Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Chumphae Theater - Chumphae, Khon Kaen Province, Thailand

Roaming Chumphae inevitably brought me to its other, much older, decommissioned cinema in the heart of the town's traditional commercial core. Long departed as a house of entertainment, the former Chumphae Theater nonetheless has been smartly repurposed to serve a current need. The building's walls were removed, leaving only structural support columns, its facade and roof, as the former auditorium was turned into a fresh market. In place of its rows of seats, dozens of vendors, hawking everything from raw meats to cheap electronics, have set up shop. Locals refer to is as the old Chumphae Theater Market.

Facade of the former Chumphae Theater. The outline of the marquee is still visible just above the tin awning.

Market interior, looking towards what was once the rear of the theater, and balcony-level seating.

Reintegrating out-moded structures, be they old movie theaters or otherwise, when appropriate, is a cornerstone of urban renovation and renewal. It not only saves on costs of demolition and reconstruction, but it draws a link between the past and present, imbues a sense of historical identity.

Ryszrard Kapuscinski perhaps put it best regarding the tendency to destroy old neighborhoods in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku to build anew:

"Today expansion is difficult and risky. As a rule, broadening ends in narrowing, and that is why nations must satisfy the instinct for breadth with a feeling of depth, which means reaching into the depths of history to demonstrate their strength and significance."

(Kapuscinski, Ryszard. 1993 - Imperium. Vintage Press)

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