• Bangkok Utopia: Modern Architecture and Buddhist Felicities, 1910–1973
    Lawrence Chua
    University of Hawai'i Press, 2021
    Lawrence Chua

Special issue of Muang Thai pictorial magazine celebrating Constitution Day, December 1941. Courtesy the Government Department of Public Relations, Thailand

From its founding in 1782, Bangkok was modeled on representations of the heavenly cities and felicitous realms of the Buddhist cosmos. However, at the beginning of the twentieth century the Siamese spatial imagination transformed alongside new approaches to architecture and urban planning. From the first general strike of workers in 1910 until the overthrow of a military dictatorship in 1973, architects drew on both imagined pasts and speculative futures to reconcile an older Indic-derived cosmology with a new rational understanding of space brought about by modern building materials and technologies, scientific modes of representation, the reorganization of the building trades, and the birth of the country’s architectural profession. Using Thai- and Chinese-language archival sources, the book demonstrates how the new spaces of the city became arenas for modern subject formation, utopian desires, political hegemony, and social unrest, arguing that the modern city was a space of antinomy—one able not only to sustain heterogeneous temporalities, but also to support conflicting world views within the urban landscape.

Lawrence Chua (he, him, 伊/他) is an associate professor at the School of Architecture, Syracuse University and a scholar-in-residence at the Getty Research Institute for 2020–21. He was a fellow at the International Institute of Asian Studies at Universiteit Leiden and a Marie S. Curie Fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg. His writing has appeared in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, the Journal of Architecture, Fabrications, the Journal of Urban History, South East Asia Research, and Senses and Society. He is a founding member of the board of directors of Denniston Hill, a queer person of color-led arts organization and land equity project. He received his doctorate in the history of architecture and urban development from Cornell University.