A Prayer in Shadows
Every nightfall, Luang Prabang, Laos goes through a transformation and morphs into a ‘1 street’ town while the rest of the town is enveloped in complete darkness. This phenomenon is a resultant where the surrounding darkness absorbs all glowing lights produced by the night market, preventing the surrounding buildings from reflecting any shine at all. The lighting quality is observed to be lost in the space of the vast darkness.
The same quality of darkness and lighting can be observed within the Wats in Luang Prabang, where one can witness the beauty of the Buddha statues and temple construction as it is partially revealing by the faint illumination from the candles without excessively lighting up the entire space.
The interest of the thesis lies in exploring how architecture can aid in preserving certain unique lighting qualities that is observed on site in Luang Prabang, Laos as the UNESCO city slowly becomes more accessible to modernity through connecting infrastructures like the China-Laos railway. The thesis also investigates the potentials of Buddhism and the Wats in Luang Prabang and how it could possibly create a platform which encourages the exchange of ideas between the worldly and religious arts.
The site of Wat May Souvannapoumaram was chosen due to the site’s historic significance and its close proximity to other known tourist destinations like the Royal Palace of Luang Prabang. Additionally, the empty temple grounds reveals potential for the intervention to address issues like spatial scarcity and constrain.
One implication arriving from the high-speed rail connection into Luang Prabang Laos, from Kunming China could be the descent of temporary refugees seeking respite from the common prosperity campaign currently undertaken in China. It would be difficult to deny that some Buddhist devotees and practitioners in Buddhist liturgy chant and ritual could form part of this Chinese exodus, knowing previous Chinese Government’s action against religious sects. This would include practitioners who turn Buddhist liturgical chant into rock mantra. After all, Indo-China of which Laos forms part, is rich with Buddhist ritualistic practices. It will be in these temples that these practitioners will turn to absorb and fine tune their practices. The site is the Wat May Souvannapourmaram. The Wat is in close proximity to the Royal Palace. The struggle in the project is found in the attempt to demarcate the sacred and the profane within the site such that these worldly activities can still function while absorbing the religious.
- Adj. Assoc. Prof. Bobby Wong Chong Thai
Hansel Lim You An
Hansel Lim You An