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/ WWW.DESIGNANDARCHITECTURE.COM / / ISSUE 108. 2019 • S$8 /
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DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE
YANGON EXCELSIOR ARCHETYPE GROUP & HBA BANGKOK
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/ FEATURE /
/ WORDS DUNCAN FORGAN
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT The recent unveiling of the ICONSIAM megaproject has once again put the spotlight on the renaissance of Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s riverside districts.
s is the case in most Asian metropolises, Bangkok’s approach to redefining itself has a tendency to unfold at warp-speed. Yet, in the bustling streets and traditional communities that feed down towards the Chao Phraya – the muddy-hued river that bisects and, in many ways, defines Thailand’s
capital – the old ways die harder. Closer inspection though, reveals an area that is evolving. While the long-tail boats and ramshackle ferries that chug up and down past bighitting landmarks like Wat Arun and The Grand Palace hark back to the past, a range of showpiece projects signpost the future of the riverside.
The banks of the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok are evolving as a host of high-profile new projects come online.
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Unveiled at the end of 2018 amid great fanfare, ICONSIAM incorporates residential and retail elements.
CHANGES UP AND DOWN The most eye-catching of these is arguably ICONSIAM, a mixed-use complex situated on 750,000m2 of land and consisting of two luxury condominium buildings (Magnolias Waterfront Residences and The Residences at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok) and two high-end retail complexes (ICONSIAM and ICONLUXE). Developed by a joint-venture made up of Thai companies Siam Piwat, Magnolia Quality Development Corporation and Charoen Pokphand Group, the retail component of the project was unveiled to the public amid massive fanfare in early November 2018. Other flashy, impending additions to the Chao Phraya portfolio, meanwhile, include The Chao Phraya Estate, a 14.2acre site downstream of ICONSIAM, which will encompass a new Four Seasons hotel, Four Seasons-branded private residences as well as the first Capella hotel in Thailand.
The arrival of all-suites hotels, fantastical residences and high-end retail on the riverside are certainly a radical departure from what was there before. But the developers and architects shaping these new projects have been careful to pay heed to Thai traditions and the â&#x20AC;&#x153;river of kingsâ&#x20AC;? itself as much as possible. At ICONSIAM the architecture is inspired
Water features evoking the riverside setting abound at the new Four Seasons Hotel at Chao Phraya Estates.
by cultural values and beliefs tied to the river. Prominent is the use of the krathong (a banana-leaf raft often released as a tribute to the goddess of water) as a design motif. Other highlights include the outdoor River Park – a 10,000m2 riverside public space. At the Chao Phraya Estates, homage to the royal river is paid through a succession of water features integrated throughout the project. “We aim to connect the guests with the river in many ways,” explains Lubosh Barta, general manager at the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River. “There are bodies of water as guests enter into the hotel and there are cascading waterfalls throughout the hotel which leads to the river. “The Chao Phraya has always been a dominant feature in Bangkok. But I agree the full potential of the location has not been reached. “Therefore, along with new facilities and attractions like ICONSIAM and The Chao Phraya Estate we believe we can help to bring more focus and thus further ignite interest in the area.”
The forward momentum witnessed in this part of Bangkok is not confined to the riverside – and neither is it restricted to newbuild projects. Nearby districts like Bang Rak and Talad Noi have witnessed an injection of energy courtesy of vital bars like Teens of Thailand and Tep Bar, buzzy restaurants like 80/20 and galleries and boutiques such as P Tendercool, Cho Why and Speedy Grandma – many of these converted from the Chinese shophouses that characterise the area. Further back down Charoen Krung Road, the monolithic Grand Postal Building – originally designed by Mew Aphaiwong and built from 1935 to 1940 – was refurbished to great acclaim by Bangkok architecture
The minimalist interior of P Tendercool, a design studio specialising in bespoke furniture, is indicative of how entrepreneurs are repurposing old buildings in the riverside districts.
Cho Why, an art space located in a converted shophouse, is among the thriving businesses making the riverside one of Bangkok’s hippest spots.
