THE NEW LIGHTING DESIGN AT THE GRAND PALACE, BANGKOK CAPTURES AND MAKES DAYLIGHT APPEAR WHEN NIGHT FALLS
The readjustment of something that the society has long been accustomed to, especially a site that people see in their everyday lives is never easy and often times tends to be criticized by those who see no use in the changing of things that are already good. This is the kind of reaction we see with anything related to Thai culture and this particular case we’re about to discuss brings us to an entirely other level of difficulty for the site of this project is the country’s most important Buddhist Temple, Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram (Wat Phra Kaew) and Bangkok’s most renowned landmark, the Grand Palace.
Contacted by its long-time collaborator, PSJ Company, WE-EF LIGHTING has spent the past year working on the redesign of Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace’s illumination. The task was to improve the overall visuals and scenery of the temple, especially the upper parts of the structures. The elements such as tiers, roof tiles and other decorative details reach a height that exceeds that of the wall and can be seen from a distance. “The image of Wat Phra Kaew that most people are familiar with is this cluster of illuminated brown and gold structures that bear a spectacular contrast with the bright blue sky. It is no doubt an amazing sight. It’s a mesmerizing man-made creation of time-honored and mystical beauty,” described WE-EF LIGHTING of the project and, while WE-EF LIGHTING does realize the importance of the image of Wat Phra Kaew in both Thai and foreigners’ perceptions and memories, to actually have their hands on such a prominent project is undoubtedly of great challenge. The design team proposed the idea of bringing the beauty of Wat Phra Kaew as seen in the daylight into the night hours. In other words, instead of coating the tiers with warm tones of gold and yellow light, WE-EF LIGHTING attempted to preserve the true colors of the actual materials such as stained glass, tiles, and the ornamental pieces of the roof with the use of light of a high color rendering index (CRI) that creates a great dispersion of illumination. Such method has brought about an interesting improvement and change to Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace with the details of the decoration being beautifully and accurately enhanced, even at night.
But even before one of the project’s biggest challenges, of which feedback and criticism is unavoidably expected to occur following the completion of the installation and everything being up and running, the first obstacle that WE-EF LIGHTING had to deal with was the preparation of resources for the creation of a computer-generated 3D model. The limitations then came from the Grand Palace’s regulations that prohibit the use of elaborate details in plans and elevations, forcing the team to carry out complete measurements by themselves. The next challenge lied in obtaining the accurate heights of each structure, which is essential information required for the design team to know whether or not the projected light could do the job right. Phra Sri Rattana Chedi was one of the problematic structures as it is the tallest building in the program with a height that reaches some 40 meters. “What we could do was use photographs taken from different angles and compare them to find the most accurate proportion and size, but this was also challenging because the time during the day when we work is a time that the place is consistently flooded with tourists,” explained the team of WE-EF LIGHTING to art4d. The exterior LED floodlights (model: FLC100/200) are of a relatively smaller size than the previous ones and are used in tandem with the additional installation of PSJ’s energy saving system, which together allows for the new lighting system to consume significantly less energy while providing a similar amount of brighness. Another challenge lied in the specification of the spots where the floodlights were to be installed, for they needed to be physically close to the original locations in order for the electrical wiring to be carried out easily.
Whether it’s due to the 3D images, accurate data collection of the program and structures or the team’s own expertise and experience, the final result of the new lighting design is undeniably satisfying. “After all, when the new floodlights are turned on having fully replaced the previous ones, the new lighting design does accentuate Wat Phra Kaew from its surroundings. Everything turned out just as we intended and better, even,” concluded WE-EF LIGHTING. With the construction of the royal pyre on the expansive grounds of Sanam Luang for the imminent cremation ceremony, the change may not be that visible to the eyes, but one certain thing is that the night photographs of Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace in postcards, on tourism websites or shared images on the social media accounts of both Thais and foreigners alike will no longer appear quite like they used to.
TEXT: NAPAT CHARITBUTRA