This thesis is concerned with the appropriation and abstraction of South-East Asian architectural traditions within the region’s resort tourism industry. Within recent architectural discourse, several resorts have been acclaimed for their apparent sensitivities towards the region’s vernacular traditions and for articulating a contextually appropriate path upon which Modern architecture could develop within South-East Asia. From within the region itself, several resorts have been promoted as exemplars of a regional acculturation of international architectural practice, and, as such, have assumed an important position in what is often a plaintive struggle to maintain an autonomous architectural culture within the region. Yet, despite utilising certain customary forms and materials which are imbued with regional cosmological significance, the region’s resort architecture has, with few exceptions, been designed by Western architects for a largely Western tourism market. As such, it is possible to conceptualise the region’s resort architecture as a direct manifestation of contemporary Western culture.
The study commences with an analysis of the sociocultural forces which underpin the recent celebration of vernacular architecture within Western societies. This analysis allows the study to illustrate the relationship between these forces and the ‘vernacular’ expressions of region’s resort architecture, and ultimately becomes a theoretical position from which to critique these expressions. Proceeding from this, the study investigates the implications which these expressions have with respect to South-East Asia’s internationally perceived cultural identity and to the region’s perception of their own architectural identity. In conclusion, the study demonstrates the importance of the relationship between the formal language of the region’s vernacular architecture and its social and environmental context, and illustrates how a critical and holistic approach could be taken by Western architects designing within this context.