Ralph Borghouts: Thailand
In 2004 the Netherlands and Thailand were related to each other for 400 years. In the year 1604 the Dutch East India Company (VOC) visited the kingdom of Siam for the first time. In 1634 the Dutch built a trading post just outside Ayutthaya, the former capital of Siam (now Thailand). The trading post was burnt down when the Burmese invaded Siam in 1767. The Thai Archaeological Service started excavating the site in the fall of 2003 with the purpose to reconstruct the historical trading post, built a tourist-centre and exploit the site as a cultural tourist attraction. The question arose whether it was possible to reconstruct the trading post and integrate a tourist-centre. Because it was difficult for the Thai to reconstruct a Dutch building without Dutch expertise, it was important to cooperate with persons who could contribute knowledge on Dutch trading posts and historical building methods.
Professor Peter Erkelens working at Eindhoven University of Technology put this project to my attention. The combination of a historical structure and the creation of a new tourist-centre in a tropical country was a challenge for me as a graduation student of the Building Technology Group at Eindhoven's University, so I took up the challenge and researched the possibilities for reconstructing the trading post.
As a start I tried to find data regarding the original trading post and applied building materials. For this I searched the VOC-archives in the National Archives in The Hague and some literature. Through my professor I was introduced to ICOMOS Netherlands. They introduced me to the architects Holger de Kat and Laurens Vis who explained me something about their search for data and their experience with the subsequent reconstruction of VOC-warehouses in Hirado, Japan. Unfortunately, as such detailed accounts of the trading post in Ayutthaya were not available (yet) an actually reconstruction of the trading post was not feasible at that particular time.
Thus, instead of accommodating the tourist-centre in the reconstructed trading post, I designed a contemporary tourist-centre that would be adjusted to the tropical climate in Thailand. In this tourist-centre a virtual 3d interpretation of the original trading post would be displayed. The 3d interpretation is based on two sources: a description of the trading post by a ship's doctor who visited the site in 1655 and a sketch of the trading post by Pieter van der Aa published in a book of Jean-Albert de Mandelslo (Voyages Célèbres & Renarquables, 1727). My design for the tourist-centre will not be build but might be used as a reference for future designs for the centre.
What I liked about this graduation project was the contact with the different experts (the architects referred to) on several subjects, and ICOMOS. Being a building technology student at the Eindhoven University of Technology I was not very familiar with the world of history and design in foreign countries. This project gave me an opportunity to explore these topics.