Architectural Properties of Note in Bangkok
Unlike Hong Kong or Singapore where rapid development led to a more uniform style of Architectural Design, Bangkok (and Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta) have some interesting exceptions in terms of structure design that are simply not around anymore in rapidly developing Asia where the Chinese style commodification of design has led to space, not the aesthetic taking priority.
The Robot Building
The Robot building is on South Sathorn Road in the Sathorn District of Bangkok. Close up it’s hard to differentiate so take time to keep an eye out from its twin approaches. The building as you may appreciate is shaped like a Robot. It was designed by architect Sumet Jumsai.
Some naughty gossipers say it was an homage to his wife but on the record Sumet Jumsai has stated that it was a reaction against high tech postmodern architecture and neo-classical designs that ape a time on the planet when Siam had nothing to do with ancient Greece or Rome.
The Robot building is probably the last substantial modernist building in Bangkok if not Thailand. It was completed in 1986 for the Bank of Asia which was taken over by United Overseas Bank (UOB) in 2005. Fortunately for us Khun Sumet argued that the classical revivalism of the 1980’s was intellectually bankrupt.
Bangkok residents who feel ill at the endless Doric Columns and Greek Arches will know exactly what he is referring to. It can be seen from the Skytrain so take the time to Google it and recognize this pleasing classic when you next go by.
Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson was an American business man who lived in Thailand after WWII. He travelled all over South East Asia and took a strong liking to the art that he found and the native silk weaving. He collected many old Thai structures from around the country and today they form the Jim Thompson House which is now a museum and testimony to a time when living in wooden surroundings, with varnished floorboards and the smell of Teak was the prerogative of the wealthy and well to do.
The house was originally created by Jim to showcase his artifacts, and construction was started in 1958 ending in 1959. Jim Thompson was fond of the Thais and it is now evident that he was working for the CIA after a stint at the OSS forerunners of the intelligence agency. He went missing on one of his field trips and to this day it’s hard to know who bumped him off; the Thais because of his intelligence leanings, or the CIA for his sympathy to Thais. The property is located on 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok.
Baiyoke Tower II
This is the tallest building in Bangkok and a must visit for the resident or tourist to take in a spectacular high rise view of Bangkok while walking around its perimeter. It’s visible for quite some miles around Bangkok so keep a sharp eye out for its pinnacle, visible from Sukhumvit, Rama IV, Petchaburi and Rama IV.