Erawan Museum Specifications
1. Total height (Foundation & Elephant statue) 43.60 Meters.
2. Height of elephant statue 29 Meters.
3. Width of elephant statue 12 Meters.
4. Length of elephant statue 39 Meters.
5. Weight of elephant body 150 Tons.
6. Weight of elephant head 100 Tons.
7. Total weight of elephant statue 250 Tons.
The construction began when Khun Lek Viriyahbhun had designed the plan of Erawan Museum and ordered Muang Boran’s draftsman team to draw and sculpt the original miniature clay model. Then Khun Lek assigned Khun Pagpean Viriyahbhun; his eldest son, to be in charge of project; start from finding man and material for construction. Khun Pagpean had also contacted the architecture firm and finally recruited Khun Suwannee Napasawangwong to be a design architect.
Base on original clay model; foam, fiber, and beeswax had formed to Three-Heads Elephant structure time and time again to find thoroughly detail of interior structure. Fiber miniature model was creating to set the interior shape. Miniature beeswax elephant statue was molding as perfect model for the real statue shape. Architect had also carved miniature foam model of statue and foundation before set the grid & coordinate system for structure plan. Since each part of the structure didn’t have architecture formats as other plain building. Especially the elephant head, it would be the most difficult part.
Then the structure plan was drawing and consulted by engineer to find the possibility in construction process. After the plan had set, it was applied to governmental administration for officially permit to start the construction of Erawan building. The laying foundation ceremony of Erawan Museum was on July 13, 1994 and the construction was started on October 19, 1994. The dome building which is the foundation of elephant statue is the Ferro-concrete structure building with 14.60 meters height. All of the statue weight is transmitted with the exterior and interior ring beams to the concentrated loading points of 8 outer poles and 4 inner pillars. Each four legs of statue are also made with steel concrete to support the weight of the elephant statue too.
The structure of elephant body is 10 steel Parabola trusses. Body and head of statue bides by mesh of H and I-shaped structure-steel likes the weaving of rattan ball (Thai: Takraw) in order to transmit all loading to four Ferro-concrete legs which supported by dome building. Three heads of elephant statue become the most difficult parts because each head contains 100 tons of loading and protrude from the body structure without any supporting structure below. The design architect and engineer decided to use a special structural steel beam called a “Truss” to hold the statue heads and distribute their weight to the four legs of the elephant. When the steel structure of body part had finished, the next process was to cover the steel structure with copper plate to form the skin of elephant statue. Khun Pagpean had recruited Khun Rakchart Srichanken; the sculptor, for the next process by using the new technique to build the copper statue.
Instead of using the old traditional molding technique by completely molding copper statue at once as the Liberty Statue in the USA, the copper plate had been molded into patterns before it was welded later in midair. To cover the copper sheet of head part is the difficulty. So the steel structure of three heads had been placed on the ground first. Then craftsman team would tap and push the copper sheet to form the cover skin of mid-head. When it had finished, the craftsman took the mid-head as the model of other side-heads by bending the steel bar as in the interior structure of mid-head. Then steel bars had been cut and were marked the number to every pieces in order to weld them to the midair head structure later.
For midair assembly, the middle head was cut into three parts and was assembled to head structure; which had been prior lifted to weld to the body structure. Then for the remaining two side heads, craftsmen were pushing and tapping the copper sheet in order to assemble them as the elephant head by sitting on the scaffold. All part of elephant body and ornaments were covered with the copper sheet too. The craftsmen used copper sheet 1.2 millimeters thickness in various sizes from 4x8 feet to the smallest as the palm. The number of craftsman is approximately 270.
Pewter Repousse Pillar
Four pillars in ground level of museum building are decorated with repousse pewter sheet by the crafts person from Nakornsrithammarat and Chiangmai provinces (the greatest master of nielloware and silverware which are classified as the artwork from metal chasing.) Actually, metal chasing often uses the metal as copper, brass and silver. The reason why pewter is chosen as the metal in chased pillar decoration in Erawan Museum building is based on Khun Lek Viriyahbhun first intention to cover the elephant statue with pewter. However it is unpractical, the metal is changed to copper. Then Khun Pagpean Viriyahbhun, his successor, decided to choose pewter as the chased metal to decorate the four pillars to commemorate and inherit his father’s intention. Each pillar represents the world potential religion stories; Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Mahayana Buddhism (or Guan Yin Biography.) Each has taken three years to finish. In conclusion, these four pillars are the pillar of gratefulness and pillar of four world supporting religions.
