Transformation of the Buddhist language into Lao-Modern architecture.
What is Laotian Modern Architecture?
Thongkhoun T. Pathana

Laotian Community Center of RI, Inc.
Rhode Island, USA


" I salute every Chetiya (shrine) that may stand in any place the bodily relics, the Great Bodhi and all images of the Buddha." ( Ven. Dhammananda 67)

The focus of this research and studies is to investigate, “Laotian Buddhist practice in terms of the Buddhist religious iconography and architectural form”. The iconographic expression is represented in its themes, languages, metaphors, and spiritual forms as seen through speculation and interpretation.

Although the language of Buddhist's Buddhology does not change, the collaboration of its society and cultures are always impermanent in both time and place. Symbols and themes, in terms of architecture, are not redefined but interpreted and adapted within the Buddhist religious expression. Its re-representation and reinterpretation is expected to be found in the contemporary Buddhist temple.
The selection of site must reflect some specific elements of the Buddhist religion in terms of culture, ritual, ceremony, festival, tradition, physical orientation, and the sacred building where the faith is practiced. The Buddhist cosmology of the site and the Buddhist monasteries are designed to face a body of water towards the east (a representation of awakening). The integration of water themes play a major role in cosmological imagery.* These elements form their own language through iconographic representation of imagery in Buddhist religious monastery and through its function within the ritual activities in the temple. The issue of the site selection is unlike the traditional or Laotian's mythology. The Buddhist Temple in American cities has been formed upon its own culture and history, removed from Laotian Buddhist religion. The so-called "congregation and contemplation" is related to both the American city and its' way of life. These investigations will allow me to determine the most suitable site for the focal point of the Laotian Buddhist Temple Center.

The program has been divided into three categories, reflecting three realms or aspects of Buddhist religious iconography and the Ultimate Goal of Buddha Dharma (the three worlds). The three primary Buddhist structures are: first, the various facilities needed to sustain the life of the monastery (Kuti or viharas); second, the stupa or pagoda (the Great Bodhi Tree); third, the imagery of Buddha, known as the lotus. These elements concerned with the contemporary issues can be explored through the public, private, suburban, ritualistic levels of the sanctuary and shrine. Whatever the form of the structure, the Buddhist worship involves circumambulation, a custom easily followed in the context of a freestanding stupa.

The vehicle of the Lao architecture studies is to search for the meanings in one 's culture and in particular, one's religious needs and the historic background in terms of the symbols, images and metaphors that it represents. In regards to the cave, sculptures, arts and other Laotian Buddhist elements, they begin to generate the formal strategy in the practice. This allows the architectural interpretation to integrate both organization and programmatic elements within the condition of the city and becoming an ideal within a contemporary society. Can a speculation of 'shrine or chatiya' be used theoretically? It represents both icon of the temple and the image of Buddha, what defines the complex relationship between icon and building? This leads to the investigation of the city's history, demographic and culture identity.