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/ WORDS LOW SHI PING
TWO PEAS IN A PRETTY POD Wilson Associates and AB Concept come together to design the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur, creating interiors that alternately soothe and stun the senses.
The 209-room Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur is housed inside a 65-storey building located next to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. Other occupants are 242 Four Seasons Private Residences, 27 serviced apartments and a mall in the podium.
As like other Four Seasons properties, the wow-factor is immediately apparent from the main entrance, with its soaring high ceiling, and polished marble and stone finishing. The understated, latte-coloured palette makes for a perfect canvas for the elaborate artworks by a myriad of Malaysian artists and elegant furnishings.
Wilson Associates extends this similar design language up to the main lobby on Level 6B, as well as the lift lobby and corridors of the common areas. Each of these are liberally decorated with contemporary artworks and sculptures.
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FOUR SEASONS HOTEL KUALA LUMPUR LOCATION COMPLETION SITE AREA ARCHITECTURE INTERIOR DESIGNER OWNER GENERAL CONTRACTOR
In the guestrooms, wood, stone, shiny metals and silken fabrics dominate in a subtle and cohesive way. Undoubtedly, there is a lot going on, from the art on the walls, to the cushioned headboard, and the day bed by a window framed by floor-to-ceiling curtains. Yet, nothing really stands out or grabs the attention, not even the sometimes heavily-patterned carpets influenced by local ethnic motifs and colours â&#x20AC;&#x201C; making the rooms truly easy on the senses.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA 2018 114,603 FT2 NRY ARCHITECTS WILSON ASSOCIATES & AB CONCEPTS VENUS ASSETS CRCC (CHINA)
The bathrooms are generously sized, and use the same high gloss, latte-coloured palette that soothes. While only the double guestrooms have his-and-her washbasins, all have bathtubs and standing showers.
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/ WORDS LOW SHI PING
CONTEMPORARY AND COLONIAL The Yangon Excelsior in Myanmar is a perfect balance of past-meets-present and close attention to detail that promises to charm and delight.
The building before it underwent restoration by the Archetype Group.
The lobby is instantly Instagram-able with its plethora of design highlights.
mid the frenetic pace of rapidlydeveloping Myanmar, the Yangon Excelsior boutique hotel in the countryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s commercial capital is a blissful oasis. Walk through the giant glass front doors manned by white-uniformed staff and immediately, the traffic jams and speed-
walking locals on crowded sidewalks get left behind. Under the hand of the Bangkok team of Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), the property is at once contemporary and colonial at the same time â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the latter being especially important given the original nature of the building.
/ PHOTOGRAPHY HOSHINOYA TOKYO
/ HOSPITALITY /
YANGON EXCELSIOR LOCATION COMPLETION ARCHITECT INTERIOR DESIGN FLOOR AREA SITE AREA
YANGON, MYANMAR 2018 ARCHETYPE GROUP HIRSCH BEDNER ASSOCIATES BANGKOK 5,500M2 1,305M2
FROM OFFICE TO HOTEL Formerly the headquarters of the Steel Brothers, a British trading company, dating back to the late 19th century, it was built between 1920 and 1930 in the distinctive colonial style, and was part of the lively, incredibly cosmopolitan fabric of the city. Long before war and international sanctions scarred Yangon, the beauty of the city was undisputed; think buildings with intricate wrought-iron balconies, elaborate balustrades, stuccoed facades and soaring columns. Unfortunately, many have since been neglected and fallen into disrepair, often covered with a thick grime of dirt or hidden by intrusive creepers. But there is hope yet. Today, one by one, the structures that make up the architectural legacy of the city are gradually being restored and undergoing adaptive reuse. Yangon Excelsior is the perfect example, with the Archetype Group taking the lead to
restore this British colonial-style architecture gem that has witnessed the continuous changes on the social and economic aspects of the city in the last century. All this also became fodder for HBA to draw inspiration from to create the interior design. Spread across four floors, the hotel has 74 rooms across six categories. These are divided across the upper three levels, with the topmost also housing the Executive Lounge. On the second floor sits the spa and gym, and on level one are the lobby, two restaurants and a small library. Connecting the various levels is a marble stairwell that hugs a beautiful antique wrought-iron lift shaft. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t worry though, the elevator is a modern piece of equipment and does not date back to the colonial era.
