Thursday, May 14, 2009

The PEG in Thailand

Rushing into spring work here-- shiitake mushroom log inoculation, cutting firewood, field and garden work-- has given me time to sift my thoughts about the timber frame buildings I found in and around Chiang Mai and Lampang, Thailand.
There was an abundance of them and so many historic ones. It must have been amazing there when teak trees were in abundance and the houses were being constructed by craftsmen using timber frame joinery from that resilient wood. Joinery that I have not seen here in Canada or the USA, but nevertheless, different forms of tenons, mortises, scarf joints for long timbers, braces, all pegged with a hardwood I didn’t know. And then the adze marks, just like here, but made there by skilled hands hundreds of years before we even came to what is now Grey and Bruce County in Ontario’s Georgian Bay/Huron Lake region. I was thrilled when I saw this on the outside wall of a 400 year old temple that was being renovated. And a wooden PEG on another temple where the outside timbers were exposed due to repair.
Richard, our friend who also came to Thailand with Lillian and I, did kid me a bit that I got excited about adze marks on old wooden beams and finding pegs in timbers, but, oh it was everything for me.
The century old teak house residences that have survived, either as a museum or built by a person of means, were all wood. And I mean everything from the walls, floors, ceilings and outside porches. All a deep, luxurious colour red of the teak, resilient to wind and water for decades, even the monsoons of late summer.
Our timber frames here in the snow farm belts, had to withstand just as extreme weather-- blizzards, wind and rain, and withstood the test just as well I think. No, the most dangerous enemy of historic buildings is not weather—but us. But, I’ll talk about that some other time.
Even with Thai governments of the time having protectionist practices for its immense forests, the outside world, China at the beginning and England later bought out the lumber and created such a demand that by the 1950’s, it was all mostly gone. But, wow, the wooden buildings from that 500-year era of building is still to be seen from the hundreds of incredible column temples dating back centuries, to the small city downtowns lined with century-old two-story wooden row buildings.
In Chiang Mai I discovered that along the river were some of the oldest and most preserved historic teak buildings. At Wat Kate I found an old teak temple, in rough shape holding not the statue of Buddha anymore but a museum of just about everything—from Thai lettered Underwood typewriters and radios to amazing silk cloths and old hand tools and hundreds of other relics. Plus hundreds of old black and white photos all nicely pinned up on boards. I went there three times!
In the famous river districts of the towns of Lamphum, and especially in Lampang, a small city about 100 kilometers away from Chiang Mai there were rows and rows of 100 year-old wooden 2 and 3 story building with store fronts on the street level still preserved and being lived in. Most of the buildings are like our post and beam style using smaller beams and some regular 2x4 lumber. The second and third floors were residences with long wavy balconies filled with laundry hanging on inner lines, plants overflowing below the rails and people sitting and talking. The bottom of the buildings, which were protected from rain by the balconies above, had rows and rows of louvered wooden doors opening as stores during the day.
There is lots more, but I have a good idea now of what each day would look like for a week-long timber frame and historic building tour of the area, and am working on shaping that tour to a nice workable form.
But today it’s spring work here on the farm, so much green.

No comments: