by Dr. Chomchon Fusinpaiboon, Chulalongkorn University
This paper provides a thorough survey of how the historiography of modern architecture in Thailand has been developed. It discusses the unique circumstances, namely the economic boom and a concern about national identity in architecture, that ignited the need of what might be considered a history of modern architecture in Thailand during the 1980s and 1990s. It also demonstrates how these circumstances, when combined with a Euro-centric perspective, the notion of style, and an unclear acknowledgement of modernity’s relation to architecture of the country, have formed the discipline and limitations of the conventional research studies in the field. It then examines how postcolonial theories, previously unpopular and seldom explicitly used in Thai studies because Thailand was not colonised by any western power, might benefit the research about modern architecture in the country. Following that, this paper provides a review of recent scholarship on the relationship between architecture and modernity in Thailand to show the current stage of critical research on the topic. Finally, it suggests research topics that are worth exploring in the future in order to broaden the understanding of modern architecture in Thailand as a part of Southeast Asia. These are post-war architecture and architectural culture of Thailand, modern architecture in the ‘regions’ of the country, and modern architecture at the ‘borders’ between Thailand and neighbouring countries.
Chomchon Fusinpaiboon is an architectural historian, teacher and practicing architect, based in Bangkok. His research interests cover modern architecture of non-western cultures since the mid-nineteenth century, and contemporary architecture. He received BArch (Hons) and MArch from Chulalongkorn University and the Bartlett School of Architecture respectively. His PhD research, funded by the Royal Thai Government Scholarship, at the University of Sheffield discusses a relationship between architecture and modernity in non-western countries by analysing how a modern architectural culture was systematically established in Thailand during the 1930s and 1950s, the period characterized by the transition from the last absolute monarchy to the nation building period under the democratic-turned-paramilitary regime, and how it transformed Thai society’s traditional ideas of architecture and vice versa. His current research project that re-examines modern Thai architecture during 1958 and 1973 is part of the project ‘Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art’, funded by the University of Sydney and Getty Foundation.