Thai Architect – Sala Thai


Sala Thai in the US Embassy

 The Nation newspaper, June 13, 1988
 Story by Nawarat Acosta.


It was a long job and everybody pitched in with the work, But today, when HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirinhorn officially opens the two Thai pavilions on the grounds of the American Embassy, everyone will know it was a worthwhile effort.

The elegant black swans glide gracefully across the pond making a striking contrast against the structure of gold that rests on the very same waters.

Finally, a year after work began, two Thai pavilions rest majestically on the circular pond, glinting in full glory at the US Embassy grounds.

Today, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn graciously presides over the opening of the two pavilions built in dedication to His Majesty the King's fifth cycle birthday. The occasion will also mark the first time that a member of the Thai royal family sets foot in the US compound.

The Princess will cross the bridge, with its floor of teak that leds to the main sala. Overhead are brass ceiling fans that join in coolness with the breeze. "Even in the hottest of weather, the area is still cool," say Christopher Runckel, first secretary of the US Embassy.

Another striking feather of both pavilions is the numerous presence of gold lotus-shaped knobs at the bannister leading to the larger sala and at the bridge.

The architectural concept of the larger pavilion is patterned in the Lanna or Northern Thai style. It is meant to resemble reception houses, as shown in the style of the roof. Its roof appears unusual as silver tiles shingle the roof and legendary hatsadin birds keep away bad omens. It is still another facet of blending the traditional with modern ideas.

And a small teak stairway connects the larger pavilion to the small one, giving every indication of its royal purpose. The architecture is of the Rattanakosin period. The emblems of the 40th coronation anniversary and the 60th birdie anniversary are embedded upon the gold gables with a glass-paned tower a top.

"We tried to take old traditional forms and use them in a new or less common way," say Runckel, as he spent the weekend overseeing the final touches.

With that in mind, they even made use of silver tiles for the rooftop, a direct contrast to the brilliant gold of the smaller pavilion.

"The idea was to have the King's sala in gold, to emphasize it and make it white and silver and not detract from the main sala of the King."

The pavilion had been designed by Obas Vallibhakara, an associate member of the Royal Institute, in accordance with Thai tradition which serves as a means of paying respect for the King. According to Thai monarchic architecture, the small sala is separated from the main pavilion and slightly elevated to signify that it is for the King only.

The Thai pavilions were originally conceived by the employees of the Embassy. Apart from mentally working on the idea, they contributed to the manual labor as well. the Thai and American staff worked alongside each other - when office work was over for the day or before it bagman in the morning.

Some drove nails into the wood, and other finished carpentry details. In all, it was they who put the entire construction together.

When it was over, they let the artisans attend to the ornamental requirements and creative touches.

The pavilions have become a venue for meetings and presentation awards, including musical concerts as well.  That had been its purpose in the past months.

But today, it takes on its real role, as the Princess officially opens the pavilions that had even made fit for a king.


Concept of the Design