The origin of the Thai race is still ambiguous. Some assume they migrated from Southwestern China, others believe they lived in the border areas between China, Laos, Burma, and Thailand for at least 2,000 years, and still others suggest that they became established in what is today Thailand and then transferred northwards.

A verifiable history of the culture and architecture of Thailand can be traced from the Dvaravati, Srivichai, and Khmer periods from about 500 BC, which influenced Thai Civilization. Thailand was known as “Siam” between the thirteenth and the eighteenth centuries. The capital cities were Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, and today’s Rattanakosin. Traditional Thai Architecture displays the various attractive forms, which have developed into the unique architecture of Southeast Asia.

Because of the agricultural lifestyle, traditional Thai Architecture was based on the ancestor ’s knowledge of how to achieve a comfortable life in a hot-humid climate with a rich natural environment. Therefore, living with nature was appropriate in the former traditional Thai Architecture.
1 Figure 1: Agricultural country with religious status
Previous Thai Cultural structures could be separated into two buildings by manipulation to serve as residential buildings and religious buildings.
Figure 2: Residential building and religious building

The residential Buildings: traditional Thai houses
The modular system was well applied in traditional Thai houses, which could be easily reconstructed. A high gable roof was decorated as symbolic of each part. Raised floors were intended to prevent flood and pests; moreover, all natural materials were light weight. The traditional Thai house was a living place which all Thais, not only ordinary people but also the monarchy took pleasure in. (Saksri, 1996).
3 Figure 3: The royal residence at Nakornprathom
As inhabitants of an agricultural country, Thai people grew rice, fruit and vegetables. They worked hard in the fields during the day. Consequently, the traditional Thai houses normally were used at night time. Others worked as craftsman making household implements such as pottery, clothing, tools and the other things that were used in the area underneath their elevated floors, the area in shade near their houses or under the tree near their houses.

The religious Buildings: traditional Thai temples
Most traditional Thai temples were built with thick brick walls in wall bearing construction as a High Mass wall, which affected building performance and human comfort. The temple represented the landmark of the village. The high pitched roof reached the heaven with the floor standing on earth. Since Thailand is a Buddhist country, the Thai temple as a holy space was intended to be used during daytime for prayer.
4 Figure 4: Spiritual worship in Thai Culture

Traditional Thai Temples were used for Buddhist activities for the community. Men were encouraged to study as monks in Buddhist temples, as a form of schooling. Dry leaves were used for writing and recording their ideas, while architecture itself was the product of knowledge and learning with real buildings as examples. Thai architecture was built to gain merit and represented their belief in unchanging truths, rather than for more mundane reasons.

The Sentimental of all traditional Thai Architecture came from the intersection of biological, social, and psychological needs. How the complete applicable use of a valuable environment blends with Thai culture in traditional Thai Architecture is explained in Figure 3. It illustrates that Traditional Thai Architecture served the Thai people’s needs and preferences. The needs are established as part of Thai culture, which are its biological requirements, available traditional technology, sociological needs, social organization, psychology and ideology.
5 Figure 5: Traditional Thai Architectural System

By modifying natural materials and the environment, our Thai ancestors found a way of living close to conditions of comfort. The four basic needs for humans in Thai belief are food, cloth, medicine and shelter. Traditional Thai Architecture proved to be one of the ultimate examples of shelter using conventional knowledge by a trial and error process over a long period. People preferred to have a lot of children for agricultural work. It required attached units for family expansion. Thai people believed in guardian spirits before they believed in Buddhism. Both beliefs became merged in Thai culture and were expressed in its architectural character.

Thai ancestors forged their pattern of culture with their pattern of manifestation, the buildings, while examples of traditional Thai Architecture were a transition between human needs and Thai culture.

Elevated space in Thailand expresses a higher value of mind. Traditional Thai Architecture is not only physical but also spiritual. Thai people treated Thai architecture as spiritually relevant to their Buddhist or guardian beliefs.

Zones and steps indicate the meaning of hierarchy in Traditional Thai Architecture. Thai society has the high caste of king to the low caste of slave, they believe in the high level of heaven to the low level of hell. They have different levels of words, speech, and manner; for example. Therefore, zones and steps were introduced in traditional Thai Architecture to classify social position, specific activities and spaces of beliefs. The places people occupied represented their social status. The privacy zone and upper level stood for higher status such as royalty, monks and elders. Spaces and steps were applied in traditional Thai Architecture.
6 Figure 6: Section of a Thai house showing separated zones and steps

In traditional Thai houses, natural materials such as grass, thatch, and straw have been used for roofs, which were the best insulation at that time. The roof gave protection from solar radiation as well as reducing the inside surface temperature, making people feel cooler. The elevated floor performed as insulation in the architectural design. The high pitched roof provided a smaller area of hot inside surface temperature for people. Moreover, the space inside the house allowed the cross air motion to move heat through out building. During daytime, the lower level underneath the elevated floor was used for activities. Therefore, people experienced a cool surface temperature at ground level thus, redemonstrating the intelligent passive design of the ancient Thai people. The native Thai dress was made of silks or cotton for waistcloth, while children normally wore no clothes until they were ten to twelve years old. Their waistcloth was soft and thin. So, the body could reduce body heat on cool surfaces. The slow activities common in Thai behavior required a lower metabolism rate. Then, human body did not get warm easily.

