AL_A, the architecture practice headed by RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete, has completed Central Embassy, a striking 37 floor tall retail, leisure and hotel tower in central Bangkok for Central Group, Thailand’s leading retailer and department store operator.
Central Embassy brings a distinguishing new silhouette in the city, one that opens out both to the street and the skyline, and extends an invitation to the people of Bangkok and the world beyond.
Located within the former gardens of the British Embassy, along Ploenchit Road, Bangkok’s primary commercial artery, the 1.5 million sq ft mixed use project merges a seven storey luxury retail podium and a 27 storey five star Park Hyatt hotel tower into a cohesive, architectural entity. The tower is the first to be completed by a British architect in Thailand.
The hotel and shopping mall are bound together using the notion of a continual looped form to give a more intuitive merging between plinth and tower and between the programmes. The continuity of the tower line appears to break down the volume of the mass of the plinth, creating a structure that is asymmetrical in all dimensions.
The openness of the form embraces the city and sets up reciprocal views, with a series of terraces outside and balconies within to see and be seen. The elevated form that rises from the podium wraps around two vertical light wells, opening up internal spaces to reveal stepped terraces, and dividing hotel functions: private guest-related programmes face the gardens of Nai Lert Park, while the hotel bar, reception lounge and sky terrace face the city centre.
Uniting traditional craftsmanship with digital design technologies, the design of the façade builds on Thailand’s tradition of intricate pattern making. The exterior is clad in 300,000 aluminium tiles, each with two surfaces to reflect both the chaos of the city and the sky itself. Creating a dynamic pattern in response to external conditions, the distribution of tiles creates a moiré-like effect, articulated by the play of light and reflection along the varying profiles.
Amanda Levete, Principal of AL_A, said: “Central Embassy goes to the heart of what makes Bangkok such an extraordinary place. By embracing advanced technology as well as local heritage and culture, the building is local to its surrounding yet simultaneously redefines the location. A distinctive new presence on the skyline that is both fresh and exciting, Central Embassy nonetheless feels like it has always belonged here, already a valued part of the city.”
The completion of Central Embassy comes in anticipation of the opening of AL_A’s Exhibition Road Quarter for the Victoria & Albert Museum on 30 June. This major international moment will reveal the Museum’s most significant architectural intervention in over 100 years, including a new entrance, the world’s first porcelain-tiled courtyard, as well as one of the largest temporary exhibition spaces in Europe, spanning 38 metres.
Located within the gardens of the British Embassy along Ploenchit Road, Bangkok’s primary commercial artery, the 1.5 million sq ft project merges a 7 storey luxury retail podium and a 30 storey 5 star hotel tower into a cohesive and sinuously twisting shape. The remarkable form wraps around two vertical light wells as internal spaces open up to reveal stepped terraces and vertical gardens. It rises up from the podium façade dividing hotel functions; private guest-related programs face the tranquil gardens of Lai Nert Park, while the hotel bar, reception lounge and sky terrace face the bright lights of the city centre. Drawing on motifs and patterns found in traditional Thai architecture, the external skin is characterized by an assembly of extruded aluminium tiles, to create a dynamic pattern in response to external conditions. The distribution of tiles creates a moiré-like pattern, articulated by the play of light and reflection along the surfaces of these varying profiles. This rich and stimulating pattern visually emphasizes the wrapping form of the building as well as providing scale and texture to the extensive opaque frontage at podium level. All glazed areas are designed to merge seamlessly with the aluminium skin. The building blurs boundaries between diametrically opposing elements: tower & plinth, façade & roof, local craftsmanship & digital technology, Thai tradition & contemporary design. By embracing advanced technology as well as drawing on local heritage and culture, Bangkok Central Embassy is an articulation of the search for a perceptive and contemporary architectural language. It is a design that is local to its surrounding and simultaneously redefines the location.