The Features of Sino-Portuguese Architecture


Phuket Island is best known as a beach resort, and the old architectural within the busy city area often goes unnoticed. The main architecture to be found in old Phuket Town is Sino-Portuguese buildings i.e. the shophouses and mansions.

One of the main features of these shophouses is the verandas at the front which join to form a shaded walkway, this is known as a five-footway. The five-footway also functions as a pedestrian walkway and are attractively ornamented by a succession of arcades. Complex early 19th century European and 16th century Renaissance-style rendered designs grace the fronts of the shophouses. The interiors are a combine Chinese and European decor, and most boast a large central living room with ceramic tiles used as the flooring, most of which would have been imported from Italy, designed with old elaborate European designs. Most of the furniture is intricately carved wood, typical of Chinese furniture of the time, while wall hangings and other decor similarly recalls old China.


Original Sino-Portuguese houses would have to have been protected from both sunlight and thunderstorms whilst still allowing ventilation. To solve this problem wooden shutters were installed on the outside of windows. Wood shutters not only provided shading to the interior, but also allow ventilation.

Each of these beautiful Sine-Portuguese shophouses would have been complemented with an intricately carved Chinese door and individual decor.

By the 1930’s the architecture had developed into a more European – Sino-Thai style. However, the decorative forms of the earlier period were still incorporated.

Some of the mansions and shophouses in Phuket have been beautifully restored, with many still inhabited by local families.


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