Lawrence Chua Lecture

Department of Architecture Fall 2010 Lunch Lecture Series

Department of Architecture Fall 2010 Lunch Lecture Series

Lawrence Chua is a Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Society for the Humanities and a doctoral candidate in the history of architecture and urbanism. He is the recipient of a fellowship for international dissertation research from the Social Science Research Council and was the recipient of the Department of Architecture's Richmond Harold Shreve award for excellence in a graduate thesis.

This lecture examines sensory aesthetics and class conflict in Thai cinemas. Early 20th century Thai cinemas were arenas of violent class conflict where the senses of wealthy audiences were routinely offended not only by the smell, sound, and touch of lower-class patrons but by acts of political disobedience, like refusing to stand for the royal anthem. Cinemas that were counter-cultural spaces in the early 20th century, underwent a “civilizing process” and were transformed into places where audiences could experience the pleasures of modern life and celebrate national loyalty by the end of the century. 

Architects played a key role in this civilizing process but they were not always in control of it. Chua uses archival evidence to show that debates about the primitive design of early cinemas focused on the phenomenological experience of these places and were coded in distinctly class-biased and racialized terms. The monarchy attempted to rebrand itself during the political turbulence of the 1930s by commissioning the design of the first modern cinema in Bangkok, the Sala Chaloem Krung (1933, architect: M.L. Samaichaloem Kridakorn). Air conditioning was installed at the theatre for the first time in an effort to suppress many of these unpleasant sensory experiences along with the class and racial differences of which it was a reminder. 

Food and beverages will be served.