Pijika Pumketkao, is the international Principal Investigator of Case study 2: WUA LAI, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Pijika Pumketkao‐Lecourt is an architect specialized in heritage conservation and a PhD candidate at the University of Paris‐Est. Since 2014, she coordinates the research project "Patrimot, Words of Heritage in Urban and Architectural Project in Southeast Asia: Circulation, Reception, Creation". Her research explores adaptation and contextualization of international heritage principles in a Thai setting, with a particular interest in the practice of everyday life, the conception of the sacred and social ties in local community, its political and economic organization underlying its heritage approach.
Current research project:
Built heritage in Thailand: construction and elaboration on the notion of heritage in Thailand.
Research topic on secondment:
When the European notion of heritage arrived in Thailand in the 19th century, the Siamese society tried to integrate it into its own culture and practices. However, this imported notion induced new practices which were different from the regular renewal of Thai monuments, which followed the rules of the traditional maintenance of Buddhist monuments. The fundamental difference between the imported notion and local practice still persist today. Indeed, Buddhists are sentimentally attached to their temples, which play an important part in social life. According to well rooted traditions, the temples are places of worship, prayer and merit-making. As the renewal of the temples is conceived as a way for making merit, it is still a widespread practice. In coherence with it, several Thai specialists in the heritage field explained that the notion of heritage in Thailand is based on the Buddhist philosophy "Trilaksana" (the three features of existence) which accepts physical degradation. This is the reason why maintenance of historic buildings does not conserve the material witnesses of the past. Moreover, the "Aanattā" theory affirms that all things are impermanent and that neither the "I" nor the "Mine" exist, and for this reason one should not cling to them. So, heritage and conservation notions cannot exist in the framework of this theory. Our research will show that the notion of conservation in Thailand is not only based on Buddhist philosophy or on local beliefs, but that it is the result of a confrontation between the ancient local practice and the imported European notion.