Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Jim Thompson Home and Museum


In spite of the influence of other great cultures of the world such as Indian, Chinese, Khmer as well as Burmese, being incorporated in its decorative elements, the architectural style of Thai homes remains relatively simple. Its primary characteristics are determined by local climatic conditions, the availability of building materials, and the needs of the people, the majority of whom pursued an agricultural based lifestyle. 

Wood was readily available so it was the most common material used in the construction of these houses. For the more affluent, the use of hard and durable teakwood from the forests of the north was prevalent. 

Like temples, Thai houses have steep roofs arching upwards towards the sky. Both the walls are inclined towards the center creating the illusion of height.

There is a functional aspect behind this design and structural element. Hot air rises so the height of the roof keeps the house cool. 

At the end of a non-descript lane, a backdrop of dense foliage is visible in the distance. Drawing near, the distinctive features of a Thai style house soon appear in full view. 

Jim Thompson's Thai house stands on one 'rai' of land, (equivalent to approximately half an acre) and is enveloped by beautifully landscaped gardens. Thompson found the haphazard look of nature's lush tropical jungles appealing. This jungle landscape in the midst of the city gives the house its unique appeal. 

The house that was used as the living room is over 175 years old. It is the oldest house of the group. The other houses range between 75 to 150 years old. It took local craftsmen 11 months to complete to assemble all six houses. It must have been like assembling a giant IKEA flat pack without the instructions. Jim Thompson officially moved in on the 3rd April 1959. The date was chosen after careful consultation with astrologers in keeping with Thai tradition. In the study you will see an astrological card with this date on pasted on the wall.

The terrace at the front of the main house overlooks the boat landing. Beyond the garden wall flows the Saan Saab Canal with its busy riverboat traffic. Apart from looking very attractive Jim Thompson’s tropical jungle garden has a practical application. It provides welcome shade on hot scorching days. The temperature difference creates local cooling breezes. Some of the trees in the garden are over 100-years. The thick green foliage that is interspersed between the wings of the house, almost obscures parts of the house from view. The trickling water features add to the peaceful atmosphere.

Jim Thompson was a collector of antiques and Thai handicraft. He has a number of Buddha statues ranging from 8th to 13th and 14th centuries dotted around the building. There are also displays cases of his collections of Chinese ceramics, Thai paintings and other antiques.

Jim Thompson is 'big business' now with on-line shopping, cafes restaurants, Thai Silk and other fabrics and soon there will be furniture ..... do check the website for further information:

but if you ever visit Bangkok, it is certainly worth spending some time to explore the Jim Thompson Home and Museum.
and to read a bit about Jim Thompson himself, 
click HERE

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