A city that frequently draws tens of thousands of architects and architectural engineers to its country each year is the city of Vientiane, Laos. The primary reason behind this is because during its history, the city has been conquered and ruled by many different imperialistic nations, including Thailand, the Siamese, the Chinese, the French, the Americans, and the Vietnamese. This is important because each of these has left an indelible mark upon the culture and the design by which many of the structures have been created. This can be seen most readily in the manner in which their temple structures have been built.
As a reference, many of the temples that you would see today in Vientiane were first built during the 16th century when the capital of the Kingdom of Laos was moved to the city. As part of the new capital, the king had several elaborate temples built within the city limits. These were created to be the pillars of the new capital.
Over the centuries, most of these have been destroyed and rebuilt, often on several different occasions. What this has meant is that not only will you find remnants of the original architectural design within the rebuilt structures, but other influences are seen as well. In addition, a few other temples have sprung up over the centuries and now add to the architectural montage that you find in the city.
As you view many of the architectural designs within Vientiane, what you will find is that the primary influence is a mixture of French colonial, Buddhist, and traditional as well as modern Lao design. While there are other influences, such as Thailand, these are the predominant ones that you will see most on display.
Buddhist temples are the things you will find to be the greatest architectural achievements. Surprisingly, the oldest known temple in the area did not actually begin as a Buddhist temple. The Pha That Luang was actually created as a Hindu temple in the third century, but within centuries had been incorporated into the Buddhist realm. Because of its original origins you can still see some of the Hindu influence upon the structure.
While temples get the majority of the interest from those who come to this ancient city, the truth is that there are many architectural wonders that you will find in Vientiane. Here are but a few structures within the city whose architectural design are truly marvels that has drawn the attention of people from around the world.
In the 1960s, the Patuxai Arch was built by the Laos government, following their war of independence from France. As kind of an interesting jab at the French government, the victory arch was built to replicate the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Actually, this was intended to go a step beyond. This is an even grander structure than the one that is found in the capital city of France and can be seen for many miles.
While replicating many of the aspects of the French version, it is clear that this is truly a Laotian design. On the structure there are many mythical creatures, including such things as the kinnari, which is a half-woman, half-bird creature. The structure is also built with gateways on four sides, to more than is found on her counterpart in Paris. The four corners of the gateways to pick statues of King Naga, who was the mythical symbol of Laos. With a large pond and park located around the arch, this is truly a spectacular place to visit.
Chao Fa Ngum Statue
Another outstanding display in the city is the statue of Chao Fa Ngum. Built in 2003, the statute depicts King Fa Ngum, a 14th-century monarch, along with a small army of three elephants as he is welcomed into the city. This king is recognized as the one who established the Kingdom of Lane Xang, which is the precursor to the present country of Laos.
This statue is a common gathering place for the people of the city and is one of the most popular tourist attractions. The statute towers over the capital city and can be seen from miles away. The paved area surrounding it is easily accessible and the pedestal upon which the statue stands is truly remarkable. This is a fantastic architectural achievement and one you will surely not want to miss while visiting the country.
Chao Anouvong Park
In 1826, the people of Laos rebelled against the imperialistic control the Siamese had over Vientiane. The rebellion was led by Chao Anouvong, but after three years was crushed. Thus he became the last king of Vientiane.
To commemorate this great man and Laos’s history, Chao Anouvong Park was built in the year 2010. This was the 450th anniversary of the city and the park was commemorated in his name, as he is one of the most highly regarded rollers even among Laotian’s today.
The statue has devalued King holding his sword as he reaches out his hand for his people. Standing atop a giant pedestal which is surrounded by a platform area, this statue can be seen for miles around. At night-time the lights are fixed in such a way as to bring an even greater prominence to the fantastic structure. Because of its history and beautiful design this is one of those pieces you will surely want to visit as well.
While these are three of the most important architectural innovations created in the city over the last two decades, you will find that if you are the city that you will see glorious and amazing buildings and statues. While temples often are the destination for many tourists, consider that French colonial houses exist in the areas well and are quite extravagant. Many of the old French colonial buildings have been turned into government buildings now and are open for you to visit and enjoy.
Once again, because of the vast number of different cultures that have had influence over the country of Laos, you will see some very different architectural work here. It will astound you.