(1932-1942) Power Making – episode 4 (social / commercial)

Urban Development
The Ratchadamnoen Avenue was the symbol of the “old Siam” and the People’s Party aimed to introduce the “new Siam” into the historical fabric by reforming both public and commercial architectures.

In this episode, we will focus on the commercial and social aspect. Starting from in 1935, the People’s Party government completely reformed the landscape of Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue section.

First, the People’s Party chopped down the mahogany trees planted in the reign of King Rama V to widening the road, then commercial buildings, hotels, and shops were constructed on both side of the road.

Figure 1, Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue section 1940s – 1960s

The Democracy Monument was located in the middle of this section of Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue. (see more in episode 1)

 Social & Commercial
The new buildings commenced were designed in the style of “modern architecture”, a style which without “Thainess”, the style which opposed the absolute monarchy. It was the physical representation of two power groups, the competition of power structures of a democratic system and the constitutional monarchy.

Figure 2, typical commercial block on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, 1940s

Apart from having numerous new commercial block (see above), the People’s Party commenced social buildings too (see below). For example, the postal office, which has not been demolished, but not preserved in a good condition today.

Figure 3, the Grand Postal, 1940

There was also a trend of theatres. In episode 2, I have mentioned the first appearance of “modern architecture”, the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre, literally meaning ‘Pavilion of City’s Glory’, designed by the Prince Samai and completed 2-month prior to 24th June in 1932 (People’s Party Revolution).

 

Figure 4, Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre, 1932

In 1940, the People’s Party appointed the Sala Chalermthai Theatre, literally meaning ‘glory of Thailand’. Another example of the rivalry between the two powers. The Sala Chalermthai Theatre was located on the Ratchadamnoen Avenue too.

Figure 5, Sala Chalermthai Theatre, 1940

One year earlier, the Royal Thai Army’s cinema was completed in 1939, located on the northeast axis of Sri Suriyothai circle. It was the second cinema which pictured sound on film movies in Thailand after Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre.

It was not located in Bangkok by in a smaller town call Muang. The influence of People’s Party and the “modern architecture” style was nationwide, and the rising respect and power for the armed forces as they played a crucial role in the success of the 1932 Revolution. The Royal Thai Army’s cinema featured many advanced types of equipment just like the Sala Chalermthai Theatre built one year later, both equipped with automatic screen curtains and air conditioning with chilled water systems.

 

Figure 6,The Royal Thai Army’s cinema, 2000s

All these theatres were constructed of a reinforced concrete structure with masonry painted walls. Sala Chalermthai Theatre was the most simple, there was some simple decoration of Art Deco features on Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre and the Royal Thai Army’s cinema.

Today
Nowadays, only Sala Chalermthai Theatre was demolished in 1989 as it was blocking the view of royal the Ratchanatdaram Temple. In the end, same modernist style cinema, but People’s Party architecture was considered less important and more disposable by the public.

Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre and the Royal Thai Army’s cinema has a totally different fate. The Royal Thai Army’s cinema was not being well preserved but it was used by a security company today. Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre was being celebrated, respected, and carefully preserved. It has been adapted to modernity, continuous to be in function today.

Figure 7, Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre, 2000s

 

Reference
Koompong Noobanjong. ‘The Aesthetics of Power: Architecture, Modernity, and Identity from Siam to Thailand’, 2013.
Mikaela Kvan. ‘Concrete & Simplicity: The People’s Party’s Modernist Architecture’ (1932-1947)
‘Parinya Chukaew and Architectural Heritage in Thailand II’, June 2014.
http://www.docomomothailand.org/pages/no22.html
Figure 1, Koompong Noobanjong. ‘The Aesthetics of Power: Architecture, Modernity, and Identity from Siam to Thailand’, 2013. / Koompong Noobanjong, “The Poetics of Destructions: Demolitions of Iconic Modernist Buildings in Bangkok”, 2017
Figure 2/3/4/5, Mikaela Kvan. ‘Concrete & Simplicity: The People’s Party’s Modernist Architecture’ (1932-1947)Thailand’, 2013.
Figure 6, Docomomo Thailand.  ‘Parinya Chukaew and Waeovichian Abhichartvorapan’, June 2014
http://www.docomomothailand.org/pages/no21.html
Figure 7, Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sala_Chalermkrung_Royal_Theatre

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