Mutual relationship between taboo of faith and house space: A case study of “licit architecture” in 70 Rai, Khlong Toei, slum improvement project area, Bangkok, Thailand

Mutual relationship between taboo of faith and house space: A case study of “licit architecture” in 70 Rai, Khlong Toei, slum improvement project area, Bangkok, Thailand

1 Introduction

1.1 Background and objective

In this paper, we focus on 70 Rai, a slum improvement project area in Khlong Toei, Bangkok, Thailand.[Note 1)][Note 2)] The people living in 70 Rai built their living spaces by illegal extensions of houses, that is, their practices tend to be illegal and against the official laws. However, these practices are accepted.1 We defined a house with these practices as a “licit architecture.” It can be seen as a house built or lived by these illegal kinds of practices. In the first part of this study, what licit is in the everyday life of the area is investigated. The aim of this paper, which is based on the concept of “licit architecture,” is to show that various taboos of faith are strongly dominating the use of a house.

Slums and settlements of the urban poor who live in severe living environments have increased, particularly in developing countries. Improving the living environment of slums is one of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) today. In the past, governments in all the countries assumed that slums should be improved or cleared. They attempted to improve the environment by clearance and housing supply. However, these kinds of projects have provided only physical improvement in slums. Moreover, these projects also neglected the close relationship between the living spaces and the socio-cultural context of slums. As a result, people in slums do not accept these projects. Based on these facts, we must develop an improvement method to apply to a slum today. We should capture the features of the living spaces in the slums, including not only the physical aspect but also the socio-cultural aspect.

Slums are usually regarded as unsanitary and disorderly. The negative perspective toward slums is becoming the past. Today, slums provide a housing resource for the urban poor. Furthermore, slums are also settlements having a unique living culture. The culture is different from that of modern urban planning. We assume that the residents in a slum create their own culture, including informal practices.

Almost all architectural studies on slums have researched spatial principles. These studies focused on the informal practices conducted by the residents of slums. Wakita and Yao clarified the spatial compositions of a squatter settlement in Cambodia.2 Kamalipour studied informal spatial formations in an informal settlement in Thailand.3 However, experts and governments tend to classify slums as formal/informal and legal/illegal. However, these dichotomies cannot capture the diversity of the practices of the residents well. At present, some studies have tried to avoid such kind of dichotomy strategically. Funo et al. pointed out how living spaces are related to the colonial rules and customary laws in Kampung Luar Batang of Jakarta, Indonesia.4, 5 Okyere et al. pursued the interaction between the behaviors of residents and the living spaces in an informal settlement of Ghana.6 Ono and Kidokoro also discussed how residents change and mix formal rules and customary laws.7

Based on the above review, we have researched the spatial principles in 70 Rai. They include the government-introduced construction rules to restrict the height and clogging of a house strictly in 70 Rai. While the residents of 70 Rai were aware of the construction rules, they did not obey them. In a previous paper,1[Note 3)] we considered the reasons they practiced illegal architectural practices in the case of alley spaces. Consequently, we clarified that neighboring residents accept these illegal practices if they can be regarded as licit.

Based on this previous paper, we could define “licit architecture” as houses constructed by architectural practices, where even if the practices are illegal they are accepted licitly. Abraham and Schendel studied the effects of illegal practices on cross-border trade. They investigated how people could or could not accept that their illegal activities deviated from the national law or the modern law. They referred to such kinds of values as “licit/illicit.”8 This concept was applied to some studies on transnational economic activities. Ogawa also evaluated buyers of Chinese-made copy goods.9 Rungmanee considered the cross-border activities related to people’s livelihoods.10 The concept was also was applied to some studies of urban development and governance systems.11 Rao researched how “licit/illicit” boundaries are formed by a slum relocation project in India.12 Bjone et al. studied how residents formed new housing construction rules and shared them as “licit/illicit” after an earthquake in Ishinomaki, Japan.13 “Licit/illicit” is a generic concept. We also assume in this paper that this concept can be applied to architectural studies.

