CHAT architects designs The Samsen STREET Hotel with tropical urban strategy
The Samsen STREET Hotel involves the renovation of a curtain sex motel, one of the Bangkok’s longstanding “unspoken” typologies. Thailand's own "love motel" prototype caters to couples engaged in secret affairs. Its spatial sequence is like no other – The secret couple usually enters in a car with tinted windows, accessing a secret auto court through a inconspicuous street tunnel, ultimately seeking romantic rendezvous in curtain covered parking with an attached "love suite".
The Samsen STREET hotel renovation aimed to turn the existing curtain sex motel model INSIDE OUT... formally and programmatically.... by transforming the once introverted, dark, and secretive building with a socially questionable program, into a new extroverted STREET hotel/hostel typology that stimulates and re-activates street life in this former red-light district.
The 2 main components of the hotel’s renovation can be clearly perceived -The existing building is simply re-finished in plain grey polished cement plaster while the new interventions come in the form of a pale green “living scaffolding”. There are 3 scaffolding elements: the “soi” (alley), the rabeang (sidewalk terrace), and the “nahng glang plang” (outdoor movie theater).
The "soi" (alley)
The rooms on the street facades are first transformed through the addition cantilevered daybed extrusions for each room (allowing the owner to accommodate an extra guest in every room). The elevation gaps between the daybed boxes are then filled by the "SOI" (vertical alley) scaffolding. The soi creates a new and necessary type of MEP vertical service alley (thus creating a useful utilitarian Asian Urban balcony that isn't just for hanging laundry). There is also a surprise second function for the SOI alley, as it transforms into a vertical stage for neighborhood concerts during festivals and newly created block parties.
The "rabeang" (sidewalk verandah)
Special mobile “street” furniture designed for the area can also be rolled out to “colonize” the street and sidewalks during holidays and festivals when auto traffic is closed off. The space also provides “plugin” space for local streetfood vendors to escape the recent efforts of the Thai military government to "clean up" the streets. The result is a new business model where hotel owner and the local vendors work together to sustain Bangkok’s street food culture.
The "nahng glang plang" (outdoor theater)
The secret auto-curtain court is transformed into an active outdoor movie theater. Guests can enjoy the show either from the lounge pool below or from their own "leg-dangling" balconies, which encourages the audience to turn outward to view the movie projection…yet at the same time encouraging all guests to turn and face each with stimulating elevated “backyard” conversations.
The transformative scaffolding components are derived from improvised scaffoldings commonly found in CHAT architects’ research subjects - Bangkok Bastards (or Thai street vernacular hybrids). Such bastards may include construction worker houses, informal shantytowns, pop-up markets, and many more… which all customize this living scaffolding strategy as multipurpose tropical veranda space. It is a local architectural component that has been overlooked by the public (including Thai architects) but is an under-utilized and ingenious tropical urban strategy.
The Samsen STREET Hotel has allowed us to draw from Bangkok urbanism in the form of “bastard” scaffoldings, street food mobile typologies, and even rural Thai programs (temple festival outdoor movie tradition). For too long we have been forced to base our design methods either on Western Modernism or nostalgic Thai historical revivalism. In creating a strategy to integrate local "bastards", or live Bangkok typologies, into our designs, we are proposing a new way to create an authentic and culturally responsive Southeast Asian architecture.