The News Rooms is the all-daydining restaurant with its distinctive four-sided European-style clock inspired by antique pocket watches.
/ HOSPITALITY /
/ PHOTOGRAPHY HOSHINOYA TOKYO
/ WORDS SASHA GONZALES
THE ART OF HOSPITALITY The new Joali Maldives features an extensive art collection that helps guests feel connected with the resort, its location and the natural surroundings.
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he Joali Maldives seems like any other island resort at first. But look more closely and you will notice a variety of art and architectural elements that makes the property stand out. From artistic displays by young designers and an on-site Art Studio & Gallery, to the “art map” that spotlights areas of interest, the property has earned its spot as the first and only art-immersive luxury hotel in the region.
THE BEGINNING OF AN IDEA The resort, which features 73 private beach and overwater villas and residences, is located on its own private island in the Raa Atoll, one of the largest and deepest atolls in the world. The idea for the property was three years in the making and involved creative teams from architecture and design firm Atolye4N
and design firms Autoban and Studio Glitt. “All our teams had to work very closely together from the beginning,” says Cuneyt Bukulmez, co-founder of the Turkey-based Atolye4N. “The idea was to create something that was comfortable, peaceful and luxurious; a place that felt like home, filled with plenty of beautiful artworks. “It was also important for the resort to capture that traditional Maldivian vibe and blend seamlessly with the natural environment.”
VILLAS OF TRADITIONAL ART After spending time on the atoll, Bukulmez decided that each villa ought to have both front and back gardens, to counter that feeling of disconnection and loneliness
All the villas, including this overwater one with its wave-like roof, personify the relaxed Maldivian vibe.
Thatched roofs, made from dried coconut leaves prepared by the locals, help channel the rain away from the villas during monsoon season.
The four-bedroom Beach Residence with Pool is a sprawling 500m2 accommodation that has its own library.
JOALI MALDIVES LOCATION COMPLETION SITE AREA BUILDING AREA LEAD ARCHITECT INTERIOR DESIGN CONTRACTOR LANDSCAPE
MALDIVES 2018 90,000M2 25,000M2 ATOLYE4N AUTOBAN & STUDIO GLITT GURALLAR YAPI ERMANNO CASASCO
/ DINE /
/ WORDS PEARLIE TAN
DINING ON THE “DOCKS” This Ukrainian fish bar cleverly unifies a seafood market with a modern restaurant and bar.
/ PHOTOGRAPHY ANDRIY BEZUGLOV
n downtown Kiev, one of the oldest cities in Europe, the Ryba-Pyla fish bar brings together the friendly convenience of a fish market and the modern mood of an upscale restaurant. While the concept of live seafood in a restaurant isn’t new, YOD Design Lab has interpreted the dual functions of this establishment in an original way. The entrance of the restaurant opens to an expansive showcase of fresh fish and seafood in tanks and on ice, creatively designed to resemble a modest stall in a fish market. “We set ourselves the task of making an inexpensive and affordable restaurant with simple but delicious cuisine,” says Dmytro Bonesko, art director of YOD Design Lab. “The design should not ‘scare away’ visitors of the middle price category, and the market format suited this very opportunely.” A smartly-dressed fishmonger stands behind the counter and expertly prepares the daily catch, which arrives every morning from the seaside city of Odessa. Restaurant diners are served freshly shucked oysters, caviar, mussels, flounder, red mullet, crayfish and lobster from the Black Sea. These local delicacies can also be purchased on the premises and taken home to prepare.
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The striking centrepiece of the restaurant is a 9.5m-long skeleton of a sea creature constructed from MDF and suspended from the ceiling. FLOOR PLAN
The interiors are consistent with the market format, with prices written in chalk and functional wooden chopping boards hanging from hooks. A large blackboard illustration of sea creatures is set alongside a neat display of wine and canned goods. The placement of the seafood counter at the threshold also allows customers to make their purchases without interfering with the running of the restaurant.
