Suan Mokkh: The Architecture of Emptiness

By Atip Utaiwatananont and Nisra Aruni.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The essence of Buddhism is to eliminate sufferings. In order to do that, we must first understanding the true nature of sufferings. Sufferings occur because we cling to the feelings originated from sensual experiences namely seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. None of these are permanent, either pleasant or unpleasant feelings will soon be gone or change. However, most of us attach ourselves to them created a sense of ‘self’, treat them as something own able and permanent. That causes sufferings. To destruct sufferings and sources of them, we must detach ourselves from these feelings and let go ‘I’ and ‘mind’. The state of non- attachment to anything is called ‘Sunyata’ in Buddhism and it means the emptiness of self and soul, I and mine. This concept has a significant influence on the architecture at one of a famous forest temple in Thailand, Suan Mokkh. Suan Mokkh is the forest temple located in the Southern Thailand, founded by the renowned Thai monk “Buddhadasa Bhikkhu”. His teaching focuses on eliminating suffering through non-attachment to “I” and “mine”, which consequently translated into spatial formation of Suan Mokkh. This forest temple represents different conception from mainstream Thai temples. No structure has been built without necessity. Instead of bricks and mortar, the surrounding nature itself defines spaces and envelops; earth as floors - trees as walls - sky as roofs. This creates, the so-called, “The Architecture of Emptiness”. This paper therefore, presents a particular architecture which emerged from Buddhadasa Bhikkhu’s teaching. Apart from distinctive architecture design concept, Suan Mokkh has been built to represent the real Buddhist principle rather than to worship Lord Buddha or anything. Liberating from traditional temple in Thailand by means of spatial formation and establishing purpose, Suan Mokkh is, therefore, unique. Drawings and photographs showing spatial analysis of Suan Mokkh will be presented.

Keywords: Architecture, Buddhism, Non-Attachment, Space

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 5, pp.145-154. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.420MB).

Atip Utaiwatananont

Lecturer, Faculty of Architecture, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Khon Kaen, Thailand

My name is Mr. Atip Utaiwattananont. I'm working as a lecturer at Faculty of Architecture, Khon Kaen University. I was a research assistant at Research Center of Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University. After that, I was graduated a Master Degree in Architecture from Chulalongkorn University Thailand. I worked as freelance architect for 3 years. I also ran a computer tutorial shool at the same time. I currently work on Veterinary Hospital design project in Khon Kaen University. I spend my free time as a enthusiastic photographer.

Nisra Aruni

Lecturer, Faculty of Architecture, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Khon Kaen, Thailand

My name is Ms. Nisra Aruni. I am working as a lecture, researcher and architect at Khon Kaen University for 12 years. After graduated a master degree in Architecture from Thailand in 1995, I got the scholarship from Khon Kaen University to study at The University College London, UK. About arhitectural practice, I am a freelance architect and now working on the animal hospital design project in Khon Kaen. My hobbies are reading and travelling.

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