Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit - Rooted in Thai Tradition
With its gently sloping façade inspired by the pleats in a traditional Thai dress, the Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit stands out from the city landscape. Opened a year ago, the hotel is part of a 31-story, mixed-use development, which includes a luxurious condominium and an upscale retail shop. Construction on the building initially commenced in 2008 but was halted due to the economic crisis. It took new ownership and the right combination of people to come together to make it happen.
The striking modern exterior was designed by award-winning Bangkok-based architecture firm OBA, while the interiors were created by local interior design company PIA, with classic Thai wooden homes, local temples, and the country’s national religion all playing an essential role in the design inspiration. The 273-room hotel also features elegant sculptures by renowned local artist Ajarn Nontiwat Jantanapalin, whose pieces are considered national treasures.
The lead designers from each company – Niwat Aunprueng, Senior Executive Partner of PIA, and Chisagarn Rojanasoonthon, Senior Associate of The Office of Bangkok Architects (OBA) – give us an insight into how the design of the hotel was conceptualized and what challenges they faced with realizing the project.
What was the brief for the hotel?
PIA: Two keywords stood out when we were given the design brief. The first was in contrast. We were to create something natural and calming rather than colorful and chaotic. After guests arrive at the airport and make their way through Sukhumvit, they need to unwind. Rather than create a space that had a definite wow factor, we wanted to develop something that would help bring visitors back down to earth, which is where our crucial second word comes in: humble, but more than just humble, it’s a Thai state of humbleness. With this hotel, the beauty of the design is in the small details. The brief was to develop something that was rooted in the Thai tradition and more understated rather than over the top. We also wanted to create a Hyatt “home”, not just a hotel.
How did you go about researching this project?
PIA: To create a stress-free environment in the hotel, I turned to Thai temples for inspiration, as this is where we customarily go to relieve stress. I toured the country's ancient capitals, including Sukhothai with its 13th and 14th-century palaces and temples, Ayutthaya with its historic temples and monasteries, and Thonburi, which is within Bangkok. Here we explored markets for traditional Thai homestyle products and visited temples. We wanted to attempt to capture people's way of life, capture the spirit of Thai traditional objects, and bring them into the modern era in this hotel.
How is Thai culture reflected in the design?
PIA: The design was influenced by the Sukhothai, Ayudhya, and Ratthanakosin eras of Thai history, but at the core, our ideas were shaped by the Thai Buddha hand. From the revered Buddha hand, we took the gold gradient and applied it throughout the hotel.
Can you give some examples of how the Buddha hand can be seen in the hotel?
PIA: The lobby's reception desk was inspired by the Buddha in two ways. Not only is there a gold gradient from top to bottom, but it's made up of handmade gold leaf panels that are influenced by the tradition of placing gold leaf panels onto a Buddha statue to honor his teachings. The squares that make up the desk are all handmade and took three months to complete.
How about other elements of Thai culture?
PIA: We wanted to bring Thai craftsmanship, such as weaving and basketry, into the design. The patterns and textures that you see throughout the hotel reflect these crafts. Even the bowls we use in the Market Café were custom-made for us by craftsmen in Chiang Mai, while the panels in the lobby the panels that separate the co-working/informal meeting room space from the seating area are handmade using weaved copper.
It sounds like there are many references to Thai culture throughout the property, if you had to choose just a few to highlight what would they be?
PIA: One would be the traditional Thai objects from everyday life that are used to decorate the Market Cafe. Take for example, the wooden rabbits on display. They are a conventional tool used for grating coconuts and are still used in some provinces. There are also copper items such as pots and vases, as well as the odd antique that is hidden among the other everyday items.
Could you tell us a little bit more about the art throughout the property?
PIA: It was important for us to collaborate with local Thai artists. For each floor that is a public space (the first six floors), we worked with a different Thai artist. We brought them into the area, talked about our concept, and then they created something unique for us.
The ground floor artwork by the elevators is from Ajarn Thanakrit Thipwaree, while Ajarn Nawin Beardklang chose a scene to depict Thailand and the ancient artifacts of the country for the 5th floor. On the 6th floor, where the pool is, Ajarn Pairoj Wungbon created a piece about the reflection of water and bamboo with raindrops on the water’s surface. The gold and black used are to reflect Thai culture.
We also have love-themed sculptures in the lobby and meeting area by renowned Thai National Artist Ajarn NontiwatJantanapalin. As soon as you enter the lobby, there is a large gold sculpture depicting a warm embrace. The artist has passed away, but his son has continued in his tradition. In the guestrooms and hallways, we’ve gone back to this idea of a Thai home. The wooden carvings that are framed in rooms and hallways are like the carved panels in a traditional house. These were drawn by me personally.
You mentioned that pleats are also a key part of the exterior, could you please explain?
OBA: When we came into this project, the building was already built to level seven, which is the start of the guestrooms. The condominium behind the hotel already had over twenty floors constructed. Smith Obayawat, our principal, proposed the concept of contrasting the two buildings by creating the masculine architecture for the condo and feminine architecture for the hotel building. Initially, what is now the hotel part of the two buildings, came right up to the road. After examining the surroundings and the urban fabric of the area, we found a lack of green and open space. We decided to cut the podium of the building by creating a concave curve for a garden in the front as the welcoming part of the hotel. Our second aim with restructuring the exterior also fits with regulations that require a certain amount of green space in a building. When it was first built, this was not a concern.
For the architecture of the hotel, we created curvilinear lines reminiscent of the feminine shape. The main feature of the façade is the pleat, which was inspired by pleats in fabric, specifically the folds in the sash that goes over a women’s shoulder when wearing a traditional Thai dress.
How have you incorporated green spaces?
OBA: The two main spots for green space are the ground floor and the 6th floor, the pool area and vertical garden, garden, the landscape of which is designed by Shma. Throughout the rest of the property, we are trying to link this green theme with small terraces, which is also part of the Thai home. On the 4th floor, we have a small terrace connected to the Market Cafe. On the 27th, 28th, and 29th floor, we also have outdoor spaces. Although predominantly green, there has been more color added to the garden in the lobby area with tropical flowers.
If there is one thing guests say about this hotel, what would you like that to be?
PIA: That this place feels like a warm and humble local Thai house. We want guests to feel calm, relaxed, and at home.