Day Out in Bangkok looking at the past 2
In our continuing series looking at the places featured by the European heritage map produced by the European Union National Institutes for Culture in Thailand (EUNIC), we begin to move away from the Grand Palace area.
Heading east along Ratchadamnoen Avenue we come to one of the most iconic structures in all Bangkok, or Thailand for that matter, the Democracy Monument. In recent years mass protests have centred around this structure which commemorates the transition of Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional version following the coup of June 1932. The Democracy Monument is a Thai-built structure but it is decorated with sculptures done by the Italian Corrado Ferroci (aka Silpa Bhirasri).
Continuing in an easterly direction towards the edge of Rattanakosin island you reach yet another Italian-inspired structure, this time the Mahadthai Uthit Bridge. It is next to the Phan Fa Leela bridge which was built in 1906 by the Italian architect Carlo Allegri in an Art Nouveau design. The Mahadthai Uthit or ‘Weeping Bridge’ is also another of his designs, built in 1914. It was built especially as a memorial to the late King Chulalongkorn as a dedication from Carlo Allegri. The bas reliefs ‘were sculpted by Vittorio Novi, imitating the ones from ancient Rome’.
Just across the bridge is the King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) Museum. The building was ‘constructed in neo-renaissance style in 1906 by French-Swiss architect Charles Beguelin…’ The building was initially called the John Sampson Emporium before being used to store construction materials. In 1933 it was used to house the Public Works Department. It became the King Prajadhipok Museum in 2002. The museum is open to the public from Tuesday’s to Sunday’s between 9:00am and 4:00pm.
From the museum, head north-north-west towards Samsen Road and Rama VIII bridge and you’ll run into the Bank of Thailand. In the compound of the Bank of Thailand are two royal palaces, Wang Bang Khun Phrom and Wang Bang Thewawet. The former consists of two buildings which were designed by the Italian architect Mario Tamagno in 1901 in a baroque style. The stucco on the façade and the ornate staircase are especially notable features.
Next to the Wang Bang Khun Phrom is Tamnak Somdej, and this was designed by the German architect Karl Doring. According to the EUNIC map information it was built in 1913 and ‘mimics German Art Nouveau from the artists’ colony of Darmstadt.’ The frescoes for Tamnak Somdej were design by another Italian, Carlo Rigoli.
Wang Bang Thewawet was constructed in 1914 and designed in the neo-classical style by the British architect Edward Healey.
Continued next issue