Licit/illicit behavior is different from formal/informal or legal/illegal behaviors. The standard formal/informal or legal/illegal behaviors are determined by experts and governments. They assume the practices of the residents as informal or illegal if the practice is against the official law. In contrast, the standard of licit/illicit is determined by residents. We can reveal the diversity in their practices by the “licit/illicit” concept. Furthermore, we can understand they have constructed their living spaces from their points of view of a licit/illicit dichotomy. Our outcomes could be applied to develop a new slum improvement method. Some studies have used “licit/illicit” with formal/informal and legal/illegal concepts. This study assumes that these concepts could also be applied to the customary laws and customs relevant to the everyday practices of residents.

Especially, this paper tries to demonstrate “licit architecture” by focusing on the interaction between the taboo of Buddhism and spiritual faith and house spaces. Thai people have followed both Buddhism and spiritual faith for a long time. According to the residents in 70 Rai, they should receive some merits because of their offerings to Buddha and spirits. In regard to the merit, a 63-year-old male in Case A (Table 1) desired to protect his house from a disaster. A nearly 55-year-old female in Case I also requested for health. Concurrently, to maintain faith, they must observe the taboo. This leads to the regulation of their living spaces. Can they observe the taboo in their living spaces? This paper assumes that their practices deliberately deviate from the taboo, because “licit/illicit” behaviors reflect their values.

Outline of researched houses
Building formats Extending forward model Full two-story model Extending forward and backward model Extending forward, backward, and second floor model Interview only
Researched houses A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R
Informant ▵63 ○45 ○73 ▵81 ○72 ○68 ○42 ○75 ○55 ○47 ○53 ○48 ○62 ▵50 ▵45 ○59 ○49
Site area: m2 60 60 60 60 60 90 90 60 60 60 90 90 102 102 102 60 102 60
Building area: m2 46.8 45.5 46.9 48.7 61 71.9 88.6 46.7 52.2 74.7 78 100.1 83.3 93.5 120.2
Total floor area: m2 84.5 90 86.1 113.5 144.9 138.9 94.2 97.3 157 152.3 181.6
Floor: F 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 2 2 2
Structure: 1F/2F RC/- RC/W RC/W RC/W RC/W RC/W RC/W RC/W RC/W RC/W RC/W RC/W RC/- RC/- RC/- RC/W RC/W RC/W
Use D D D D D D + S D D D D D + S A D D D A D D
Ownership P P P P P P P P P P P R P P P R P P
Build year 1985 1985 1985 1985 1985 1985 1986 1985 1986 1985 1985 1985 1986
Years (-2018) 32 32 32 14 25 32 32 32 31 32 27 19 32 32 13 32 31
Household 5 6 11 4 6 9 17 3 5 16 2 5 4 7 6 13 5
Birthplace K Ne Ne K C C K K K Ne C Ne K K Ne
  • Informant / [▵] Male [〇] Female Structure / [RC] Concrete [W] Wood Use / [D] Dwelling [S] Shop [A] Apart Ownership / [P] Private [R] Rental.
  • Birthplace / [K] Khlong Toei [Ne] Northeastern [C] Central.

This paper clarifies “licit architecture” by the following procedure. First, we determine the taboo shared among the residents. Second, we collect their practices that deliberately deviate from the taboo and their discourses that justify their practices. Third, we find out the taboo that is still observed. Fourth, we ensure these practices and concepts are incorporated into their houses. We clarify these procedures from the data collected by our intensive field surveys, including drawings of 17 houses, a local shrines’ map, and interviews with 18 residents.[Note 4)]

1.2 Buddhism and spiritual faith

Buddhism is the national religion in Thailand. Thai people have generally followed Theravada Buddhism. Buddhists believe in metempsychosis. Therefore, they practice tham bun, a merit-making process, to accumulate virtues for the next life. Tham bun is the observation of five commandments: not killing, not stealing, not having informal sexual intercourse, not laying, and not drinking alcohol. In addition, not holding rituals in houses is recommended strongly. These practices are not mostly different from region to region in Thailand. The Sangha law manages all the monks in the country.

