Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Train Station Architecture in Thailand

Train stations represent towns and cities. They represent a centre, a hub. Often they demonstrate civic pride. In many cases rail stations are well funded building projects used to set the architectural tone of an area.  Famous architects have built memorable train stations. With this in mind, what do Thailand’s train stations have to tell us about Thai culture?

Hua Lamphong Train Station

Hua Lamphong Station (opened June, 1916) is the most important train station in Thailand. It was designed by Mario Tamagno, an Italian architect and lecturer who won a 25 year contract from King Chulalongkorn. Mario Tamagno was influenced by Italianate or Neo-Renaissance style. He also combined elements of the baroque in his work. While the central arch that runs through the building is very much in the vogue of train stations at the time, he added ornate buildings to the side, along with columns. There is a certain grandeur to the building but the style which harks back to 15th Century Italy might not be the obvious choice for a train station in Bangkok.

Perhaps since steam power was a Western innovation, along with mechanised industrialisation (and indeed train station design) it was felt that the train station should reflect this – a new, grand departure for Thailand.

Mario Tamagno also designed Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge, Nongkhran Samoson Hall in Suan Sunanda Palace, and the Oriental Hotel. He often collaborated with Annibale Rigotti.

Nakhon Lampang Station

In contrast Nakhon Lampang Railway Station (opened circa 1915) displays a mix of Northern Thai and European architecture styles. It is 600 kilometres north of Bangkok Train station. The main train station building has European arches on the ground floor and then a second floor with ornately designed windows and doors more in a Thai style. The roof has two tiers with a gap for ventilation that is also Thai. In 1993 the train station won the Association of Siamese Architects' Architectural Conservation Award.

Hua Hin Train Station

Hua Hin Train Station is often called ‘Thailand's most beautiful train station’. The wooden building was previously a royal pavilion in Sanamchan Palace, Nakhon Pathom Province. It was rebuilt at Hua Hin in 1968.

The main building on the platform is the small wooden pavilion. It is built in classic Thai style. The red and yellow of the pavilion is repeated in the platform awning and columns.

Phitchit Train Station

Phitchit Train Station was also built in the reign of King Chulalongkorn. It is a small square building (not a long one hugging the line) that is in a Neo-Classical style. It is a solid white building with large shuttered windows on the second floor and arches on the bottom floor.

These four buildings are the more eye-catching stations in Thailand. They reveal two themes. One is that there were no restrictions on building style when many stations were built. The other is that train station design was influenced by the King.

The royal connection with train stations in Thailand is obvious. Not only was the King often the driving force for infrastructure improvements to the realm but also his arrival at the city was often a cause for the building of a monumental train station. Other stations that he didn’t visit in a public capacity at the start of the rail age in Thailand didn’t receive the same attention or funding.


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