Photo Gallery

Thai Houses

The Thai house, like other houses in Southeast-Asia, is a wooden structure raised on posts. Over many centuries it has acquired its own unique style. The distinguishing marks are an elegantly tapering roof and various finials and decorations that differ regionally. While architectural features vary throughout the four cultural regions, Central Thailand, the North (Lanna), the North-East (Isaan), and the South, the method of raising a platform on poles is common to all parts of the country. It offers protection from dirt, hostile wildlife, thieves, and most importantly from the monsoon floods which affect all of Thailand.

The traditional Thai house is ideally adapted to its environment. The open high-pitched roof facilitates air circulation. Open windows and walls in combination with a large central terrace provide ideal ventilation and offer relief from the hot and humid climate. Wide overhanging eaves protect the house from sun and rain. Rainwater runs off the steep roof quickly and falls through the permeable terrace and house floors. The use of wood and bamboo reflects the once abundant forests that provided these materials ubiquitously and cheaply. In the past, an agricultural society existed in relative harmony with its natural environment.

Unfortunately, things are different today. Uncontrolled development has led to poorly planned traffic-choked cities, vanishing forests, and overall environmental degradation. Thai architecture has changed, too. As canals have been filled; cars, TVs and air conditioners have made inroads, ugly rows of uniform, concrete shophouses and apartment blocks are now the norm. In recent years, however, people began to realize the negative impact of unbridled economic development. Zoning laws and building regulations were just introduced recently. One may hope that the tropical climate will do its part to rid the landscape of unsightly and poorly adapted structures and that the commencing rediscovery of the vernacular architecture will lead to increased harmony between buildings and environment.

The photos on the following pages celebrate the Thai house as an integral part of Thai culture. The houses range from simple country houses (ruen krueng pook) to large wooden mansions (ruen krueng sab) of wealthier people. In the past, land was abundant and thus people often moved, especially when couples married or when the political circumstances necessitated it. The Thai house takes this fact into consideration by being completely modular. The prefabricated parts of a traditional Thai house can be disassembled and rebuilt with relative ease, hence, people literally packed their houses and moved with them. Present concrete-based building methods don't allow for this mobility anymore. Yet, it is possible to unite contemporary materials and methods with traditional style. There are some forward-thinking architects in Thailand who have done this successfully.

Text by Thomas Knierim


All images copyright 2003 Thomas Knierim

Aasen, Clarence. Architecture of Siam: A Cultural History Interpretation
  Oxford University Press, 1998. Kuala Lumpur

Amranand, Ping & Warren, William. Art & Design of Northern Thailand: Lanna Style
  Sirivatana Inerprint Public Co., 2000. Bangkok

Cummings, Joe. Lonely Planet: Thailand
  Lonely Planet Publications, 1990. Singapore

Freeman, Michael. Lanna: Thailand's Northern Kingdom
  River Books, 2001. Thailand

Lassus, Pongkwan (Sukwattana). Architectural Heritage in Thailand
  Amarin Printing and Publishing, 2004. Bangkok

Matics, K. I. Introduction to the Thai Temple
  White Lotus Co., 1992. Bangkok

Ringis, Rita. Thai Temples and Temple Murals
  Oxford University Press, 1990. Kuala Lumpur

Sthapitanonda, Nithi & Mertens, Brian. Architecture of Thailand: A Guide to Traditional and Contemporary Forms
  Thames and Hudson, 2005. Singapore

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Alan Pavey posted on Tue Mar 03, 2015 1:26 am:

My Wife owns Rubber Acreage at Phatthalung and we are considering about building a Traditional Thai House with modern materials. My Wife's Family has large acreage of Rubber Plantations. One of my Wife's houses in Bangkok where she now resides in a guarded locked enclave and is double story built with concrete and steel. We have discussed the return to Traditional Thai House and think it would blend into the surrounding plantation trees.

Harry Whitehead posted on Tue May 13, 2014 6:14 am:

I want to have a house built in Prachuap Kirikhan for myself and my, wife as her family live close by.

Andy Neill posted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:03 pm:

looking to biuld in takua Par and have seen some ideas on this web page ie waterside construction and would any input to how i would go about retaining the land around the waters edge as shown on this thanks to anyone who can help

John Hartle posted on Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:26 am:

I love Thailand and I live here. I want to learn more about Thai Culture.

wim van den toorn posted on Thu Jan 10, 2013 11:58 pm:

where do I find builders for these thai houses near Hua Hin?

richard wolter posted on Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:09 am:

"... unfortunately, things are different today. Uncontrolled development has led to poorly planned living quarters made of concrete and steel represent an insult to the Thai culture. The ugly truth behind it is greed and the craving for money as quickly as possible. The future of the children is neglected as long term planning is not integrated in today's Thai societal life style as well as the low level of education submitted to the average student. I live here a long time now and this circumstance besides the affairs of corruption are another sad experience. I love the country and for thatI sometimes want to cry. Where has the precious Thai culture gone?

miranda johnson posted on Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:01 pm:

how was this house built and what was it built out of

Ashley Dryden posted on Wed May 06, 2009 3:51 pm:

I love those pics of those houses at the top they are beautiful:)