Bangkok classical style is not the first thing that comes into your mind while wandering through Bangkok’s crowed streets, you may ask yourself why some of its buildings have an enthusiasm for Greco-Roman Architecture? Golden Cherubs, Gold domed porticoes and scalloped pedestal fountains are just some of the few ornaments you will scout around. This genre is locally known as Satai Roman (Roman style) and the main feature of such style is the ubiquitous Sao Roman (Roman pillars) which are omnipresent in any structures that adopts this particular style. Elaborated are also the ceremonies that need to be performed after erecting the columns, these, as per Thai Traditions, need to be erected only in blessed times of the day and then are wrapped with sacred scarves Holy White Threads or gold leaves.
Bangkok classical style origins
However, how come some houses, businesses and sometimes even factories are so fond of this style? Eventually they do this because they want to project an image of civilization, order, discipline, beauty and taste. It’s important also to keep in mind that renowned historians link the adoption of Bangkok classical style and its imported materials to the preservation of Thai independence and its values. During the era of King Rama V, Thailand decided to emulate the architectural styles of imperialist countries. During the 19th Century, Classicism was used as a way to display the strength of an empire and in countries where this lacked it often became an excuse for imperialist countries to conquer and “Bring Civilization”.
Even though the process started in Thailand way earlier, the greatest Bangkok classical style acme in Bangkok was reached under the Reign of King Rama VI who had more than 20 Italian Architects at the court. Among the most prominent examples of Classic style you may find the Grand Palace, Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, once Thailand’s first Parliament House, Tha Tien Pier market and the Thai National Theater. Examples of Victorian Style come from Wat Ratchabhopit.
Sub sequentially there have been efforts of blending both Thai architectures and classic styles. Attempts to look elegant unfortunately failed in most cases since styles fundamental principles contradict each other. Thai uprights slopes inwards, classical uprights diverge thus when they are looked from upon they appear straight. Furthermore Thai Building points upward as if they are floating, while classical buildings rely heavily on the ground structure.
The reasons for such appearance failure is generally due to the fact that classical style looks harmonious only when it is in perspective. Here it comes the main challenge for artists who had to perform and design such orders. Unlike their Western counterparts, Thai artists were never free to realize their masterpiece but they were rather artisans serving their landlord’s requests. Therefore if the owner is a fan of grandeur style and oversize columns that’s what he gets. To Western eyes this excesses, oversize arches and a plethora of columns may seem kitschy. An example of such post-modernist blend of styles can be found in some of the famous towers in Bangkok, which are topped by cylinder surrounded by columns then topped by golden dome, these kind of structures are often ironically referred to phallic objects.
Even though it may seem weird and in some cases not of good tastes this is one of the factor that make Bangkok a truly fascinating city. In this city, any style can blend with each other and allow persons from any walk of life to truly display their talents.