South-east Asia geographically consists of the countries south of China and Japan and east of India. These regions have a rich cultural fabric and its architecture is a mesmerizing blend of the old and new. Read on to find out some of the most prominent styles that you might come across in an architectural tour of the countries of Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Philippines where influences from India, Sri Lanka, China and Europe have made their landscape an ornate tapestry.

1. Cambodian Khmer

Developed under the influence of the Khmer kings who ruled Angkor from the 8th century CE to 15th century CE. This style is characterised by gigantic carved black stone Shaivite temples and timber dwellings. They are characterised by elements like bas-relief panels, blind openings, colonettes and corbelled arches; and motifs inspired by their Gods. The most famous structure of this style is the Angkor Vat Temple.

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asi10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asi10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asi10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asi

2. Buddhist

Theravada Buddhism followed Hinduism into the Thai, Burmese and Cambodia regions, while Mahanaya Buddhism spread in Indonesia and Malaysia by the influence of the Gupta Empire in India. The Angkor Vat Complex has beautiful Buddhist Stupas but the most famous example of the Buddhist structures in South East Asia is Borobudur.

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

3. New Indies

This style developed as a result of the Dutch colonialization in Indonesia- calling it the Dutch East Indies. It was an attempt of fusion of the Dutch architecture with the local architecture. Although heavily influenced by Berlage in the Netherlands, the style showed romanesque inspired arches- classical in character but with less decoration. The walls were whitewashed instead of the dominant brickwork of the style, and roof eaves had a more significant overhang to protect openings. The structures also featured double walls and extensive openings- both essentials of tropical design for insulation and cross ventilation

Some important buildings in this style are the Harbour Masts office in Semarang, Gedung Sate (West Java Govt Building), Kunstkring Art Gallery and Lawang Sewu.

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

4. French Colonial

this style can be found in the former French Colonies in South East Asia- predominantly in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh in Vietnam. Prime examples are the Presidential Palace, the Opera House, and St Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi, the City Hall and the Saigon Central Post office building in Ho Chi Minh City.

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

5. Spanish Colonial

This style is found mainly in the Spanish colonies in Philippines. Some very good examples are the Manila Cathedral and Casa Manila in Manila

  1. 10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

6. Neoclassical, Baroque and Art Deco

Predominant in regions under British colonization, there is a rich strain of fusion architecture running through Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar. Some fine examples are The National Gallery and Anglo-French Gothic Chapel in Singapore, and the former British Customs Office in Burma.

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

Some very prominent buildings in the art deco style are the Central Market in Phnom Penh and the Asia Insurance Building (now Ascott Raffles Place) Singapore, Villas in Bandung, Indonesia and some cathedrals in Manila, Philippines.

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

7. Brutalist

This style of architecture developed after the decolonization of the south-east Asian territories. It was influenced by the Soviet and Chinese states around these regions. Some very fine examples of this style of architecture are Kinta Heights housing estate in Ipoh, Malaysia, Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, National Mosque of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, French Library (Institute of Foreign Languages), part of the Royal University of Phnom Penh

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

8. Vernacular

Contemporary architecture in South East Asian countries has developed with increasing concern for sustainability and is deeply rooted in their indigenous practices. They use earth-friendly material like mud, timber and bamboo with the minimum, but efficient use of concrete and steel. They pay attention to detail and create spaces that are open and airy.

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

9. Modernist

With better economic growth in the late ’90s, there was a boom in construction and redevelopment in the major cities of South East Asia, notably in Kuala Lampur, Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta and Hanoi. The buildings in this time are greatly inspired by the international standards of skyscrapers and have vastly changed the skylines of the above-mentioned cities.

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

10. Neo-Tropical

This style has recently developed in Singapore in an effort to create a more appropriate climate-sensitive approach towards architecture. It involves a return to simple rectilinear forms with the incorporation of lush landscaping and efficient natural shading and cooling techniques. Some iconic landmarks with these features are the Esplanade- Theatres on Bay arts centre, Marina Bay Sands, the ArtScience Museum, the Helix Bridge and Gardens by the Bay.

10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia10 Styles of Architecture you will find in South-East Asia

1 By Bjørn Christian Tørrissen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3991230

  1. By No machine-readable author provided. Markalexander100 assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=277067
  2. CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=128465
  3. By Tsui – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1981531
  4. By 22Kartika – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27781445
  5. By Heaven’s Army (uploader at EN.Wikipedia) – EN.Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4118884
  6. By I, Merbabu, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2223315
  7. By Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8599601
  8. By 22Kartika – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27761208
  9. By Jorge Láscar – originally posted to Flickr as The Presidential Palace of Vietnam, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10591341
  10. By Nicolas Lannuzel from Singapore, Singapore – Hanoi opera house. Made as a copy of the Opera Garnier in Paris, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45047746
  11. By Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30083141

13-14. https://duendebymadamzozo.com/colonial-architecture-southeast-asia/

15-17: https://duendebymadamzozo.com/colonial-architecture-southeast-asia/

18-20: http://www.shanghaiartdeco.net/asian-art-deco-alliance/

21-25: https://www.kathmanduandbeyond.com/brutalist-modernist-architecture-southeast-asia/

  1. https://www.sah.org/publications-and-research/fellowship-reports/study-tour-reports/study-tour-blog-detail/study-tour-blog/2017/01/27/architectural-layers-of-southeast-asia-vietnam-and-cambodia-field-seminar
  2. https://www.archdaily.com/199755/stacking-green-vo-trong-nghia/5004e32528ba0d4e8d000bb8-stacking-green-vo-trong-nghia-photo
  3. By 22Kartika – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22839419
  4. By Jussun – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56531443
  5. By Giorces. – Own work., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33156061
  6. By Giorces. – Own work., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33156061
  7. By William Cho – https://www.flickr.com/photos/adforce1/4548283177/in/faves-24788065@N02/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10123781

Ankita Sharma is an architect by training, and a writer by choice. Her love for books has given her a vivid imagination, and an eye for detail. A little impatient, a little lost, Ankita is trying to find her own voice amidst the world’s chaos.

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