Than Samai in Modern Thai Architecture: Case Studies of Crypto-colonialism
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Though Thailand has never been formally colonized, emerging Thai Studies scholarship suggests that a more accurate term for Thailand's relationship to the west is “crypto-colonial.” This indicates cultural and economic, rather than political, subordination, and largely arose as direct colonization was on the wane in the rest of Southeast Asia. Crypto-colonialism is particularly evident in the transplantation of western Modern architecture into a Thai setting. Tracing Thai architectonics through the emergence of western disciplines in the Thai architectural field and a consolidation of Modern architectural consumerism in Thailand shows three separate facets of crypto-colonialism. The first, subordination, is shown in the distinct characteristics of Modern Thai architecture imposed by the West. The architectural design of subordination is dominated by spatial concerns privileging the powerful U.S. presence in Thailand over traditional Thai planning. The second facet, autonomy, refers to the way in which the Thai elite maintained local power through conspicuous consumption of western culture and ideas, in this context carried out by western-educated Thai architects. The final facet, ambiguity, refers to the architectural characteristics that have contributed to the ambivalences, multiplicities, and hybridity of Thai engagement with the ambiguous allure of the West. An examination of the peculiarity of crypto-colonialism in Modern Thai architecture not only challenges the idea that colonial and postcolonial discourses were only confined to countries or regions directly occupied by western nations, but also it deepens our understanding of the western hegemonic presence in Thailand by illuminating Thailand’s paradoxical path towards western civilization and modernization.
- Built environment