Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tragedy strikes Suphanburi

The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project has the unenviable task of announcing a great loss to Thai cinema architecture. A few days prior, news reached our desk of the demolition of the theater featured on this blog's title banner - Suphanburi's Fa Siam Theater.

The Fa Siam Theater, now no more

While precise details of the theater's history were not compiled during the cursory research trip made in late 2009, the Fa Siam was an unabashed visual spectacle. Soon after documenting it, the Fa Siam's image was beamed across the internet as the gateway to an on-line world of Southeast Asian movie theater fantasy. From then on, the Fa Siam received nothing but praise. Who know's how many casual visitors to this site were drawn in, not by the literary drivel herein presented, but by the striking architecture of the Fa Siam Theater that greets the eye.  For all intents and purposes, it has been this project's logo.

As movie theater architecture in Thailand goes, the Fa Siam was about as authentic as it gets: A highly stylized piece of modernism, derivative perhaps only of Bangkok's legendary Scala Theater (right). This, in fact, has long been a point of curiosity. Noting the architectural similarities to the Scala Theater, - modern palladian windows, tapered buttresses and zig-zag cornices - I've often wondered if the Fa Siam was also a product of the master of mid-century Thai modernism, Chira Silpakanok. Further research should yield that answer.

Lobby view

Regardless of who designed it, the Fa Siam was a work of architecture that ought to have been given a second life. Sadly, there is still a dearth of preservation-mindedness in Thailand when it comes to architecture. Old movie theaters, moreover, are basically considered trash in need of removal. Even a bona fide landmark like the Scala in Bangkok is on the demolition list.

Hawking at Lert Fa market in front of the Fa Siam.

In order for Thailand to raise its international profile, a reevaluation of how to treat old architecture is much needed, lest this dynamic country arbitrarily sap itself of its inventory of cultural capital.

Dimensional signage

To the people of Suphanburi: my heart goes out to you. While your unique Banharnist political system may be making you richer with each passing day, your quaint little town is much poorer in culture now that the Fa Siam is no more.


  1. It's very very nice architecture.
    so sad...to know it's already gone...

  2. This is sad, particularly such striking architecture. Good thing you documented it.