Thai people tend to connect natural phenomena with spirits. It is quite common for Thai people to believe that spirits give not only the benefit people but also cause harm to them.14 They believe that they can obtain benefits from spirits only when appropriately repostponing spirits.

Spiritual faith is a local belief and varies from region to region.[Note 5)] It is to be noted that 70 Rai has completed over 30 years since its establishment in 1985. Almost all the residents were born in Khlong Toei. It could be said that some sort of newly, specific spiritual faith was created and practiced in 70 Rai. We collect actual states of the spiritual faith from their practices and discourses.

2 Current Condition of House Spaces in 70 Rai

2.1 Facilities and building formats related to faith

There are many shrines for landowner spirits in 70 Rai (Figure 1). There are two shrines to guard inside the area, and two Buddhist temples outside the area.[Note 6)] We find a total of 146 local shrines to guard an individual land. We will describe these shrines later.

Researched houses and shrines

The building forms are different for 70 Rai and Ban Karun, where the poorest people have lived although next to 70 Rai. In 70 Rai, there are generally two-story buildings on 60-m2 sites. The building formats can be divided into several methods, such as “construction rule model,” “extending forward model,” and “full two-story building model.”[Note 7)] Concurrently, Ban Karun has mostly one-story buildings on 60 or 102 m2 sites. Moreover, in 70 Rai, the building formats can be divided into “construction rule models,” “extending forward models,” “extending forward and backward models,” and “extending forward (and backward) and second-floor models.”[Note 8)]

2.2 Spatial composition, structure, and approach of using house spaces

Here, we show the outlines of the houses in the area. The average total floor area of each type of house on the 60 m2 sites, “extending forward model,” is 74.8 m2, whereas that of the “full two-story building model” is 95.8 m2. The average total floor area of the 90-m2 sites, “extending forward model,” is 141.9 m2, and of the “full two-story building model” is 154.7 m2. The average total floor area of the 102-m2 sites, “extending forward and backward model,” is 92.3 m2. The average number of members of one household is 7.2. Only three nuclear families are living in Cases H, K, and L of the researched 18 houses. The others are extended families. Totally 13 of the 18 houses were built in 1985. Building ages are 30 years on average. The residents have leased individual lands from the Port Authority, and 16 of the 18 households have their own houses.

A spatial feature of each house is the distinction between the inside and the outside (Figures 2 and 3). Nai bâan is the inside space. The residents refer the space in front of the nai bâan as nâa bâan. They also refer the space in the rear of the nai bâan as lǎŋ bâan. They refer the outside space having the same width as the nâa bâan as nɔ̂ɔk bâan. These outside spaces and rá-biaŋ (veranda) belong to the outside nai bâan. In comparison, the living,[Note 9)] hɔ̂ŋ nɔɔn (bedroom), hɔ̂ŋ khrua (kitchen), hɔ̂ŋ náam (toilet and bathroom), and hɔ̂ŋ phrá (altar room) belong to the nai bâan. All the houses have a hɔ̂ŋ nɔɔn and a hɔ̂ŋ náam. Nâa bâans can be found in 14 of the 17 houses and living in 10 of the 17 houses. Other spaces mostly depend on the number of hɔ̂ŋ nɔɔn.


