: 1990, abandoned 1997
Architect: Pansit Torsuwan
This 47-storey unfinished tower has a unique story of its own. Its construction started during the economic boom period from 1985-1996 but the developers had to abandon the project even though 90% of the work was completed due to a major economic crisis. It has not been developed ever since and today it is an attraction point for urban explorers and tourists. The buildings in its vicinity have also taken inspiration from Sathorn Unique and integrated similar forms in their structure.
Reshmi Goswami is an inquisitive budding architect in the physical realm, a spiritual creature in her mind and a meticulously functional artist in her heart. She is obsessed with the idea of “Architecture Triumphs Over Climate Change” in the headlines !