Titled "elephant", the Thai pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia answers the question of how architecture can promote the way human beings and other species live together naturally and culturally based on the culture of Kuy and their elephants. Curated by Apiradee Kasemsook and designed by Boonserm Premtada of Bangkok Project Studio, the Thai pavilion will be on display at the Sale d’Armi, Arsenale, from May 22nd to November 21st.
The Kuy is a Thai ethnic group that lives with elephants. For centuries, the Kuy people and elephants in Surin, have been living a self-sustained life by collecting food and medication from surrounding forests. However, the lack of sustainable planning resulted in mass deforestation, which forced the Kuy and their elephants to wander the streets of touristic Thai towns. A decade ago, the government initiated a project to bring them back to a sustainable homeland.
During the curating process of the Thai Pavilion, the team conducted interviews with individuals involved in elephant welfares, such as mahouts, caretakers, elephant specialist veterinaries, and the reverend monk and local villagers, to have better knowledge about the way human beings and elephants live together.
In parallel to the Biennale in Venice, a "twin pavilion" has been on display in Surin, Thailand since March 13th, 2021. Each pavilion displays the man and elephant house inspired by those existing in the villages. Although primitive, these houses are intricately embedded with consideration for one another since elephants are considered as 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. Both are integrated to support one another.
The Pavilion in Surin was inaugurated on Thailand's National Elephant Day at Wat Pa Ar Jiang, and was built by local craftsmen of north-eastern Thailand. On the other hand, the ‘non-identical twin’ pavilion in Venice is constructed by Italian craftsmen with materials sourced in Italy. The roof of the structure acts as the screen, displaying the life of the Kuy and elephants, and the life of the Surin Pavilion.
- Commissioner: Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC), Ministry of Culture and Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage (ASA)
- Curator: Apiradee Kasemsook
- Assistant curators: Nawanwaj Yudhanahas, Salila Trakulvech, and Sompoom Tangchupong
- Exhibitor: Boonserm Premthada