NAUTICAL NUANCES Slightly elevated from the entrance, the dining hall is flanked by a wall of glass windows, which opens onto the covered terrace during the warmer months to visually expand the interior space. Completed in 2018, the restaurant can seat 99 people inside and 44 on the terrace. The eye-catching centrepiece of the
restaurant is a 9.5m-long skeleton of a sea creature, suspended from the ceiling. Constructed from MDF and painted with a woodgrain texture, the designers intentionally kept this sculpture abstract so restaurant patrons could come up with their own associations. “For us, it was a kind of game with guests, and the image itself sets the character of the restaurant’s main hall,” says Bonesko. The designers experimented with local materials and textures to create interiors in copper and grey, which resemble surfaces aged by seawater. The timber floors and tables, rusty hues and weathered shipping containers embedded at the end of the main hall create the impression of being on an old fishing boat. “The colour palette of the sea berth, natural materials that have been in a wet environment for a long time, metal panels
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JUST FOR HUMANS What is design thinking? Chooake Wongwattanasilpa is a subject matter expert who sheds light on it and draws parallels with what architects do.
hese days, it seems like the words “design thinking” are on everyone’s lips. According to design firm IDEO, it “encourages organisations to focus on the people they’re creating for and leads to human-centred products, services, and internal processes”. One organisation that is an advocate of it is DBS Bank. Five years ago, it hired Chooake Wongwattanasilpa to helm the user experience and design division, which employs the concept as its main tool to solve problems particularly in the online space. Under his charge, the department has burgeoned from two to 50 today – illustrating the importance of design thinking to the bank. “It is about how things work and how people feel when they interact with something,” says Chooake, who also spoke on the subject at the Design Education Summit organised by the DesignSingapore Council in November last year. “We have a step-by-step process where we discover, define, design and develop.” If all this sounds familiar, it is. Chooake says there are parallels to be drawn between design thinking and the design process for the built environment. “Architects have a mood board to express how their ideas will look and feel, and they use floor plans to show how a space is used. “We do the same. We have wireframes that act as a guide, and employ visual design to illustrate our ideas.” Also common to both is the understanding of the functionality behind the design, and the end-user being kept front and centre. He goes on to add that design thinking
DBS iBanking user interface, as designed by Chooake’s team.
can be applied in three different ways: to formulate a strategy; to invent or improve a process; and to generate ideas. An example of how the concept has helped DBS is the PeekBalance function that was introduced to the smartphone banking application. “We noticed that on the 25th of every month, the traffic peaks but the usage does not exceed more than a few seconds,” shares Chooake. It turns out that customers were logging in to check if they had been paid their salary. Because of this, his team mooted the idea of the function and built it into the app. Today, it is the most popular feature with four million views per month. Another example is how the iBanking log-in screen was conceptualised. In the past, it was a frills-free page. But thanks to design thinking, it was changed to have photos on it, typically alluding to how DBS is a bank with a difference. “We have a mandate not to sell anything on this page. We pay more attention to emotional value.” That design thinking is fundamentally about problem solving is obvious enough.
Thanks to the rise of the smartphone and the increasing number of digital interfaces, it has grown in importance. Chooake says he runs about 20 big projects at any one time across six countries, “We become a glue for every team because we can offer prototypes to every solution. Everything we do goes towards making the customer not work too hard.” He points to how the implementation speed can be quick and sometimes, almost immediate. The counterpoint to this though, is that changes in the industry happen too fast. “A house can stand for 30 years. In the digital space, things can last for six months and then phase out. Just look at how Apple came up with face ID and now, we don’t use touch ID anymore.” Challenges aside, design thinking is definitely not endangered in any way – if anything, it will only become even more prominent.
Visit www.DesignAndArchitecture.com to find out more on how architects can also become design thinking experts.
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/ WORDS LOW SHI PING
BREATH OF FRESH AIR Originally from Italy and a resident of Singapore for a dozen years, Savina Nicolini is a designer with refreshingly different perspectives.
/ PHOTOGRAPHY ALVINN LIM
What is your design philosophy? Nicolini is a big fan of Arflex, the brand of furniture she is sitting on. She admires it for its cultural and technological experimentation, which it inherited from the Modern Movement.
