The former residence of Chaophraya Thammasakmontri, known as Thailand’s father of modern education, has been transformed into the city’s latest art space-cum-civic center, called Bangkok 1899.
Originally built in 1899 and designed by Italian architect Mario Tamagno, who also created Neilson Hays Library and Anantasamakhom Throne Hall, the green-and-white Neoclassical structure now benefits from a fresh layer of paint and garden landscaping. The restoration was spearheaded by Creative Migration, a non-profit international arts organization based in Los Angeles and Bangkok with major support by The Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Motor Company Fund. Ceiling fans have been added for better ventilation, with the mission of reducing the use of air conditioners to lower energy consumption.
The ground floor is completely open to the public even when there are no ongoing art exhibitions. According to founder and director, Susannah Tantemsapya, anyone can come to either lounge or experience the many social-innovation activities and programs offered by the cultural and civic hub.
Tucked behind the building is Na Cafe, a “social impact cafe” where zero waste practices and sustainability are the main focus. The café serves locally-sourced drinks, and plans to host several workshops on sustainable design and environmental technologies.
An artist residency is also hosted at this collaborative space. The in-house gallery will invite international artists to showcase their works in Bangkok, as well as collaborate with a Thai artist or the local community, or both. In return, the Thai artist will get the opportunity to go to that artist’s home country and continue the exchange.
A sister project called Ford Resource and Engagement Center (FREC) will soon open next door to the cultural and civic hub. FREC will be home to several environmental corporations and foundations, including Scholars of Sustenance (SOS), which will use FREC as its headquarter for excess food distribution project.