Bangkok (1890-1910)/ Dusit Park and the transformation of architectural style

The dusit district

Fig.1 Dusit District map

After the 1890, Siam began the construction of Modern Siamese Identity, and felt the effects of colonial economy in Southeast Asia accelerated by the 1893 Franco-Siameses Crisis, during which Bangkok was invaded by foreign military force. Another important effect over the transformation of Siam architectural style was the two-trip of Rama V towards the Europe during the 1890 to 1910 period. During the tip, Rama V In favor of the ancient monuments of Europe and historicized styles of architecture of his time. His preference towards the historical, academic styles of architecture led to the fabrication of revivalist and neo-traditionalist architecture in Thailand.

After Rama V’s return from the 1897 trip towards Europe, he began the Dusit Park project. The Dusit district at the north of the old walled area of the city was designed to be Bangkok’s modern suburb. Dusit district under the command of the Rama V was constructed by the Public Works Department (PWD), which was constituted by Italian architects, engineers and artists mastering the latest architectural styles and construction techniques. Thus the construction of Dusit Park was a sign of the transformation of architectural style in Bangkok.

Dusit Park was about three square kilometers in size. In spite of the royal residence for Rama V, princely villas for king’s sons, Buddhist monasteries, streets and avenues were important elements in the Dusit District. Examples include the residence of Nop Krairoek, the King’s butler, and the house of Koed Bunnag, the Minister of PWD were all fine European-style residences.

800px-Ananta_Samakhom_Throne_Hall_P1120854

Fig.2 Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall (1908) , a former reception hall within Dusit District in Neo-Classic style

 

Beside the construction of Dusit Area, the increasing construction of public buildings and administrations sponsored by the king also owned diverse architectural styles. Villas looked just as civilized as those of suburban Berlin and Brussels. Buildings like the Chakri Throne Hall, demonstrate how the East and West were juxtaposed in the siwilai architecture of the period. With the construction of public buildings, shops and offices of companies, architectural style became diverse, with western-style buildings standing side by side with Chinese-style shophouses and Thai-style temples and palaces.

 

The chakri maha Phrasat hall

Fig.3 Chakri Throne Hall (1882), a western residence with domed roof replaced by a Thai styled roof

 

The transformation of architectural style from single Thai vernacular style to a hybrid of architectural styles in Bangkok reflects the modernization effort of Thailand to make the capital city comparable to western capitals.

 

Reference:

Evers, H. & Korff, R. (2000). Southeast Asian Urbanism : the Meaning and Power of Social Space, New York : St. Martin’s Press.

Moore, E.H. and Osiri, N. (2014). ‘Urban Forms and Civic Space in Nineteenth- to Early TwentiethCentury Bangkok and Rangoon’, Journal of Urban History, Vol.40, No.1, pp. 157-177

Povatong, P. (2011). Building Siwilai : Transformation of Architecture and Architectural Practice in Siam during the Reign of Rama V, 1868 – 1910,  the University of Michigan

2 Comments on “Bangkok (1890-1910)/ Dusit Park and the transformation of architectural style

  1. I can see that u appreciate the effort paid by the Thai government in transforming the architecture from purely Thai style to a hybrid of architectural styles in Bangkok. However, I doubt on this. I think it is a merit if a country or a city can insist and determine on their own culture. If I visit a country, I would like to see more local style architecture instead of some architecture styles that I can see in other places. Thus, I would prefer it keeping its own architectural style only.

  2. I could see that you are trying to tie relationships on how the architectural style in Bangkok is being transformed into a hybrid one over the years, like due to the aesthetic preferences by some important figures. It might be good to investigate deeper into why these people are so interested in these styles and I wonder if there were any problems in Bangkok or maybe a critical event that triggered these interests. Now it seems to me the relationships were not too clearly unfolded into a sequence of events but separated reasoning on the aesthetic preferences of the stakeholders. I agree with what CheukHin just mentioned above that, it might be better for Bangkok to stress on better development of their own architecture culture while the foreign styles should not dominate over the traditional ones. Towards this , I feel that the architectural style of a country endows the place its own very unique identity to the world which is also crucial to establishing citizens’sense of belonging to the country. Moreover, it might also be a driver for urban planning which designers would always bear in mind of in striking a balance between the old and new developments.

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