Hansar Bangkok Neighborhood, The Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson House:
The Jim Thompson House is the home of James H.W. Thompson. He was initially a self-made American entrepreneur but found his way to fame when he established the world renowned Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. Thompson’s achievements during his 25 year stay in the Kingdom of Thailand won him much fame as the “Legendary American of Thailand.”
He disappeared in 1967 and but his traditional Thai home that was the “Talk of the Town and the cities most celebrated social center remains as it was. Even today the charming Thai style house continues to be a key stop for visitors to Bangkok.
HIs house shows the characteristics of a traditional Thai house. The walls of the house lean slightly inward adding to the illusion of height and grace. The curved roof ends are adaptations of naga (serpent) motif’s.
Location: The Jim Thompson House is located on Soi Kasemsan (2) Song, opposite the National Stadium on Rama I road. The best way to access it is via the BTS Rajdamri station 2 stops to the National Stadium station. Then follow the exit areas towards the Jim Thompson House.
Opening Hours: Sunday- Saturday 9:00am - 05:00pm (the last guided tour starts at 5:00pm)
Entrance Fee: Adults 100 Thai Baht
Historically, the religious and domestic architecture of Thailand shared some common characteristics.
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.
Common elements are found in Thai religious and domestic architecture of earlier periods.
Additionally a great number of windows and doors are carefully aligned to facilitate an uninterrupted flow and aid the circulation of air. Walls were generally left unpainted, though sometimes oiled.
Traditional Thai houses are well adapted to the lifestyle needs and climatic conditions.Simplicity and open space are the core features of the Thai style house.
In the hot and humid tropical climate, the airy, open quality of a Thai house and the broad overhangs of its roof protect the interior from both sun and rain.
Elevated houses facilitate the circulation of air and offered a more comfortable living space. It was cooler to live in and protected the home from the risk of floods in the monsoon season. It also offered protection from hostile wildlife.
The open space beneath the house was versatile. It was used as a living area in the hot season, as storage for the season’s harvest, and as a place to keep livestock.
In contrast to the ornate decorations of the temples and palaces, there were relatively few purely decorative elements and these were largely confined to panels carved in Chinese designs under the windows and sometimes over the doors and the curling roof ends, possibly reflecting the Khmer architectural style.
Carved panel beneath a window. Only the houses of affluent Thais bore such decorative elements.
A carved wooden bracket of a similar kind to those used to support eaves on Thai temples and palaces.
The curved roof-ends which give the tip of the eaves a highly distinctive look and add to the graceful appearance of the Thai houses are symbolic of the ‘nagas’ or serpents that adorn the Khmer temples. They have been stylized and often bear little resemblance to the original art form.
CONSTRUCTED WITHOUT NAILS
One practical feature of the Thai house is the ease with which it can be assembled or taken down. The entire house is built in light, pre-fabricated sections with each section forming a wall. Each wall is then fitted together and hung on the superstructure - a frame of wooden pillars - without nails. In former times, the fact that the house could be taken down and re-assembled with relative ease was well-suited to the indigenous way of life. When families decided to move, as they frequently did, the house would be taken down, stacked on a raft and floated down the nearest klong to a new location.
An arched doorway frames a 13th - century seated sandstone Buddha, while in the niches on either side are limestone images of Siva and Uma, all these are Khmer - Style sculptures that were found in Thailand.
Keeping Evil Spirits Out and Babies In
According to superstition and traditional Thai belief, the raised thresholds of Thai houses prevent evil spirits from creeping in at night and disrupting the sleep of the inhabitants. It also served a functional purpose.
The raised threshold acted as a structural aid holding the wall sections firmly in place on their frame.
Additionally the early settlements of the Thai kingdom were largely agricultural communities built along rivers, canals and waterways. Hence to prevent babies and small children from falling into the water, the thresholds of the door were raised.
Whole families would sleep together in a single room. In some instances, the open space was partitioned off into separate living areas to accommodate various generations.
In a typical old Thai house, the various rooms would be separate units connected by open walkways and the staircase was on the outside.
However in the interest of comfort and for aesthetic considerations, the main house does not conform with the traditional practices of Thai architecture. The connecting corridors and the entrance hall is enclosed.