Plan and things of faith. *1. Although Cases A, B, D, E, F, G, K, and I have sǎo èek and sǎo thoo, their positions are shown only by Cases A, E, G, and I. The informants of Cases B, D, F, and K did not know their positions. *2. We collected the information on the orientations of the residents’ heads when sleeping from 70 residents. *3. We were not allowed to enter the second floor in Cases G and H


Plan and section. *1. House B does not show positions of sǎo èek and sǎo too because the informant did not know their positions

As shown in Figure 3, the spatial composition and structure are different for each house. In the houses of 70 Rai, the nâa bâan is in front of the nai bâan. The nai bâan is composed of living spaces, hɔ̂ŋ náam, hɔ̂ŋ khrua, and hɔ̂ŋ nɔɔn. While the number of hɔ̂ŋ nɔɔn is increased, the areas of nâa bâan and living spaces are decreased in some houses. Rooms on the second floor are mostly hɔ̂ŋ nɔɔn, but sometimes rá-biaŋ and hɔ̂ŋ phrá are added.

In the houses of 70 Rai, the nai bâan is composed of a beam–column structure. Concrete posts and concrete block walls stand on concrete foundation bases. The main material of the second floor is wood. Second floor posts are connected to the first floor posts. The second floor is composed of second floor beams, joists, and floorboards. The roof materials are slates and tins. The roof structure is formed by a ridgepole, purlins, rafters, and timber bars. Wallboards are attached to the posts, studs, and strips. Concurrently, the structure of the nâa bâan is different from that of the nai bâan. It is composed of concrete blocks, supporting posts, eaves, rafters, timber bars, and slates or tins.

In Ban Karun, each house space is composed of a nâa bâan, nai bâan, and lǎŋ bâan. In the nai bâan, the living space is in front of the hɔ̂ŋ nɔɔn, hɔ̂ŋ khrua, and hɔ̂ŋ náam. The hɔ̂ŋ nɔɔn gives priority to the nâa bâan and the living space.

In Ban Karun, the structures of the houses present differences between the parts supplied by the military and by the residents. The supplied part is a wall structure. C channel steels in concrete–block walls play the roles of beams and a ridgepole. Slates are attached to the steels. In contrast, the extended part is a column–beam structure. Wooden posts stand on concrete foundation bases. The roof is composed of posts, beams, rafters, timber bars, and slates or tins. When the second floor is extended, it is constructed behind a ridgepole, and the second floor posts can stand on concrete block walls directly. The other structure is the same as the “extending forward model.” The nâa bâan is surrounded by walls and a roof, in all the building models. In contrast, the lǎŋ bâan has no walls but only a roof.

The residents sleep, cook, eat, and wash in the nai bâan. They use beds, bedclothes, and sofas for sleeping. They use refrigerators, stoves, ranges, and sinks for keeping foods, cooking, and washing dishes. They also use washing machines and clothing poles for drying stuff. They have almost done their activities excluding sleeping in the nâa bâan and lǎŋ bâan.

3 Faith and House Spaces

3.1 Things and rituals of faith

The Buddhist altars in the houses are classified into three kinds (Photo 1). First, the hîŋ phrá is a shelf-type altar. Second, the tó mùu buu-chaa is a table-type altar. Third, the hɔ̂ŋ phrá is an altar room to have only a hîŋ phrá and tó mùu buu-chaa inside.


Things of Buddhism and spiritual faith

The things related to spiritual faith are also of three kinds. The first posts are sacred posts called as the sǎo èek (the first post) and the sǎo thoo (the second, or continued post). According to a 68-year-old female in Case F, when these posts are erected on the ground, the residents must perform ron sǎo èek. Subsequently, a construction ritual is conducted calling a religious leader. The residents decide only the locations of these posts and building orders. The second is phâa yan (charm), written on spell paper. A 63-year-old male in Case A said that phâa yan stuck on a lintel, protects inside the house. The third are shrines to worship the câo thîi (land god or landowner spirit). câo thîi protects each site. The residents refer one-legged shrines for câo thîi to sǎan prá phuum, and four or six-legged shrines to sǎan câo thîi. In this paper, these shrines are described as sǎan.

