Bangkok shophouses "least awe-inspiring architecture" but win UNESCO award

Shophouse Week continues, and 15,000 hits!  From Deutsche Presse-Agentur writer Peter Janssen: "It’s hard to imagine an architectural style less awe-inspiring than that of the shophouse, those commercial, cement structures that abound in Bangkok, and form a uniformly dull backdrop to nearly all provincial capitals throughout Thailand.  The simple shophouse is the essence of utilitarianism, designed to house a shop on the ground floor and living quarters above.  Architectural flourishes are, generally, kept to the minimum. "There are, of course, exceptions.  Some of the more striking shophouses are to be found in Bangkok’s Rattanakosin district and Chinatown, its congested neighbor.  Earlier this month, the UNESCO awarded the recently renovated Na Phra Lan shophouse row an 'honorable mention' on its Asian heritage list.

"King Chulalongkorn, the fifth monarch of the Chakri dynasty who reigned from 1868 to 1910, played a pivotal role in introducing shophouse architecture to old Bangkok.  'King Rama V saw what Singapore was doing with Stamford Raffles’ idea of the shophouse, and after that, he copied the idea of shophouse building,' said Yongtanit Pimonsathean, president of the International Council on Monument and Sites Thailand Association and professor of architecture at Thammasat University.

"In 1995, the government announced plans to turn both the Tha Tian and Na Phra Lan neighborhoods into heritage sites, with evictions of local communities planned.  Community resistance was strong and the eviction plans were eventually shelved.  Instead, the Crown Property Bureau opted for a more inclusive approach by trying to persuade the existing tenants to participate in refurbishing their shophouses, many of them more than a century old."  Full article here, lecture by Prof. Pimonsathean on shophouse preservation here.  (Photo credit: TTR Weekly.)