Reflection of Modernity: Re-exploring the Role of Modern Architecture in Chiang Mai (1884-1975)

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Sant Suwatcharapinun


Re-exploring the role of Modern Architecture of Chiang Mai, this research aim (1) to collect and identify the socio-cultural as well as political relations between “social relations” and “architecture” during the transi-tional period between 1884-1984, which can be regarded as an era of radical change in Chiang Mai originated by an imposed political power of Siam, together with a new economy, as well as rising modern technologies; (2) to analyze the causes and effects of how the social structures has been changed through the built environment. Methodologically, a field survey was conducted that focused on the present conditions and situations of those modern buildings in Chiang Mai City. These were based on 6 area divisions, where 42 public buildings were selected in order to explore them in detail, including in-depth interviews with owners, designers, as well as any other relevant person who has closely related to the building. This research identified four important causes which could increasingly transform Chiang Mai to be considered as a modern city - through the educational development, economic development, the development of city infrastructures, and the political and administrative development.

However, this research also identified three key factors that could further accelerate such transformation which are: 1) the decline of old ideology due to the rise of modern technologies - in particular the aspect of cosmology that related people to the city, segregating inhabitants in relation to their class systems, and how to locate people and their settlement in the city. 2) The political and administrative model of Chiang Mai in that period has become relatively flexible as a result of the unpredictable mode of administrative governance from Siam – changing Chiang Mai from under an intendent status to be a province. In short, Chiang Mai required a political system that allows it to be controlled by Siam, while maintaining the social status and class system that were already well established among the old nobilities. 3) The arrival of new technologies, in particular the railway from Bangkok that overcame the limitations and the boundary of transporting goods and supplies, particularly for new building technologies such as new reinforced concrete constructions. This research remarks that there are many unfortunate modern buildings that are still unseen, devalued, and perhaps destroyed without ever being considered as a part of the historical reflection of how Chiang Mai was transformed and modernized.


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