Bangkok library celebrates centenary by accepting UNESCO award
One of Bangkok’s much-loved buildings celebrated its 100th birthday in style, by accepting a UNESCO cultural heritage award.
The Neilson Hays Library in Bangkok received an Award of Distinction at the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
The jury hailed the library as a landmark building.
“The project sets a welcome benchmark for the restoration of early 20th-century buildings of Western architectural design in humid tropical environments.”
Italian architect Mario Tamagno designed the library which was built in 1922 during the reign of King Rama VI.
It was Thailand’s first community library, possibly the first English language, and the first women-led library in the Southeast Asia region. Since then, it has functioned as an independent, community library and cultural centre in the heart of Thailand’s capital.
Neilson Hays Library Association president Nalin Vanasin accepted the award.
He called the historic library “a labour of love by all who were involved” coming “together to dedicate themselves to both preserve a piece of history, and to propel their beloved library forward.”
The UNESCO statement added…
“The restoration demonstrates a nuanced understanding of the spirit of place, which is well-respected and enhanced through careful research and investigation.”
An international UNESCO jury reviewed 50 entries from 11 countries from the Asia-Pacific region in November and acknowledged 13 projects from six countries (Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Nepal, and Thailand).
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai, India, won the Award of Excellence, and Topdara Stupa in Charikar, Afghanistan, and the Nantian Buddhist Temple in Fujian, China, were among those projects that received the Award of Merit.
UNESCO’s chief of culture unit, Feng Jing, said…
“The awards give people a sense of pride and a sense of ownership of their heritage.
The Bangkok Ladies’ Library Association, as it was originally known, was constructed to provide services to foreigners living in Bangkok.
Its first president was Sarah Bradley, wife of Doctor Dan Beech Bradley. It changed its name to the Bangkok Library Association in 1911.
It was renamed the Neilson Hays Library to commemorate the love of Dr Thomas Heyward Hays had for his wife, Jennie Neilson Hays, who travelled with him to live in Bangkok in 1884.
Dr Thomas bought land on Surawong Road in 1920 and the one-story building, white neoclassical style, opened for business in June 1922.
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