Figure 7: People take off their shoes, and use bare feet in the temple area
For traditional Thai temples, the hierarchy of space zoning is a unique character. The outside space represents the belief in seas surrounding Mount Meru of Buddhist thought. White sand from the river was used as ground covering. Exposure to the sun raised the sand surface temperature. Taking off the shoes before walking through temples makes people feel hot . Then , when entering the temple, people would feel cooler than normal. This technique reinforced the perception in people’s minds of hell as hot area and heaven as cool area. The Thai temple was built as a very heavy structure as 60 - 100 meters in width with small windows. Therefore, heat during daytime was absorbed and radiated during night time.

The six elements of sense-impression, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, and mind are applied to the Sentiment of traditional Thai Architecture. The human body perceives the architectural elements through those six senses as follows:
1. Perception of form
2. Perception of sound
3. Perception of aroma
4. Perception of taste
5. Perception of touch
6. Perception of mind-objects

Table 1 illustrates the main ways in which the sense-impression is expressed in Architecture. Appreciation of Thai architecture is the way people ‘taste’ the building through those five physical senses and form mind contact. 

Table 1: Comparable between sense-impression and perception with examples of appearance.

Although sense-impressions do not give the main point of Buddhist thought, they show the Sentiment in traditional Thai Architecture. This technique expresses perception as a whole with the human senses. The greatest creations of the Thai past have appeared over centuries and still remind us of how we are compatible with the past.

External sense and Traditional Thai Architecture compared Visible appearance
The manifestations of traditional Thai architecture express their standing by being tall and erect, rising high into the clouds. All the buildings represent a small universe and a region between hell and heaven.
The Thai house was constructed from natural materials, mostly wood. The living place of Thai people had a unique form which is explained by Suwannakiri (2547) representing the human body; man-shape, woman-shape, or giant-shape as the language of Thai Architecture.

Figure 8: Four different styles of Thai ornamental gable-end on the roof
For traditional Thai temple style decoration, the architecturally ornamented “gable-end” of the Thai roof has four different shapes . There are different meanings with appropriate applications reflecting each culture of the individual regions. The golden color means higher ranked people. Colored glasses and gold decoration on the gable
and the high roof had an enormous impact on all human visible perception. One would see the temple as the village ’s landmark from far away.

Figure 9: The hazy but holy light in a Buddhist temple
Traditional Thai Architecture, mostly, has been designed for nighttime use. During daytime, people usually go out to their farmlands. Interior surfaces, made of dark wood, have less reflective property resulting quite dark. In the evening or early morning, eyes can adapt to the outside brightness from interior wall to green leaves outside. Their reflective properties of both wooden wall and green leaves are quite similar. Therefore, the contrast ratio reaches to eye adaptation comfort.
The temple was designed with least natural light. The idea was to emphasize the Buddha ’s images with candle illumination. The reflection from the golden surfaces of the Buddha’s images would enhance religious spirit.

Sound appearance
11The Thai house was surrounded by a lot of trees such as bamboo, Mango, banana. These mostly were planted for food or handicraft. Whenever the wind blew, the sound of different leaves dancing played as background noise or natural music. People enhanced the natural sound with their handmade music instrument such as bamboo, ceramics or seashells.
The sound of small bells with leaf shape clappers hung along the eaves of the Buddhist temple when the wind blows , produces melodies which represent the heavenly sound of the human imagination. Some temples have big bells for expressing the belief in their fortune.

Figure 10: Small bells with leaf-shape

 Figure 11: Aroma of holy incense
Aroma appearance
Many aroma tie plants can be found in Thailand. Traditionally, Thai houses normally had flowery plants to provide smells.
Thai Temple areas also have herb trees or shrubs with blossom. Smell is one element of aroma that makes people feel better, relaxed, and also provides mental therapy. For Buddhist activities, flowers, joss sticks, and candles are used for worship. These are made from perfumed substances flower like jasmine. When people breathe in, they feel relaxed.

Taste appearance
The sense impression of tongue contact does not mean tasting by mouth. The other meaning of taste is the ability to make good or suitable judgements in matters such as beauty, style, music or social behavior. The taste of Traditional Thai Architecture consigns to the mind appearance as a corporate entity.

Figure 12: Thai house
13 Touch appearance
The elements of different tangibility were built into the traditional Thai Architecture. Traditional Thai houses were created the texture of wall by using pieces of wood. Sitting on the floor is the custom of carrier Thai people; they always touch the coolest area of their houses.
Traditional Thai Temples illustrate a lot of techniques in how to apply finishing materials such as the smooth surface of plastering on masonry walls, textures of lime and glass in windows and doors, floor finishing in sand, stone, brick, ceramic or wood.

Mind appearance
Mind perception was applied to architecture. It could be an impression of beauty, merit and holiness. The main pillar in traditional Thai Architecture expressed the core of the universe of the mind. Each building was decorated with woodcrafts in keeping with religious belief expressing the deepest creed of the builder. Their huge force reached the softest part of the hearth, the soul.
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