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Lanna Style Architecture

Lanna Style Architecture

Northern Thailand – Lanna Thai Architecture

The most striking feature of Radchada Garden Café is it’s traditional Lanna thai style house setting: Khum Kham Tun as the building is named. Lanna thai architecture has evolved over centuries and has a number of distinctive features, many of which can be seen at Radchada Garden Café

Bann Ruen Ka-lae Teakwood Palace

The typical, traditional Lanna Thai style house is called Ruen Ka-lae (Sometimes spelt Galae) and constructed entirely from teak wood. The structure is elevated from the ground on many teak columns to prevent it from flooding during rainy season, which also provides accommodation underneath for use during dry season for working activities such as weaving or other handicrafts. Another feature is the sloping walls which add structural support using A frame principles. Lanna Thai architecture designs are both traditional and accommodate local factors such as the climate and naturally available materials to form a structure that can resist the rains, yet remain cool in the hot and dry season. Many features of the house derive from the Lanna people’s spiritual and animist beliefs allowing them to live in harmony with their spiritual neighbours.

The basic building consists of at least two separate rectangular rooms, it the simplest form, usually one bedroom and one kitchen and living room. They have a common floor but separate, steeply sloped, tiled roofs with double layers of small clay fired tiles called krabuang din pao with a hooked end allowing them to be held in place simply by hanging on small wooden lathes. The roofs join together into a gutter called a hang, carved from a single tree, which discharges water to the rear of the house. At each end of the building, two smaller, lower pitched roofs, extend below the gable ends giving the lower part of the roof an almost pyramidal shape, whilst the pitch of the upper roof decreases in a curve to match the lower one.

The two spaces are connected by an undercover raised veranda called a cheon used as an outdoor living area and place to entertain guests, or by a walkway known as a chan hom, with complexly carved balcony railings. The house construction requires extensive carpentry and wood carving and was typically reserved for wealthy families and often called a palace (Khum in northern language). The original designs used only wood with no modern materials such as steel nails or glass. Ideally the house is orientated in north south direction.

The Ka-Lae

The most distinctive feature of a Lanna house is the Ka-Lae from which it’s name is derived. These are V shaped extensions to the gable ends that point skyward by about a meter and are intricately carved. Their historical origins have several possible explanations, though which is most likely remains the subject of discussion. One theory is they were instigated during periods of Burmese occupation when Thai’s were required to add them to houses to indicate Thai occupation so the Burmese could tell who was who. Others say they represent, buffalo horns, or a pair of birds intended to provide a deterrent to crows who were regarded as a symbol of bad luck. A simpler explanation may be they were just a structural feature intended to beautify the building.

Above the bedroom door, another piece of beautifully carved wood is the Ham Yon (Translates as something like “magic testicles sign”!) which is there to protect from evil and indicates that those not from the family should not proceed without being summoned to enter. The Ran Naam is another traditional feature which is a small roof covering a raised platform around the height of the balcony railings. This is used to hold earthenware jugs containing drinking water for guests.