Bringing Thailand to Massachusetts
04.04.13 / Matthew Lewis, AIA
ARC has designed and is currently overseeing construction of the Wat Nawamintararachutis NMR Buddhist Meditation Center (NMR Center), the largest Thai Buddhist Temple outside of Thailand, in Raynham, Mass. As the Project Manager, I recently had the opportunity to visit Bangkok along with Design Principal Been Wang to present the latest design and construction progress to the Honorable Phra Promwachirayan (Luang Phor, the Abbot of Wat Yannawa Royal Monastery, Bangkok and advisor to The Council of Thai Bhikkhus in the U.S.A.) and the committee. We also coordinated design and construction details with the Thai architectural design team, Wiwatchai Prangpituk, Kokiart Thongphud and the Thai Contractor S.Boonmeerit Engineering Co. LTD.
The design of the project incorporates both Eastern and Western cultures. In order to achieve the authenticity and grandeur worthy of the temple being built in honor of the current King of Thailand, many features of the temple are being constructed in Thailand. For example, the gold leaf bronze Buddha statues and marble Buddha statues, marble wainscot, ornamental doorways, gold leaf ceiling medallions and the cast bronze front stairs, the built-in display and furniture for the museum are all being built in Thailand. Below is the marble Buddha statue for the Meditation Room and an example of the ceiling medallion. Further below is a sketch that was used for a relief panel that will be on either side of the main entry at the NMR Center.
After a week of meetings, we had a chance to see some of the historic sites near Bangkok. Of those we visited were the Royal Palace as well as Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya was especially memorable because it was the original capital city of Thailand and was initially settled in the 13th century. It was known as the Venice of the east. The city was known for its wealth of many Temples, but was invaded by Burma in the 14th century and then again in the 18th century which led to the ruins that we came across. The city is now protected by UNESCO.
These are Examples of Temples from different Historic periods within the walls of Ayutthaya:
The city life, especially at night was also truly unique to Thailand. In January, the “cool season,” evening temperatures were 80 degrees Fahrenheit and we frequently ate dinner in outdoor patios. One night we saw street performers donned in traditional Thai costumes and telling stories of Thai folklore.
The temples by night also took on a quality completely different from what we saw during the day, especially juxtaposed with the bright lights of the city.
Thailand was a remarkable place and visiting has strengthened our team’s understanding of the importance of both the Thai culture and religion to everyday life of the Thai people.