The traditional Thai architectural style is unique and very memorable. But what is often simply referred to today as ‘traditional Thai architecture’, has in actual fact taken over seven centuries to fully evolve and develop. Traditional Thai architecture is the result of a combination of many different styles, methods and influences. At various stages down the years, the cultures of Burma, China, Khmer, India and Sri Lanka, can all be seen to have had an important and distinctive influence on architecture in Thailand. Most recently even western neoclassical styles and features have been adopted, following visits to Europe by early Thai kings and from the European expatriate’s presence in Thailand. Nevertheless, overall the architectural style remains instantly identifiable and unquestionably Thai.
Most noticeable in Thai architecture are the swooping multi-tiered rooflines, the distinctly ornamental decorations, the stunning interior murals, the vivid colors and the lovingly crafted and gold-adorned Buddha images.
In addition to traditional dwellings – which include the familiar and much celebrated teak wood Thai house, religious and royal based architecture are the two principal areas where Thai architectural style is most prominent and best viewed. Another part of what can best be described as Thailand’s great architectural past, were the miles of interlocking man-made waterways. Unfortunately, most of the immense network of canals (khlongs) in the nation’s capital have since been filled-in and replaced with traffic-jammed roadways.
Whereas there are still many fine examples of later period and contemporary Thai of wood and have sadly long since disappeared – taking with them the architectural principles according to which they were built. Consequently historians have been forced to carefully piece together a developmental history of Thai architecture style by tracing it through the few surviving early stone or brick buildings and temples.