Architecture of Mrigadayavan Palace

ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY

King Rama VI wanted this seaside palace to be a humble royal residence. The palace’s design was to be simple, yet elegant, and made to accommodate the tropical seaside climate. King Rama VI made preliminary sketches for the seaside palace, and Italian architect Ercole Pietro Manfredi (1883 - 1973) implemented his designs and oversaw the construction of the palace.

Ercole Manfredi

Manfredi studied at Albertina Academy of Fine Arts, and was employed by the Siamese government in Bangkok. His works include various royal residences and public institutions in Thailand, such as Chakrabongse House (1909–1910), Maliwan Mansion (1917), Sa Pathum Palace, and the renovation of the Borom Phiman Hall and modification of the ceiling of Dusit Mahaprasad Hall in the Grand Palace. Manfredi’s style ranges from Venetian Gothic to Modernist, whilst incorporating Thai traditional styles.

Architectural Design

Mrigadayavan Palace’s unique architectural style combined both Thai and Western influences, and harmoniously integrates the natural environment with the structure. The Palace consists of 16 teak buildings connected by balconies and corridors, and 23 staircases, built in a manner combining the Thai method of elevating buildings on pillars and Western style and detail.

A concrete floor was laid underneath each building as a walking path. These elevated open buildings are suitable for a tropical climate and flat landscape, and also enables air flows through all buildings, which provide ventilation and prevent humidity. In addition, high ceilings and panelled fretwork in each room do not only add beauty to the buildings but also perform as great ventilation system, in which the heat would flow upwards through the ventilated fretwork, while cold wind would pass through windows and doors to keep the rooms cool. This elevated floor also prevents wild animals from ascending palace buildings and the security officers could also monitor the palace more conveniently. The palace also uses casement windows and leaving space between the hip roof (panya in Thai) and the high ceiling for ventilation. The roof is covered by rhombus tiles, which keep out sunlight and rain. The niches at the base of the 1080 pillars are meant to be filled with water to keep out ants. The overall length of the palace is 399 meters. There are 22 staircases located around the palace for private access into the quarters upstairs.

Samosorn Sevakamart is a two-storey open-space Throne Hall without walls. The ceiling is painted with colourful floral motifs and decorated with chandeliers. The upper floor of this hall was the venue for King Rama VI to meet officials, greet royal visitors, bless royally-hosted wedding couples and perform ceremonies, including celebrating birthdays.

The hall frequently served as theatre due to King Rama VI's love for plays. There are changing rooms for the actors located at each corner of the hall, there is a circular staircase in the northern rooms, which was used by actors during performances.

The audience would face to the north and the Ladies of the Court would seat along the balconies of the upper floor. King Rama VI would watch performances from the main balcony. Apart from watching plays, King Rama VI also gave performances of his own works to the general public, and he would usually rehearse his plays in the hall after dinner.

Samutphiman includes the living quarters of King Rama VI, some prince and male palace officials. The King’s private residence consists of a royal bed chamber, a royal bathroom, a royal dressing room, and a royal study room. The royal bathroom is one of the only two bathrooms in the palace that features facilities sourced from Europe, such as a Victorian bathtub with its own shower, and an Italian carrara marble floor. King Rama VI liked to host European-style dinners at the adjacent dining hall. The Outer Court has a bathing pavilion for King Rama VI to use prior to swimming in the sea at around 5pm. On the roof, lanterns would be installed as a signal for royals and officials to know what the king was doing.

Pisansakorn includes the living quarters of the Queen and the Royal Consorts, as well as female attendants. The Inner Court also has a bathing pavilion and dining hall.

Tea House towards the north of the Palace is a half-brick, half-wooden house on concrete pillars with an empty space under it. It has connected balconies around it. Its floor, doors, and windows are made of teak wood.

FIRST RESTORATION

In the 1930s, the Palace was abandoned and unused, until King Rama IX gave Naresuan Camp’s Air Support Division permission to use the grounds of the Palace in 1965. The palace was rundown - the teak wood were decayed causing many of the structures to fall apart, some of the columns gave way, and most of the paint has been washed out and peeled.

In 1981, Mrigadayavan Palace was registered as heritage site by Fine Arts Department. Two years later in 1983, the Fine Arts Department and Border Patrol Police initiated the First Restoration project. The community from the Border Patrol Police came together to rebuild the Palace, and repainted the entire Palace a shade of pastel blue.

In 1992, Mrigadayavan Palace Foundation was founded under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda Sirisobha Bhannavadi. She was deeply passionate about preservation and conservation of national heritage sites, and the restoration of Mrigadayavan Palace was one of her top priorities. The well-maintained palace grounds is a reflection of her dedication to conservation, especially for the invaluable heritage that belongs to Thailand and her people.

SECOND RESTORATION

Due to the Palace’s location along the beach, the Palace structure suffers wear and tear and needs to be constantly restored. In 2013, the Mrigadayavan Palace Foundation initiated and undertook the Second Restoration project. The goal of the Second Restoration project is to completely restore the Palace to its original state by the 100th Anniversary of Mrigadayavan Palace in 2024.

Architects working on the Second Restoration realised that the Palace was painted the wrong colours during the First Restoration, and intensive research and analysis were conducted to recover the original colours of the Palace. The original colours were: Celery Cream (Cream White), Gold Field (Yellow Mustard), Antique Avocado (Olive Green), and Island House (Light Green).

Also, through their analysis, the roof tiles that were put up during the First Restoration were significantly heavier than the original tiles (2.4kg). The heavier tiles thus caused problems for the structures of the buildings, resulting in cracks in the columns. New tiles were manufactured to mimic the old tiles in terms of style and weight, and will be used to line the roof.

The restoration process reflects the need to preserve and conserve the original identity of the palace, which marks an important historical period in Thailand. The ongoing efforts are key in protecting this valuable and yet vulnerable heritage. With the constant wear and tear from visitor traffic and natural erosion, restoration is an integral part of heritage conservation.