Tools related to the Buddhist faith are generally placed in the nai bâan. The tools can be seen in almost all the houses except Case F. Cases F and G do not have a hîŋ phrá. The hîŋ phrá is in the hɔ̂ŋ nɔɔn in 11 cases; there are 10 altars in the living space, 1 altar in the hɔ̂ŋ phrá, and two altars in another place. Four houses have the hɔ̂ŋ phrá. Tó mùu buu-chaa is seen in five houses, and each altar is in the hɔ̂ŋ phrá, except for Case B.

Things related to spiritual faith are usually placed outside the nai bâan, except for Cases C and Q. Sǎo èek and sǎo thoo are in eight houses.[Note 10)] Seven phâa yan are seen in six houses. There are five phâa yan in the nâa bâan, and one phâa yan in the nɔ̂ɔk bâan and hɔ̂ŋ nɔɔn.[Note 11)] Eight sǎans are in four houses. There are two sǎans in the nâa bâan and rá-biaŋ, whereas there are three sǎans in the lǎŋ bâan and one sǎan in the living space.[Note 12)]

3.2 Taboo of faith and residents’ practices

We describe the taboo of faith and the related practices by the residents based on the data collected by the interviews from the residents. We clarify the taboo by showing their discourses, such as “must-do” and “must not do,” and their practices.

The first taboo is the existence of things related to faith, concretely important posts inside the house. A 49-year-old female in Case R said that each house must have sǎo èek, sǎo thoo, and sǎan in 70 Rai.[Note 13)] However, we have already shown that not all houses have these things. A 42-year-old female in Case G said that at least one of the sǎo èek, sǎo thoo, or sǎan is necessary. A 45-year-old male in Case O also said that all the things are not necessary.

According to the residents’ discourses, we can classify the taboo of the existence of things into three types.

  • a1) Each house must have a sǎo èek, sǎo thoo, and sǎan.
  • a2) Each house must have at least one of the sǎo èek, sǎo thoo, and sǎan.
  • a3) Each house does not have to have a sǎo èek, sǎo thoo, and sǎan.

The second taboo is the layout of the things related to faith. A 42-year-old female in Case G said that the sǎan must be put at positions where there is sunlight in 70 Rai.[Note 14)] For example, the informants in Cases A, B, K, and N removed the roof above the sǎan. When a sǎan in Case B was established, the roof above it was removed (Figure 4). A 45-year-old female in Case B said to observe this taboo, the roof cannot be extended above the sǎan. Hereby, we find that the residents must remove the roof above the sǎan to give it sunlight. In addition, we have already described that the things related to spiritual faith must be placed outside the nai bâan. According to Anumanrachathon, a legendary historian, writer, and one of the intellectuals representing Thailand, a human being and a spirit cannot live in the same house.14 We can find the practice in the following example. An informant in Case K reduced the area of the hɔ̂ŋ phrá and expanded the area of the rá-biaŋ to establish a sǎan. A 53-year-old female in Case G said she can put the sǎan only in the second floor rá-biaŋ, outside the nai bâan. Consequently, we can point out the taboos of the things related to spiritual faith as the things that must be placed outside the nai bâan.


Setting shrines and transformation by extensions and remodeling

Consistent with the residents’ discourses, we can classify the taboos of the layout of things into two types:

  • b1) The sǎan must be laid out in a position to have sunlight.
  • b2) Things related to spiritual faith must be laid outside the nai bâan.

The third taboo is the orientation of things. A 49-year-old female in Case R said that the residents must not face the front side of the hîŋ phrá, tó mùu buu-chaa, and sǎan, and their heads while sleeping should be toward south or west. She said this because they believe that south and west directions could be associated with death.[Note 15)] In contrast, they do not always observe the taboo of orientation. For example, we could count that in 20 of the 29 altars, 4 of the 8 sǎans, and heads of 39 of 70 people in total while sleeping faced south or west. A 68-year-old male in Case F told that the front sides of all of these things must not face only the west. A 63-year-old male in Case A also told that the front sides of all of these things can face not only south but also west.

According to the residents’ discourses, we can classify the taboo of the orientation of things into three types.

