Amanda Levete Architects is to develop a major retail and hotel complex in central Bangkok, Thailand. Central Embassy, located on Bangkok’s primary commercial artery Ploen Chit Road, will be a new architectural landmark for the city and region. The 145,000 m2 project will occupy the former gardens of the British Embassy in Nai Lert Park, and will consist of a 7-storey retail podium and a 30-storey 6-star hotel tower. Work on site is scheduled to begin in 2010 and to complete in 2013.
‘Central Embassy will be the first contemporary landmark building in Bangkok. It is demonstrably of its time but rooted in Thai heritage and culture. Our architectural ambition is matched by the ambition of Central to create the best and most exciting retail and hotel destination in Thailand.’
- Amanda Levete
The design merges the distinct features of a podium and tower into a sinuous and continuously twisting coil. The form wraps around two vertical light wells in the retail podium and at the same time encloses and exposes a series of exterior courtyards and roof gardens for the hotel. Internal spaces break apart to reveal stepped terraces and vertical gardens.
‘Our design for this project has been underpinned by two strands of parallel research. We carried out extensive studies in Thailand exploring and documenting traditional patterns, materials and fabrication methods. In tandem, we’ve experimented with the application of advanced digital design techniques such as scripting and parametric modelling as a means of abstracting our hands-on research to create an innovative synthesis of technology and heritage that is specific to the context of Bangkok.’
- Alvin Huang, Project Director, Amanda Levete Architects
Drawing on motifs and patterns found in traditional Thai architecture, the facade of the building is composed of a dynamic and fluid three-dimensional array of ceramic tiles. Changes in gradient, rotation and spacing break the long spans of continuous frontage into a rich pattern. On regarding the facade, this design element will draw attention to the buildingís coiling form and give varied impressions of the depth, shape and colour of its skin with each step taken.
Conceived with the intention of reinterpreting Thai heritage and culture in a modern context, the project is a unique opportunity to merge traditional craftsmanship with contemporary digital design. Renowned for attention to detail and with a track record in delivering iconic architecture for retail and leisure, Amanda Levete Architects will produce a stunning landmark for the city of Bangkok.
The advent of digital technologies as tools for both design and fabrication has given us great liberties in form-making, however, this newfound freedom comes with great responsibility as the seductive quality of empty form must never replace the integrity and ingenuity of carefully-developed concepts. Recent advances in parametric modelling and digital fabrication have enabled us to articulate concepts with greater dexterity and increased accuracy. We now have the ability to test, manipulate and refine ideas, and this is enabling us to mount a challenge to conventional notions of space and to explore form in genuinely new and dynamic ways.
The building addresses the inherent nature of the construction climate of Thailand by capitalising on the surplus of manual labour available and simultaneously reducing the premium of construction technology required for the assembly of the building. By investing in a high level of digital technology at the front-end of the design process, we are able to create a level of visual complexity through the interaction of identical 3-dimensional tiles over a large surface area.
The introverted nature of large-scale retail developments dictates that large expanses of exterior facade are opaque and inward facing. These continuous runs of blank wall have been seized as an opportunity to utilise them as a canvas for architectural expression. By populating these surfaces with a dynamic array of bespoke ceramic tiles we hope to provoke visual interaction between the building and the observer. Both the tile itself, and the patterns it creates, have been abstracted from the materials, methods and application of ornament found in traditional Thai architecture and craft.
Amanda Levete Architects intends Central Embassy to be an inclusive architecture that incorporates and integrates contending elements in architectural forms: traditions and modernity, digital technology and craftsmanship. By embracing advanced technology and concepts as well as acknowledging local heritage and culture, Central Embassy is an articulation of the search for a perceptive and holistic contemporary architectural language. It is a design that is local to its surrounding and simultaneously re-defines the location.