Architecture of the mighty v. for the people

30 10 2022

We really liked Prachatai’s post on royalist and ratsadon architecture.

Prachatai reports on the work of “Pat Kulkan, an independent researcher and AR model designer associated with Kidyang and Urban Ally, sites dedicated to the study of architecture and urban planning, and Chatri Prakitnonthakan, professor of history of architecture at Silpakorn university, author of The Art and Architecture of the People’s Party, and advisor to the aforementioned project.”

Among the standout points:

Called “Sappaya Sapha Sathan,” the new parliament building is located on Samsen Road along the Chao Phraya River. It features a golden pagoda on top of the building, which is lined with teak wood poles and houses two meeting halls for the Senate and the House of Representatives, namely Chandra and Suriyan (Moon and Sun in Sanskrit language) as well as meeting rooms and offices.

“The new parliament building is not a public building, but a sacred building. The monarchy is at the centre. The top of the building is the pagoda, the traditional Thai pagoda, it is very sacred, very traditional, turning the clock back more than 200 years ago,” Chatri said.

For Chatri, the new Parliament building is designed to create a certain feeling in its visitors.  He calls this process symbolic violence. He finds that whereas parliament buildings in other democratic countries are designed to make their citizens feel as if they hold the power in their hands, the Thai Parliament building makes visitors feel powerless.

“I think when we use the building under the top that has a traditional pagoda, that building will make you become small … tiny people under the space that is sacred and more powerful than you. The building changes you to a subject,” he said.

On the People’s Party and architecture:

“… the Khana Ratsadon used Art Deco style to ignore the traditional Thai order. Khana Ratsadon buildings try to give the power to the people and destroy the hierarchy of architecture. That is the meaning of ignoring traditional Thai ornament: that Thailand was now a real democracy [with] no hierarchy anymore.”

The centre of the new Thai Parliament building is the monarchy, according to Chatri, whereas the centre of the Democracy Monument is the constitution.


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