Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"new-old" Thai Architecture

-very exact symmetry
-formal 'grand order' entrance way
-elaborate tiled hipped gable roofs, with several stages, eaves props etc
-main accommodation upstairs on 'piano nobile'- with open undercroft
-lots of covered and undesignated outdoor space

From looking at the buildings here, it seems like the symmetry of public buildings with the central entrance might be more from the "colonial" period here. (I know Thailand was never colonized, but there is still a bunch of that kind of architecture around---especially in government buildings and palaces.) Of course, the temples are all symmetrical, but the traditional everyday type buildings like houses, hospitals, schools, etc. were not. The spaces that seem the most "Thai" are at a more human scale where you don't really get a sense of the building as a whole when you are in it. Kind of like walking down a labyrinthine soi in the way that spaces connect, I guess.

I tend to lean toward less roof stuff going on, but I think you can create a pretty "Thai-looking" roof without making it too complicated. For instance, it would still get the idea across if you took away the bottom awnings, and played with the roof proportions so that there is more overhang. I actually sort of like the eaves props, even if they are usually not doing much. Sun-shading is definitely necessary, and if the overhang could be designed in such a way as to actually use the props, it could be nice. (hopefully not too kitschy.) The way that there are two levels of windows here could work great for ventilation, if they are operable.

The open ground floor level is great, and very appropriate programatically, as well as climate-wise. Traditionally, the buildings were put on stilts for protection from 1.) floods, 2.) animals and insects, 3.) neighbors. It also creates a great multi-functional space. All the buildings on campus here at Mahidol have open ground floors, which makes for a cool place to meet and relax for the students...and a more informal auditorium for school meetings. One thing that seems to help, though, is to define the boundaries using a low wall or benches...or I suppose even a change in floor level.

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