  • c1) The front sides of the hîŋ phrá, tó mùu buu-chaa, and sǎan, and their heads while sleeping must not face south and west.
  • c2) Their front sides must not be faced toward the west.
  • c3) Their front sides can be faced toward south and west.

The fourth taboo is of the difference in the heights of things, especially the height of the place of the sǎan. A 53-year-old female in Case K said that the residents must place the sǎan in the highest position in the houses because Thai people tend to associate the height of placing things with social or religious hierarchy.15 Nevertheless, they sometimes do not observe this idea to place the sǎan in the highest position in the houses. While the rá-biaŋ in Case B is on the second floor, the sǎan is in the nâa bâan on the first floor. Looking at the 146 sǎans in 70 Rai, only 20 sǎans are on the second floor, and the other 126 sǎans are in the nâa bâan or nɔ̂ɔk bâan on the first floor.

According to the residents’ discourses and practices, we can classify the taboo of the difference in the heights of things into two types.

  • d1) The sǎan must be laid out at the highest position in the house.
  • d2) The sǎan must not be laid out at the highest position around the houses.

The fifth taboo is the construction, removal, and relocation of things. Some informants said that the residents must perform rituals to construct, remove, and relocate the sǎo èek, sǎo thoo, and sǎan (Case A, 63-year-old male; Case E, 72-year-old female; Case G, 42-year-old female; Case I, 55-year-old female).[Note 16)] They can only construct, remove, and relocate these things after performing rituals. For the rituals, they call religious leaders to obtain the permission from land gods and spirits. Although the sǎan in Case B is the second generation, the informant rebuilt it at the same location as the first generation. This is because they do not basically change their place. This taboo can be applied only to the sǎo èek, sǎo thoo, and sǎan. We could not find out other practices that deviated from it.

According to the residents’ discourses, we can classify the taboo of the construction, removal, and relocation of things as follows.

  • e1) Sǎo èek, sǎo thoo, and sǎan must not be constructed, removed, and relocated without rituals.

These taboos are related to spiritual faith, except for the taboo of orientation. In Buddhism, the residents practice tham bun to accumulate virtues. If they have not practiced it, they will not necessarily suffer from serious damages, such as disaster. Concurrently, according to a 45-year-old male in Case O, it is recognized that spirits provide benefits as well as cause harm. Thus, it is believed that spirits enforce sanctions. We consider one of these reasons as to why the taboos are passed on even today.

Moreover, the taboos appear to operate to regulate house spaces. For example, all the spaces, except the living space in Case N, were extended. Then, the household established the sǎan after completing all the extensions in 1986. Moreover, they have not extended and remodeled their house since then because they must observe the taboos of the layout, construction, removal, and relocation. Therefore, they cannot repair and extend the roof above it and cannot extend their house. Besides, in Case K, the household must expand the rá-biaŋ on the second floor to construct the sǎan, as shown before. In this way, we can say that the taboo is closely related to the house spaces, not only allowing expansions and remodeling but also causing obstructions.

3.3 “Licit architecture” and taboo of faith

In the following part, we present a deeper investigation than in the previous paper on what “licit architecture” is and which requirements are necessary to call some activities in architecture “licit architecture.” First, we will classify the taboo into three types as follows. The first type are the taboos that can be seen extensively in Thai society including 70 Rai, such as a1), b1), c1), and e1). Anumanrachathon once pointed out the same as a1), b1), and e1).14 Tanaka also pointed out the same as c1).15 The second type is the taboos seen only in 70 Rai. It has two subdivisions. The first subdivision is that the nature of the taboos of the first type is maintained, whereas the taboo itself is changed or modified, such as a2) and c2). The second subdivision is the taboos that cannot be seen outside 70 Rai, such as b2) and d1). For example, the nâa bâan and the lǎŋ bâan have specific spaces in 70 Rai. Therefore, we consider b2) as a specific taboo in 70 Rai. Moreover, the sǎan is placed outside houses, except for 70 Rai, and its elevation is not important.16 d1) is also a specific taboo in 70 Rai. The third type of taboo has already lost restrictions on the practices of the residents to break the first and second taboos, such as a3), c3), and d2). Thus, each inconsistent taboo has coexisted in 70 Rai. Tsumura reported a similar phenomenon about the rules and beliefs relevant to spiritual faith in northeast Thailand.17

