A Photo Tour – The Black House (Baan Dam) of Chiang Rai
A Photo Tour of The Black House (Baan Dam)
Tucked away in a nondescript looking neighbourhood, about 10 kms north of Chiang Rai is the much talked about but surprisingly rarely visited Baan Dam, or the Black House. After visiting The White Temple and being blown away by what we saw, we set off to the Black House where we thought we might see a temple contrasting the White Temple, like an evil twin of sorts. Not even close. Much like The White Temple, Baan Dam is still being constructed, was started in the 90’s and is designed by another visionary Thai artist, Thawan Duchanee. However, the similarities end there.
The Black House is actually a collection of about a dozen or so buildings (one of which Duchanee lives in) that are all very different in design but have all of the following in common: they are designed and built by expert craftsmen as the wood work on the beams, tables and chairs and metal design throughout most of the buildings are world class; they all tend to use a lot of natural elements like exotic woods, animal skins, furs, horns and bones (from the artist’s personal collection) with an emphasis on things typically found in cold climates. The use of dark woods, metals and paint give the whole area a creepy feel, but the warm earth tones and expert placements of organic elements like stones, trees and wood, gives it a strangely warm feel. There is an emphasis on death as antique hunting and fishing equipment can be found throughout alongside the exotic animal relics. The only living animal found on site is a massive Boa Constrictor located just beside one of the rows of black houses. The eery emotion evoked by the snake is exactly how we felt walking around the grounds. It felt like we were on the set of a music video or science fiction film, totally surreal.
We loved the Black House. We loved how courageous and evocative it is. The intricate detail found in all of the wood carvings was awe inspiring. We even got to watch one of the carvers (an apprentice of Duchanee) working on a small piece of a column which was a real treat. It had taken him close to a week to complete a piece about the size of my head! Much like The White Temple, we had never ever seen anything quite like this and probably never will again. Somehow the artist has taken death and darkness and created something truly beautiful, a true visionary.
If you go, we highly recommend that you hire a guide as there are no descriptions of anything and if it wasn’t for our guide we wouldn’t have appreciated this unusual work of art nearly as much.
Here is our photo tour of the Black House (Baan Dam):
Ross & Alyse