MRIGADAYAVAN PALACE: A ROYAL COAST NATIONAL HERITAGE SITE APPROACHING A CENTENARY YEAR

Mrigadayavan Palace has long harmoniously cherished both Thai culture and its natural setting overlooking the Royal Coast of Thailand.  With a centenary due in in two years, the site joins a number of other reasons why 2024 could be a regional centenary year.

The 2021 UNESCO Special Recognition for Sustainable Development Award underlines the fundamental role that sustainability plays in cultural heritage and that the environment of this historical site is just as important as its man-made structures.

MRIGADAYAVAN PALACE: A ROYAL COAST NATIONAL HERITAGE SITE APPROACHING A CENTENARY YEAR

Mrigadayavan Palace was commissioned by His Majesty King Vajiravudh, or King Rama VI, ruler of Siam from 1910 to 1925, to serve as his seaside residence during the latter years of his reign. The monarch’s personal physician had recommended he spend more time by the ocean, so that his rheumatoid arthritis could be eased by its warm air and abundant breezes.

Initially, King Vajiravudh’s seaside residence was at Chao Samran beach. However, the lack of freshwater, inaccessibility, and close proximity to a fishing village led to the decision to choose a secluded beach to construct the Mrigadayavan Palace in 1923.

The area was called Huai Sai, which means “hog deer stream”, due to the abundance of hog deer in this area. King Vajiravudh therefore named his new summer palace “Mrigadayavan”, as in “Isipatana Mrigadayavan”, the deer park in India where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon.

MRIGADAYAVAN PALACE: A ROYAL COAST NATIONAL HERITAGE SITE APPROACHING A CENTENARY YEAR

The minimalist design echoes the proportions and construction systems of the Rama VI-era palace, which itself was an innovative response to the seaside setting using a European architectural vocabulary.

Built entirely from recycled timber salvaged from a disassembled building in Bangkok and relying on passive ventilation, the woodshop sits lightly on the site and in harmony with the historic trees.  King Rama VI personally designed Mrigadayavan Palace to be a humble residence with minimal impact on its location.  

MRIGADAYAVAN PALACE: A ROYAL COAST NATIONAL HERITAGE SITE APPROACHING A CENTENARY YEAR

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. Combining Thai and Western architectural influences, the palace’s 16 teak buildings integrate into their natural setting and exist in harmony with the environment.

On May 12th, 1924, the King issued a proclamation declaring the Huai Sai area a wildlife sanctuary. The protected zone covered the area of 7.6 kilometres of the northern shoreline towards Savoei Kapi Mountain and 5 kilometres from the southern shoreline to Sam Phraya Mountain.

Apart from caring for his health, he also permitted the training of the Phetchaburi Wild Tiger Corps inside the palace compound. Later on, this training ground became known as Had Chao Samran Royal Camp.

King Vajiravudh visited the palace during the summer of 1924 for three months, and then two months in the summer of 1925, after which His Majesty passed away.

As usage of the palace declined, the palace was subsequently abandoned for 30 years, until 1965, when His Majesty Bhumibol Aduyadej gave the Naresuan Camp’s Air Support Division the permission to use the grounds of the Palace.

MRIGADAYAVAN PALACE: A ROYAL COAST NATIONAL HERITAGE SITE APPROACHING A CENTENARY YEAR

On 2 September 1981, the Palace was registered as a historical site, leading to a restoration project spearheaded by the Border Patrol Police and Fine Arts Department in the 1980s.

To meet the restoration needs of the Palace, the Mrigadayavan Palace Foundation was founded in 1992, under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Bejaratana (FMP), the only daughter of King Vajiravudh.

In 2021, the palace joined in hosting a competition searching for the Kingdom’s top traditional wood artisans. Supported by the Ministry of Culture, UNESCO and the Mrigadayavan Palace Foundation, competitors were tested on their wood carving skills to promote the Thai heritage of woodworking.

MRIGADAYAVAN PALACE: A ROYAL COAST NATIONAL HERITAGE SITE APPROACHING A CENTENARY YEAR

The Mrigadayavan Palace Foundation also provides free Thai classical music lessons on the weekends to the children of the Border Patrol Police who serve in the Rama VI and Naresuan camps, as well as the children of the Palace employees.

The palace is now property of the Crown Property Bureau and is under the management of the Foundation.  Functioning as a living monument to Thai art, culture and history while maintaining ecological mindfulness, Mrigadayavan Palace proves cultural and environmental conservation can go hand in hand.

Current restoration aims to restore the palace grounds, and the surrounding coastal vegetation, anticipated to be completed in time for the Palace’s 100th year anniversary in 2024.

http://www.mrigadayavan.or.th/