Bangkok students visiting Wat Chaiwatthanaram
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Under the Ayutthaya Sun: Bangkok Students Visit Wat Chaiwatthanaram

Bangkok students visiting Wat Chaiwatthanaram

I first met Khun Wimonrart Issarathumnoon (Yui), an assistant architecture professor at Chulalongkorn University, in November of last year, during a conference at the Ayutthaya Studies Institute - Rajabaht University. There, World Monuments Fund was organizing the first public conference presenting the Wat Chaiwatthanaram Conservation Project to academics and Ayutthaya’s community. Khun Yui was very enthusiastic regarding how the project was conceived and carried out. From that conference sprung the idea of bringing her students to study and experience Wat Chaiwatthanaram’s conservation directly on site, seeing up close the deterioration factors and the ongoing interventions.

World Monuments Fund has sought for some time to engage Thai university students to study conservation using Wat Chaiwatthanaram as a case study and classroom. I believe this is important to build up professionals in the field of conservation, to preserve the rich and precious cultural heritage of Thailand with its huge number of historic buildings frequented by the communities and tourists. In Thailand, there is not yet a degree in Conservation of Cultural Heritage, making integrations like this all the more important.

Students being led on conservation techniques at Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Students being led on conservation techniques at Wat Chaiwatthanaram

In February, we welcomed 23 undergraduate, masters, and PhD students along with Khun Yui at Wat Chaiwatthanaram for a two-day knowledge-sharing experience. After an introduction laying out the project phases, lecture topics included main deterioration factors, constituent materials focusing on bricks and mortars, and scientific methods and tools for appraisal of building deterioration and conservation techniques. Interesting conversation arose surrounding the values and significance of the site, and which are the basic principles of a conservation intervention to preserve respective of these values.

In the afternoon we began exercises prepared by the WMF team: documentation, conservation planning, and presentation of a chosen section of the building. To help the students accomplish each task, we prepared one folder for each group with reports, conservation plans, and scientific analysis results of the project, to be used as a guide in their presentations.

The group of students with seated Buddhas.
The group of students with seated Buddhas.

Monday morning was partially dedicated to hands-on experience in cleaning and mortar. It was very exciting for them to work directly on the site! In the afternoon they presented their conservation plans. The outcomes were very interesting and the presentations well done and coherent with the principles that were discussed. For the WMF team, it was a nice exchange and a fun change of pace having students on site.

Khun Yui was also very happy with the students’ experience and expressed interest to incorporate the study trip as a regular part of her Building Pathology course in Chulalongkorn University. We hope to see her back again in the next course of students. 

Fortunately for the students who were not used to working outdoors under the sun, a quick rainstorm refreshed the environment!