Ayutthaya Heritage Workshop 2008

Posted in: News- Jan 28, 2008 No Comments

International Lighting Design Workshop

Sustainable Lighting for Cultural Heritage and People
Ayutthaya, Thailand, 28 – 31 January 2008

Three very large chedis (pagodas) on the main site. The people give a sense of scale.

A unique heritage lighting design workshop was organised by colleagues, Drs Chanyaporn Chuntamara and Acharawan Chutarat from King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT). The programme included two days in Bangkok to explore the cultural aspects of light, comparing the eastern and western significances; the historical development of Buddhist cities in South-East Asia, particularly the relationship between the palace and the temple (and monastery); the history of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, the capitals of Thailand before Bangkok; and the principles of lighting master planning.  That was followed by three days in Ayutthaya, examining that large World Heritage site, before concentrating on one self-contained site for which the lighting would be planned and executed. It was the last part that had a special resonance because it is expensive, time-consuming and difficult to get a good range of lighting equipment to “play on site”.

A moment of humour during the design presentations

They had invited Dr Thomas Römhild, from Wismar University’s lighting programme, to run the lighting design part of the workshop and Dr Yandan Lin, from Fudan University, to talk on the changing role of outdoor lighting in China. As we’ll there were archaeologists and two lighting practitioners who made contributions. Philips and We-ef loaned about 50 luminaires for the practical part. Each flood and spot was provided with a base, so that the luminaries could be located and aimed without having to use bags, pieces of timber or broken bricks, as is commonly the case. Four or five electricians were employed each night to install wiring and control cables. KMUTT School of Architecture and Design also had a photographer to document the whole event.

I enrolled (as a student) and turned up at KMUTT on 26th January, along with 12 other students who were mainly from Thailand but there were three from Laos and one from China. The two days of classroom teaching in Bangkok concluded with a late afternoon tour around the Grand Palace and dinner overlooking the Chao Phraya River and Wat Arun (Figure 1).

Trialling lots of equipment in one of the tunnels.

Day three began with the 80km trip to Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya is also on the Chao Phraya where a major tributary joins it. The first stop was at a museum containing artefacts from Ayutthaya’s past. The museum’s floodlighting also gave some opportunities to explain how floodlights redirect light and how they can easily fill with insects.

After the museum we visited the site chosen for the lighting design exercise — a fort on the junction of the two rivers at Pom Phet, part of the Ayutthaya complex. The choice was good: it was relatively small; it was used by locals by day for picnics and by night for various activities, some more private than others; it was at a commanding position on the river. Thousands of photographs were taken, along with notes on master planning from Dr Römhild’s discussion of the site and the fort.

After lunch, the main Ayutthaya site was visited, firstly to a museum and then a walking tour. Whilst Ayutthaya is nowhere near the size of Angkor in Cambodia, it is both large and impressive, with a number of intact structures as well as many ruins. In the main historical area, new road lighting luminaries have been installed. They are beautiful, ineffectual for road lighting but excellent for lighting building façades and producing glare from their bare high-pressure sodium lamp.

One of the colour sequences in the tunnel, a little washed out with the use of a flash.

Ayutthaya day 2 involved the application of the first three day’s work to set a brief for the master plan of the Pom Phet site and to produce rendered sketches of the proposed lighting effects. That was done until about 4pm when we walked to the site to inspect the luminaries that were delivered by Philips and We-ef. Staff from each described the luminaries.

For the next five hours the preliminary designs were implemented by the two teams, one handling the river view and the other the interior. The fort was punctuated by tunnels that were seen as major features. The battlements proved to be difficult, since they appeared two dimensional when floodlit. Colour-changing LED uplighter strips were used on the interior walls, requiring controllers, control cabling and computer programming.

The end of the first night’s on site efforts, seen from the riverside

The fifth day started in the studio with a post mortem on the mock-ups done the previous night. A general conclusion was that more is often achieved with less: less light, fewer luminaries and fewer colours and colour changes. Feedback from nearby residences and businesses was positive, except that green and blue light was associated with ghosts and seen as alienating people from the site. Refinements were determined and the problem of lighting the battlements seemed to be solved.

Around 4pm, again, it was back to the site for the final mock-up. Note the exterior, as it was finally lit by the team responsible. It can be seen that separate lighting was not used on the rendered parts of the wall: the higher reflectance and colour difference made them conspicuous without extra light. However, it was decided to try to light the “moat” or ha-ha (without a fence) that surrounded (part of) the fort. The interior and its open space were treated as being moonlit while the walls and tunnels were less dramatically lit than the night before.

The final solution for part of the exterior. Note the “moat” lighting.

Feedback the following morning showed that everyone — students, teachers and consultant — all learnt a lot from the five days. Certificates were presented and then it was back to Bangkok in the KMUTT faculty bus.

So, was it worthwhile? Definitely. My only regret is that it wasn’t better publicised because I’m certain that many from Australia and other Lux Pacifica countries would have wished to join it. The universities involved (Fudan, Sydney, Wismar and Laos) all said that they would try to repeat the exercise in their own countries, inviting students from the other countries. I hope that can happen but I would like to do a repeat in Ayutthaya with a group from Australia. The huge effort involved by the staff of KMUTT, the suppliers and participating consultants cannot be under-estimated in the success of an event such as this. To them I give my gratitude and congratulations.

Warren Julian

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