11 July 2024

The iconic traditional Thai house known as the Kamthieng House Museum at the Siam Society under Royal Patronage in Soi Asoke (Sukhumvit 21) is closing for major renovations from 30 December 2023, the Society has announced.

“After a considerable amount of delay, the Siam Society wishes to inform the public that a group of highly experienced artisans specialising in the area of conservation of historical buildings, will now commence work to restore our beloved Kamthieng House Museum to its former glory, the Siam Society says on its official website.

The delay is mainly because it takes time to find the right carpenters and craftmen to renovate such an important architectural structure, Thai PBS World has learned.

The Northern-style museum, which attracts tourists all year round, will be closed to the general public until further notice. The renovations are expected to take between 10-12 months to complete.

Suan Pakkad Palace

The teakwood marvel was constructed in the mid-1800s in Chiang Mai City, then part of the kingdom of Chiang Mai. Gifted to the Siam Society in 1963 by Kimhaw Nimmanhaeminda, a direct descendant of Mae Saed, the house is named after her mother, Kamthieng Anusarnsunthorn, who was born within its walls.

Transported from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and meticulously reconstructed over two years, the museum was inaugurated by the late King Rama IX (Bhumibol Adulyadej). Its primary purpose is to impart knowledge about the beliefs and culture of the Lanna people and offer a glimpse into a bygone era.

Visitors have long marvelled at the intricacies of this traditional Thai house, which includes bedrooms, a balcony for recreation and entertainment, a living area, a kitchen, a bathroom, and even a rice granary. Each room features exhibits showcasing the rich lifestyle of the Lanna people – from ancestral worship items and looms to kitchen utensils and antique gold pieces. The exhibits have been moved to other buildings within the Society for safekeeping.

Photo : courtesy of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre (Public Organisation)

Recognizing its historical significance, the Association of Siamese Architects Under Royal Patronage bestowed a special award upon the Siam Society in 2002 for the preservation excellence of the Auditorium, Kamthieng House, and Saeng Aroon House within the Society’s compound.

As the house approaches its third century, it is in great need of restoration and renovation, particularly the roof.  Much of the building is in a fragile state due not just to its age but the constant large-scale construction in the immediate vicinity, which has accelerated the deterioration of the structural stability of the main building.

Photo : Courtesy of Siam Society

A substantial amount of funding will be needed to carry out the work in strengthening the core structure of the museum building and the Siam Society would thus welcome any contributions towards this important project.

Donations can be made through transfers to “THE SIAM SOCIETY” TMBThanachart Bank (ttb), Asoke Branch, Savings Account No. 053-2-03946-8. More information can be found on https://thesiamsociety.org/th/ , or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheSiamSocietyUnderRoyalPatronage.

Traditional Thai houses are fast disappearing in Bangkok, although many of the heritage homes have been turned into museums and are preserved for posterity. There are, of course, a few private houses remaining, but these are not open to the public. Even in the provinces, the popularity is these traditional houses is fading as homeowners prefer modern homes.

For those who are keen on studying Thai architecture, there are a few other old traditional Thai houses in greater Bangkok that can be visited, including Jim Thompson Thai house, Suan Pakkad Palace and the Ancient City in Samut Prakarn province.

If you go

The Kamthieng House Museum opens until December 30, 2023 from 9.30am to 4.30am. Admission is free.

By Thai PBS World Feature Desk