It is obvious that both the second taboo toward the first and the third toward the second deviate from the former. The residents’ practices often deviate from the existing taboo when they cannot observe it anymore. For example, in Case B, the households placed the sǎan on the opposite side of the entrance. Its front side faces the west. According to the observation of the taboo of placing things, they had to lay out the sǎan only on this position. Besides, when they established it, the religious leaders said that its front side should face the entrance. As a result, its front side must face the west. Specifically, when they cannot observe the existing taboo at the house spaces, they deviate from it.

In the following, we consider how the residents recognize the deviation from the taboo, focusing on their discourses. For example, a 63-year-old male in Case A told about the taboo of orientation as he inevitably faces the front side of the sǎan to the west to adapt to the house space. Moreover, a 59-year-old female in Case Q said about the taboo of the existence of things that she justifies herself by saying that she has no choice but not to have a sǎo èek, sǎo thoo, and sǎan. A 45-year-old male in Case O interpreted that he should not establish a sǎo èek, sǎo thoo and, sǎan because he cannot appropriately respond to spirits. Thus, they justify the deviation from the taboo by various discourses.

In addition to the above residents’ discourses, we analyze all their practices that allow or do not allow deviation from the taboo. In our previous paper, we pointed out that they judged the correctness of illegal construction practices by seeing whether the same kinds of practices are implemented in surrounding buildings.1 Therefore, we argued that the more their practices are seen in many buildings, the more correctness of the practice is assured. When this argument is applied to a taboo, there are two matters based on which others cannot judge whether a taboo is observed or deviated. One of them is the existence of the sǎo èek and the sǎo thoo because both the posts look similar to other posts. Besides, we cannot confirm the posts are sǎo èek or ordinary posts without asking the residents. The other is based on the front sides of the hîŋ phrá and tó mùu buu-chaa and their heads while sleeping. This is because we cannot see those scenarios without entering a house. Except for these two points, we can observe their practices and decide whether they are relevant to the taboo.

We analyze the practices that are relevant to the taboo at every researched house (Table 2). We find that the residents are still observing b1), b2), and e1). Moreover, as described before, although the third type of taboo is modified to the first and second types, the restriction of the practices related to the first and second types are lost. Their practices can be seen in all the researched houses, except for Case K. Thus, they are still observing the taboos of the layout, construction, removal, and relocation. In contrast, they intentionally tend to deviate from the taboos of the existence of things, orientation, and elevation. This result corresponds with that of a resident in Case B prioritizing the taboo of the existence of things and the layout over that of the orientation.

Observed or deviated taboos in researched houses
Taboo of faith*2 Removal Layout Existence Orientation Elevation
e1 b1 b2 a1 a2 a3 c1 c2 c3 d1 d2
Researched houses*1 A × × × × ×
B × × × × ×
C × × × ×
D × × × ×
E × × × ×
F × × × ×
G × × × × ×
I × × × × × × ×
J × × × ×
K × × × × ×
M × × × ×
N × × × × ×
O × × × ×
Q × × × ×
% 100 80 80 29 36 36 29 36 36 40 60
  • Taboo of faith / [✓] Match [×] Does not match [—] No data.
  • *1. Cases H, L, and P are left out from this table.
  • *2. Taboo of faith (a1–e1) is the same as in Figure 5.

Based on the above, we consider the taboos from the viewpoint of “licit/illicit” schema. In Figure 5, we arrange various taboos in a circle-shaped figure, divided into five equal parts. Two arcs separate inside of the circle. The first type of taboo is on the inside arcs (a1, b1, c1, and e1). The second type of taboo is outside the arc of the first type (a2, b2, c2, and d1). The third type of taboo is outside the arc of the second type (a3, c3, and d2). Each arc indicates the taboo to restrict the residents’ practices. Grey area inside the arc indicates their living area.


