Vintage house becomes a hub for art and learning
Chao Phraya Thammasakmontri's family eager to preserve late educator's heritage.
Built in 1899, the vintage residence of Chao Phraya Thammasakmontri, known as the father of modern Thai education, still retains its charm.
The house is located in Nang Loeng neighbourhood in Pomprap Sattruphai district, part of Bangkok's old town.
Born over 140 years ago, Sanan Thephasadin Na Ayutthaya, Chao Phraya Thammasakmontri, was one of the educators who helped to build Chulalongkorn University, the country's first such institution, and laid the foundations of contemporary learning in the country.
Keeping it in the family: Pongprom ‘Joe’ Yamarat.
The house, which belongs to the descendants of Chao Phraya Thammasakmontri, opened to the public in February under the new name of "Bangkok 1899".
The project was officially launched on Feb 19. The garden area around the house is also open to the general public for various activities, art exhibitions and related activities.
Bangkok 1899 is a new cultural and civic hub operated by Creative Migration and supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Motor Company Fund. The project also has support from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.
The activities all revolve around the theme of education, such as art, cultural exhibitions and projects related to social innovation.
Pongprom "Joe" Yamarat, 46, a great-grandson of Chao Phraya Thammasakmontri said the project embodies his family's love of education.
"My great-grandfather had the idea of using education as a means for progress," said Mr Pongprom.
This house has a cherished family and was originally a wedding gift for Chao Phraya Thammasakmontri and his wife, Thawin Salak in 1899.
The house is also an architectural gem.
Rich history: Built in 1899, Ban Chao Phraya Thammasakmontri is on Nakhon Sawan Road in Pomprap Sattruphai district.
Chao Phraya Thammasakmontri's father-in-law commissioned Italian architect Mario Tamagno, the designer of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Neilson Hays Library and Hua Lamphong Railway Station to design the house.
The house reflects the Italian's architectural influences of the time, with delicate stucco designs and patterns on the beams, arches and vents.
After resigning from government service, Chao Phraya Thammasakmontri collaborated with his eldest daughter, Chailai Thephasadin Na Ayutthaya, to convert the house into Satree Chulanak School.
The school wanted to promote education and provide scholarships for talented youth. The establishment also aimed to bring in students from the royal family and wealthy Chinese descendants.
Foreign affair: The house reflects Italian architecture of the era with delicate stucco designs and patterns.
Italian style: Esteemed architect Mario Tamagno was appointed to design the house in 1899.
"Satree Chulanak School is a private school that comprises many students from different classes and upbringings. My mother was a teacher here and my grandmother was also a senior teacher. My childhood years were mostly spent at this school but as I grew up, I pursued my studies elsewhere," Mr Pongprom told the Bangkok Post.
"The house is now set to become a new, important tourist attraction with its park area, exhibition space and focus on sustainability," he said.
"No matter which era we live in, we will help to support education through this house. Education is essential to democracy and the most important foundation in our society.
"We will never sell or lease the house to anyone because it is our duty to preserve and pass on this family heirloom," Mr Pongprom insisted.
"This type of architecture does not truly reflect our nation, but this is really a piece of our history and we shouldn't eradicate it, especially as it has been recognised of historical value," said Pongkwan Lassus, a respected architectural lecturer and consultant on the project.
"We intend to make this an incubator and accelerator for Bangkok's largest social enterprises, with many spaces, networks and resources that can be useful to everyone on both the community and national levels," she added.
The upper floor has been converted into a gallery, displaying works created by artists attached to the International Artist Residency. The lower floor is for related art and educational activities.
"We have an open area reserved for a coffee shop that will be totally unique. The concession owner must be very artistic-minded and show a deep connection with the mood and atmosphere of the house," said Susannah Tantemsapya, president and founder of Creative Migration.
"This project has been inspired by the concepts and ideas of Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher who established his own school and discussed a wide range of philosophical subjects. We intend to grow bigger as a community by focusing on a variety of arts which reflect this special environment," Ms Susannah said.