Material and Tool in Chasing and Repousse Work
1. Flat pewter sheet
3. Chisel (Various Size)
4. Resin and Beeswax
5. Leaded solder
6. Blow lamp
7. Wood frame or Wood tray
Step to repousse and chasing pewter sheet
1.Xerox the model picture from stencil paper to normal paper.
2.Glue the copied paper to front side of pewter sheet.
3.Chase the figure on glued pewter sheet; follow the model drawing line, by using the chisel and hammer.
4.When finishing, turn over the chased side on plasticine. Use the repousse tools to make the dent in chased area (using the Repousse technique) to make high relief appear as the figure on the front side.
5.When the front side figure has high relief as calculated, the next step is to decorate some pattern on figure and pewter sheet. Pour melted mixture of resin and beeswax as pitch into wood tray or wood frame. Stick the back side of pewter sheet with pitch tray. Set aside to cool down. Then chasing detail or pattern on figure and pewter sheet.
6.After finish chasing the detail and pattern on figure and pewter sheet, use the fire to heat up and melt resin & beeswax (pitch) until it is able to pull pewter sheet out of the wooden frame.
7.Bring the entire finishing pewter sheet to use as the cover of each pillar; sheet by sheet, and use the leaded solder for welding them to the other.
8.Polish each plate with the enamel liquid in order to make the more beautiful pewter repousse pillar.
Dhamma - Pillar - World
Among differnt religions and beliefs, the only true essence each religion shared in common is Dhamma which is the law guiding people on the path of righteousness. However, due to the fact that an individual has different pursuits, paths to practice oneself are varied according to personal faith.
Christian Pillar - Love brings salvation of all mankind.
Brahma-Hindu Pillar - Prayers and Pujas lead to freedom from all sufferings.
Mahayana Pillar - Compassion and loving kindness creates peace.
Theravada Pillar - Freedom from Samsara is gained from wisdom and perseverance.
All 4 Pillars signify religious message in accessible method through their elaborate beauty of the tin-engraving designs, encouraging people to learn about religions and practice themselves to attain the religious essence. As stated in the founder's will, the cultural essence should be presented through approachable tools. Art, thus, is used as a tool to sustain culture and religions. Also, in order to show respect and maintain the original will that the body of Erawan Elephant should be built with tin plates (yet later changed to copper plates for suitability), these 4 Pillars are covered with elaborate tin-engraving designs showing religious stories.
The Mural of Solar System
Khun Lek Viriyahbhun had an idea that the interior inside Erawan statue belly; where would be the showcase area of antiques, should has the characteristic of heaven and universe. As the result, Khun Pagpean Viriyahbhun, his eldest son and the successor, has contacted Mr. Jacob Schwarzkopf; the German artist who had created the stained glass art at the dome ceiling, to design the upper wall area of elephant belly as the fresco painting of solar system. He took the advantage of interior curve structure to design the semi-abstract fresco painting in depicting of the planet in solar system; orderly spreading out till the end of horizon. This Fresco painting has been painted by using the ancient technique of Europe painting as in Thai painting.
Firstly, start from clean the concrete surface. Next paint the 1st primer, leave to dry. Then put the 2nd primer (the capability of primer is to fill and cover the crack on wall surface.) When dry, paint the white primer as the 3rd layer. Leave to completely dry. Then bring the stencil paper to perforate as the drawing line of model mural. When finish, place the perforated paper on the concrete surface. Tap the powder color into the perforated spot to create the draft before applying color. Next apply the color as designed pattern. The group of meteor picture is painted by different technique out of the other picture; using the golden leaf gliding on them as in the ancient technique of German. Starting from painting gold color in the meteor picture then applies the aqua regia all over the meteor area. Leave it to dry (take around 3 hours.) Then apply golden leaf on them, slightly tap on golden leaf by bare hand until it is firmly close to painting. Brush the gold leaf area with blush tool to make the jointing line disappear. When it finishes, the gold color will make the meteor area outstanding. The solar system painting is the picture of wide horizon including planets, Milky Way, meteors, which is the great universal being and we are just the only little being in this vast universe.
