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Thailand Architecture

A developmental history of Thai architecture can be traced through surviving stone temples, although most early Thai buildings were made of wood and have since disappeared.  With their disappearance went the architectural principals to which they were built.


A developmental history of Thai architecture can be traced through surviving stone temples, although most early Thai buildings were made of wood and have since disappeared.  With their disappearance went the architectural principals to which they were built.

During the Sukhothai period, sandstone was used, in the Khmer manner, to form door parts, lintels, and rectangular windows.  Brick replaced sandstone and the preferred material during the 12th century.  Bound with vegetable glue, the bricks were laid without mortar and then sheathed in carved stone.  Yet another change came, when later architects used stucco (a sand, lime, and glue mixture strengthened by a terra cotta armature) to cover brick walls.  The north had ample forests, so wood was used by craftsmen and in temple construction.

The finest Thai architecture shows the Chinese influence in ornamental decoration, particularly the use of porcelain fragments and in various colors and adornments and affords its harmonious polychromatic effect.  During the first half of the 19th century, this art reached its highest expression.

Buddhist architecture is seen at its most spectacular at Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha).  This temple contains more exquisite carving and decoration per square centimeter than any comparable site in the world.  Almost every surface is covered with inspired decoration within the temple compound.

Around 1900 traditional Thai architecture declined when buildings were increasingly in European styles.  Mastering Western techniques was required of the craftsmen who were used to the old-style and worked on temples, palaces and traditional homes.  The concepts Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies Van der Rohe were embraced by local architects.

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