Concept of “licit architecture” in 70 Rai

A taboo restricts unacceptable practices to maintain faith properly. This is the same as the first and second types of taboo. However, these taboos cannot be classified as “illicit” because the third type of taboo deviated from them. In other words, the residents accept that their practices deviated from the taboos of the existence of things, orientation, and elevation. In contrast, they are still observing the taboos of the layout of things, construction, removal, and relocation. Moreover, we cannot find out whether their practices deviated from these taboos. We can classify only the taboos of the layout, construction, removal, and relocation as “illicit.” In contrast, we can classify the taboos of the existence of things, orientation, and elevation as “licit.”

As a result, we can define the “licit architecture” in 70 Rai as the house that deviates from the taboos of the existence of things, orientation, and elevation; at the same time, the residents observe the taboos of the layout, construction, removal, and relocation.

4 Conclusion

This study focused on the interaction between the house spaces and the taboos of faith in 70 Rai. Consequently, we demonstrated “licit architecture” from the following processes. First, we captured the taboos recognized by the residents: A) the existence of religious things, B) layout, C) orientation, D) elevation, and E) construction, removal, and relocation. Second, we identified that some of the practices by the residents caused deviations from the taboos and that they accepted their practices. They intentionally changed the taboos, such as A), C), and D). They simultaneously justified those practices. Third, we found the taboos that are still observed by them, such as B) and E). We could classify A), C), and D) as “licit,” and conversely B) and E) as “illicit.” Fourth, we demonstrated how the “licit/illicit” concept is reflected by the houses. The residents expand and remodel their houses to observe appropriately B) and E). In contrast, they intentionally change A), C), and D) to fit their lives into the existing house spaces. We concluded that “licit architecture” are the houses in which their practices of “licit/illicit” are reflected. The method in this study is the same as in our previous one. It focused on the practices of residents to deviate from the modern law.1 In other words, by replacing the religious taboos dealt with in this paper with the modern law and the customary law, it is possible to clarify the “licit architecture associated with them.

Finally, we would like to examine future issues regarding “licit architecture.” In this study, we demonstrated “licit architecture” by classifying the residents’ practices as obeying or deviating from the taboos and categorizing them as “licit” or “illicit.” However, it is uncertain that modern law, customary law, and customs can cover all the practices of slum life. We may have overlooked the order created there, such as communication between the residents, building construction, and bartering. Modern law, customary law, and custom do not always cover all the norms developed in daily life practice. We believe that elucidating what cannot be covered is the true value of “licit architecture.”

The analysis areas of the “licit architecture” are shown below (Table 3). The categories of this concept are the following. First, it is “inside” or “outside” of the modern law/customary law/custom. Second, in the above “inside” case, the practices of the people are “observance” or “deviation” from them. Third, each “observance,” “deviation,” and “outside” is “licit” or “illicit.” From the above categories, the following six areas can be identified as the analysis areas of “licit architecture.” In other words, in the case of “inside” of the modern law, customary law, and custom, these are I “observance” and “licit,” II “observance” and “illicit,” III “deviation” and “licit,” IV “deviation” and “illicit.” Moreover, there are two categories “outside” of the modern law, customary law, and custom: V “licit” and IV “illicit.” In the above, I and IV are obvious phenomena. Therefore, it can be understood that the main subjects of analysis of “licit architecture” are II, III, V, and VI. In this article, only II and III are investigated. In the future, V and VI should be pursued, and methodologies are necessary for that analysis.

Analyzed areas of “licit architecture”
Laws and custom Inside them Outside them
Observance Deviation
Licit I III V
Illicit II IV VI


The authors have no conflict of interest.

Funding information

No funding information is provided.

Source: Online Library, Wiley

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