I see design as a process and a team working together. In this process, one of the most relevant factors is the context. Context is also my source of inspiration. My starting point is always the scale of the project. If I have to draw a table, I think of the room; if I have to draw a room I think of the building; if I have to draw the building I think of the city. The spatial dimension leads the design, after which comes into play many extremely important factors like the brief and budget.
What is the most interesting project you have worked on to date?
All projects are special to some degree. But a project that I feel very close to is Hamaya Spa in Surabaya, which I did for an Indonesian client. My inspiration was female convent architecture: Bare walls, large blocks of stone, materials that are eternal, like true beauty. Onto it I added gold and light – gold was the tonality of light, the finish of metal, the colour of glass. I also added a fire place in every treatment room.
Tell us about how something inspired a design.
What is the top challenge you face right now and how do you overcome it?
I recently designed a small apartment in Singapore. I wanted something light, a delicate touch, a breath. With this idea in mind, I found the work of two artists, a photographer and a fashion designer who inspired me throughout the project, from the choice of materials to the colour palette. The photographer is Annie Leibovitz. One photo in particular from the American photographer enchanted me, the portrait of Misty Copeland, the first African-American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.
The key word is adaptability and exactness. Adaptability opens you to the conditions of the project. Imagine that there is a sort of logistic binary that we cannot change (costs, production time, customer expectations and also customer taste). Then there is a non-negotiable core, which is the DNA of your idea. This core must be preserved at all costs, otherwise the innovative charge of the project is compromised.
I was looking for the imaginary owner of this apartment and when I saw that portrait I thought she is the idealised muse of that exclusive 500ft2. I liked her posture and the floating-butdetermined silhouette. The fashion designer is Molly Goddard. I came across her work because it was featured in The Gentlewoman magazine. I fell in love immediately with her sweet-buttwisted girls dressed up in voluminous, handpleated tulle waves. Yes, the key idea was floating, like a bubble in a glass of champagne.
In 2018, I was the art director of the Italian Design Day in Singapore, an event that transforms all the Italian Embassies in the world for one day on 1 March. Space Furniture contributed to this event with a wonderful table from Cassina designed by Carlo Scarpa in 1970. It has made available in Singapore the legacy of designers like Carlo Scarpa, Eileen Gray and Arne Jacobsen who are masters of design who “wrote” its history.
How does your work differ from other designers?
I do not think I should follow a style. Undoubtedly, my personal background and path of training influenced me a lot. However, no matter how luxurious or extreme the client’s brief is, in the end we must live in that space; we must carry out our human activities, which are basically relational, experiential and collective. What I want to offer is a better way of living starting from these three key conditions of the human experience.
Why do you enjoy purchasing pieces from Space Furniture?
I see design as an inclusive process, a team working with many different skills converging. There is not only “the” designer. I think designers, suppliers and contractors should have more opportunities for meeting and dialogue. I think at the base of a good project, there is the aspiration to a high-profile aesthetic-technical result. Space’s showroom goes beyond its mere role as a showcase for beautiful furniture. It is also a meeting point and cultural production place. This is the added value that e-commerce cannot offer now.
This story is produced in collaboration with Space Furniture.
/ AVANT-GARDE /
WHAT LIES BENEATH / WORDS LOW SHI PING /
It doesn’t look like much but this project has the potential to become a game-changer: Replacing construction steel with a bamboo fibre composite material as reinforcement in concrete. The Alternative Construction Materials team at the Future Cities Laboratory of the Singapore-ETH Centre is proposing this. “Many recognise the strength of bamboo, but few know that its tensile strength is up to two times greater than that of construction steel,” says Dr. Alireza Javadian a senior researcher on
the team. “This can greatly reduce the cost of construction in developing territories that are heavily dependent on steel imports for construction, while at the same time reduces carbon footprint by lowering the need to transport steel from across the world.” Already, start-up Widuz, in collaboration with the Centre, is looking to commercialise the reinforcement system in developing countries. It is also exploring other ways to apply the bamboo fibre composite material – one way is to use it in the structural framing system of prefabricated modular housing units.