Excellence in Art and Architectural Conservation Award 2014 (B.E. 2557), in the category of Institution and Public Building, selected by The Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage
The architectural style of the Royal Thai Dockyard Museum Commemorating King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX)’s 84th Birthday Anniversary is known as a gingerbread house. It has two stories with the first floor made of bricks and mortar, and the second floor of teak wood. The roof is Pan Ya style (without gable) with elaborately perforated embellishment crafted from wood along the lower eaves, upper trims of doors and windows, and upper part of the wall in the hall. Stairs are located outside the building, with two sets at the front and one set at the back. A prominent feature of the museum building is the front triangle decorated with Royal Navy’s insignia and symbols. Below the triangle are carving of various tools among ornately perforated wood designs.
The museum building is more than 100 years old. The exact year it was built was unknown. Presumably, it may have been built during King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) reign, when His Majesty bestowed the property (1) upon the Navy Department (2) to build a Royal Dockyard Workshop and a Naval Department Office. In addition, His Majesty also officially endorsed the construction of a dock, for large wooden ships, in the area by the foundry on the south side of Wat Rakang Kositaram in order to build and repair warships. King Chulalongkorn presided over the opening ceremony of the Royal Dockyard on January 9th, 1890 (B.E. 2433). It is presumed that this building was likely one of the buildings constructed during that time or thereafter to be used as a workplace for managing the repair and building operations of warships. Also, during that time, the gingerbread house style, a European architectural style that came to Thailand since the reign of King Rama IV, was gaining popularity among the general public. Furthermore, the building was laid to face toward the Royal Dockyard (currently, Dock No. 1) to facilitate various dockyard-related operations. Dock No. 2 is located behind the building and was built in 1933 (B.E. 2476).
In the past, the building was used as a place to work and manage the repair of warships that were brought into the dockyard. A commonly held belief is that one side of the building was an office for the Technical Inspector Division, which was a unit in the Naval Post Engineer Department (now, the Royal Thai Naval Dockyard), that inspected warships for defects in order to evaluate and plan for repair. The name of the division was changed from Technical Military Police Division to Technical Inspector Division in 1915 (B.E. 2458). Another side of the building was a working space for the Design Division (Naval Architect Design Division, Engineering Planning Department in present day). Later, when construction of the Naval Dockyard Headquarters building was finished in 1973 (B.E. 2516), this building was used as a working space for the Mechanical Workshop Division, Thonburi Naval Dockyard. Both building wings were used for constructing and repairing small engines for warships. When the Royal Thai Dockyard’s organization was restructured, it was used as a working space for the Mechanical Workshop Section (under the Workshop Division, Thonburi Naval Dockyard) prior to renovation and improvement to be the museum building.
Renovation of the building began in fiscal year 2009 (B.E. 2552), its structure was reinforced without any alteration to the architectural style. A back porch was added to the first floor to be used as a hall for the museum’s academic activities. Roof tiles were replaced, and new paint applied while conserving the original architecture. In fiscal year 2010-2011 (B.E 2553-2554), the interior usable areas were rearranged and redecorated for permanent exhibitions. The work was completed in August of 2011 (B.E. 2554).
The Royal Thai Dockyard Museum Commemorating King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX)’s 84th Birthday Anniversary is the only historic building that remains in good condition on the perimeter of King Rama I’s former residence. It is owned by the Navy. This awe-inspiring architecture has been preserved for public use as an educational resource and inspiration to our nation’s history.
(1) The property used to be the former residence of King Phutthayotfa Chulalok the great, when his title was Som Det Chao Phraya Mahagasatseuk.