Molded Stucco with Benjarong decoration
The exquisite molded stucco in Erawan Museum building is the artwork of master Samrouy Aemoath; Petchburi province artist, and his team (which is known as the master in invention of stucco molding by using ancient technique; using natural material as the main recipe.) The pounded lime or the ancient stucco has qualification of slowly dryness. It makes the molding decoration process of stucco and stucco motif easier than using the modern stucco. The molded stucco is wonder and gorgeous, when it is consist of the exquisite colorful beauty of Benjarong pottery. However some huge molded stucco will consist of cement mixture in some part such as the head of Naga, Kinnaree, Kinnorn, etc. These statues are formed by cement then be molded by using the pounded lime and finally be decorated with Benjarong.
The mixture of pounded lime
4.Mixture of turmeric water and lime powder
8.Well-soaked straw paper
The procedure starts from pounding fluorite stone, lime, and red sandstone together. Then soak the straw paper in water. When it is rotten, pound the first mixture with the well-soaked straw paper. Next prepare the next mixture by simmering buffalo-skin glue, steamed sticky rice, and fine sand till there are blended. Finally pound the first mixture with the second mixture. To get the pinkish pounded lime, the portion of the red sandstone and turmeric-lime powder should be put more than the portion of fluorite stone. To get the white pounded lime, the portion of lime and fluorite stone should be put more than the portion of other stone. The fluorite stone will create the unique cream color in pounded lime which is different from using the plain color. Finally ferment the finished mixture of pounded lime three nights. Then bring the fermented pounded lime to mold the stucco and the stucco motif; and decorate them with Benjarong pottery.
The instruction of pounded lime decorated with Benjarong artwork
Bend structure steel and steel string to create the structure form of each statue. Then bind steel net (or mosquito wire screen) along the structure steel and the steel string. Next apply the cement mixture to plaster over the statue structure. Wait till cement is dry and hard then apply the pounded lime to mold the pattern of stucco as designed. As the decoration step, bring the Benjarong pottery such as spoon, cup lid and Chinese teacup to cut into pieces as designed size by using the pincer. Except some stucco pattern, the whole teacup will be used as the decoration. Most of the Benjarong pottery in the Earth area is the new ordered pottery and made in Thailand but some of them are produced in China. The curve of pottery put more dimension on the texture surface and be harmoniously color tone blending. All of these cause the unique beauty innovation in artwork of pounded lime decorated with Benjarong.
Stained Glass Painting
Stained glass painting is one of the artwork in western civilization. It decorates dome ceiling (or Earth area) of Erawan Museum, crafted by a German artist; Mr. Jacob Schwarzkopf, the freelance artist who had been receiving the design and painting artwork of church, monastery, and many importance places in America Europe and Middle East. He had impressed by Khun Lek Viriyahbhun; who is the founder of Muang boran (or Ancient Siam situated at Bangpoo sub-district, Samut Prakan Province), and also the founder of Sanctuary of Truth (situated at Pattaya sub-district, Chon Buri province,) so he decided to create his artwork to the Erawan Museum; the place where Khun Lek Viriyahbhun was building.
When he had known the exactly size of the artwork area, he started by designing and drawing the painting and its pattern. Next he had ordered the glass manufactures company to produce the stained glass by using the ancient procedure; by blowing the glass and then separated the glass into two parts. First was the glass that was be painted by the artist and second was the base colored glass (which became the decoration patterns of stained glass,) then put them into the pressing machine. Next the artist had brought these colored glasses to paint as sketched and baked them again for durability. When the glass was baked as set point, the stained glass installation company transported the stained glass from Germany to Thailand. For installation process, Erawan Museum had prepared the steel structural frame for reinforcement as calculated and designed by the installation company after that the installation company sent the staff from Germany to install the stained glass by putting the lead frame to the stained glass and supporting them with the stainless steel came. During the installation process the designed artist and the installation company had been inspected regularly.
This stained glass is the semi-abstract art and represents the story of earth. It consists of the five continents at the middle with the sun shining to provide energy to all life form. These are surrounded by the ring of 12 Zodiac signs and finally the human figure in various gestures. The artist uses the color to symbolize 4 elements; yellow as soil, red as fire, white as wind, and blue as water. When the installation process had been finished, it made the dome building (or Earth area) had the light shining through the stained glass ceiling as the shining of virtue to earth.