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March 30, 2008 / Bo Mackison

Thai Pavilion at Olbrich Gardens

Thai Pavilion

No nails, no screws, and no metal fasteners of any kind were used to craft the Thai pavilion that is the centerpiece of the Thai Garden in Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin. It was assembled by Thai craftsmen in Thailand, then dis-assembled and shipped to Madison. The Thai artisans then re-assembled the pavilion in the Gardens.

The open-air pavilion, called a “sala” in Thailand, is 40 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 30 feet high. It was gift to the University of Wisconsin-Madison from the Thai Chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association and the government of Thailand through its king and bears the Royal seal of the Thai crown.

Thai Pavilion

The Gardens feature a large reflection pool and uses plants suitable for Wisconsin climate that give the feel of those found in a Thai garden. There are ornamental grasses with the feel of bamboo – tall and with cane stems. There are hardy, large leafed plants, shrubs and trees, pruned to mimic the look of tropical plants.These plantings are designed to promote a serene setting – de-emphasizing color and emphasizing texture and form.

I will post late spring pictures (in later May or June, hopefully) to show the pavilion with its gardens – the lovely pools, the decorative glazed water jars and the sculptured tree art. Without a cover of snow, it is even more spectacular, and something well worth waiting to see.

Here are photographs of the Thai Pavilion taken in June.


  1. Lesley Smitheringale / Mar 30 2008 7:21 am

    Love these Barbara, particularly the second close-up which captures the golden decorative artwork so beautifully.

  2. davidlind / Mar 30 2008 1:08 pm

    We will look forward to that. Such an impressive gift. There must be a very strong bond between Thailand and Madison, Wisconsin.

  3. Aiyana / Mar 30 2008 2:01 pm

    Very interesting. And, the photos are gorgeous. Happy GTS,

  4. teresa / Mar 30 2008 6:38 pm

    I will be visiting Madison relatives this summer. I am definitely putting this on my ‘must see’ list.

  5. mon@rch / Mar 30 2008 10:25 pm

    Very cool for sure and love the photos!

  6. truddle / Mar 31 2008 8:13 am

    If no nails, no screws, and no metal fasteners of any kind were used, I’d love to know what they used. These are beautiful photo’s of a beautiful pavilion and look forward to later pictures with the gardens all in bloom.

  7. barbara / Mar 31 2008 8:42 am

    Truddle ~ wooden pegs! Can you imagine? I’m looking forward to spring in Olbrich myself.

  8. HeyJules / Mar 31 2008 8:52 am

    I CAN imagine! My father built my entire bookshelf and fireplace mantle the same way. It is all held together with wooden pegs.

    Beautiful photos B!

  9. aullori / Mar 31 2008 5:17 pm

    wow that’s amazing! It reminds me (tho very rustic of course unlike these shots) of some of the log cabins built in these parts. (I plan to take a photo shoot of many of them this summer) In which only wooden nails are used and with a few none used at all! It makes for an amazing sense of both resourcefulness as well as bringing home the old adage of “they don’t make things like they used too!” These are beautiful shots – I can’t wait til your spring shots!

  10. Gandalf / Apr 1 2008 9:21 am

    That’s a lot of work. I had enough trouble putting together play houses, bikes and the like late Christmas eve (or really early Christmas AM). I would have flunked the pavilion test.

  11. ladypercy / Apr 2 2008 12:46 pm

    I love the details you captured in these pictures and especially how you framed the first one. Great work.

  12. gscot / Jul 16 2008 1:42 pm

    Having visited Thialand several times I am anxious to visit the pavillion when I am in Madison late July. It will again remind me of pleasant times and beautiful architecture
    of Thialand.

  13. QuoinMonkey / Mar 17 2009 9:54 am

    Bo, that is a beautiful place, especially surrounded by Winter snow. And no nails, no screws, and no metal fasteners. I hope I get to visit there some time. It’s not that far-fetched! Thanks for providing the link.

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