Commissioners: Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC), Ministry of Culture
                           Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage (ASA)

Curator: Apiradee Kasemsook

Assistant curators: Nawanwaj Yudhanahas
                               Salila Trakulvech
                               Sompoom Tangchupong

Exhibitor: Boonserm Premthada

Follow us on Instagram: @thailandbiennalearchitettura

Titled ‘elephant’, the Thai pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia answers the question of how architecture can be exemplary to the way man and another species could and will be able to live together, naturally and culturally. Curated by Apiradee Kasemsook, and designed by Boonserm Premtada of Bangkok Project Studio, the Thai pavilion presents parallel pavilions. One in Venice will be displayed from May 22nd to November 21st, 2021. Another in Surin, Thailand has been displayed since 13th March 2021 until the unforeseeable date.

To respond to the curator Hashim Sarkis: “together as human beings who, despite increasing individuality, yearn to connect with one another and with other species across digital and real space”, Thai Pavilion explores the environment and ecological system of how the Kuy, an ethnic group, live with their cultured elephants.

For centuries, the community of Kuy people and elephants in Surin, north-eastern Thailand, was a self-sustained one. The forest gave them food and medicine, and they sustained the forest. But the lack of sustainable planning decades ago saw mass deforestation, and the images of the Kuy and elephants wandering the streets of Thai tourist towns became depressingly too familiar. A decade ago, the government started a project to bring them back to their homeland. Efforts from all those involved are being made to make this homecoming a sustainable one. In the process of making the Thai Pavilion, interviews were conducted with those involved in elephant welfares, from mahouts, caretakers, an elephant specialist veterinary, a nutritionist, a scientist, and the reverend monk, to local villagers of the elephant villages—to try to understand the ways they help man and elephants to live together.

As the Kuy and elephants have returned home, so has the Thai Pavilion. For the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, Thailand will, thus, present two structures in twin locations: Surin and Venice. Each exhibits the man and elephant house inspired by the houses in the elephant villages. Though elementary, these houses are embedded with much consideration for one another as elephants are considered family members. Both pavilions have two-level structures. The low-level structure represents the house of Kuy people, while the high-level structure takes inspiration from the elephant house. They are integrated to support one another.

The Pavilion in Surin was built by local craftsmen of north-eastern Thailand. It was inaugurated on 13th March 2021, on Thailand’s National Elephant Day at Wat Pa Ar Jiang, the spiritual heart of the Kuy and elephants. The pavilion will be in Surin permanently and how the Kuy and elephants use this pavilion will unfold over the centuries.

The ‘non-identical twin’ is now being constructed in Venice by Italian craftsmen and materials sourced locally in Italy. The roof acts as the screen onto which the life of the Kuy and elephants, and the life of the Surin Pavilion will be projected.

Thai Pavilion
Wat Pa Ar Jiang, Tha Tum District,
Surin, Thailand

Thai Pavilion
Sale d’Armi, Arsenale,
Venice, Italy
22 May – 21 November 2021