Developers Aim High For Bangkok Skyline
Skyscrapers define cities such as New York, Hong Kong and London, and builders in the Thai capital are working to give the city its own iconic look
The concept of iconic building designs and celebrity architects is often associated with super luxury properties, whether hotels, condominiums, apartments or office buildings. The world’s leading architects, the likes of Sir Norman Foster, Daniel Libeskind and Cesar Pelli, have painted the skylines of major metropolitan cities from New York to London and Dubai to Hong Kong.
A city’s skyline often becomes its “fingerprint”, giving it a unique identity. When you think of metropolitan cities, iconic buildings come to mind such as the Empire State Building in New York, the Gherkin in London, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the International Finance Centre in Hong Kong, the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai, and Taipei 101 in Taipei. Architects and developers attempt to outdo each other in building the world’s most distinctive skyscrapers.
Earlier this month London saw the inauguration of Europe’s tallest building, the Shard, which is set to become the city’s latest iconic landmark. Designed by Renzo Piano, the Shard draws the influence for its shape and design from a church spire, with clear blue glass exteriors that reflect the weather conditions. The Shard is located adjacent to London Bridge railway station and forms part of the London Bridge Quarter regeneration project. The mixed-use 95-storey building features office space, private residences, the Shangri-La Hotel and Spa, restaurants and London’s highest viewpoint.
Hong Kong also saw the completion of one of its most highly anticipated residential projects, Opus Hong Kong, in March. Opus is the first residential project in Asia designed by the Canadian-born and US-based Frank Gehry, whose iconic creations include the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Located at The Peak, the 12-storey structure comprises two double-level garden apartments with private swimming pools and 10 custom apartments, each occupying an entire floor with a 360-degree view.
Gehry’s unconventional design can be seen on curving facades with finely tuned glass columns twisting around the building. This approach shows a contrast to the traditional rigid apartment blocks commonly seen in Hong Kong.
Shanghai being one of China’s fastest growing cities at one point, is now dotted with iconic skyscrapers. There are more than 70 buildings with a height of at least 170m,of which the tallest at present is the Shanghai World Financial Centre with 101 storeys.
The Pudong area, China’s financial and commercial hub features many of Shanghai’s iconic buildings including Oriental Pearl Tower, the Jin Mao Building and the Shanghai World Financial Centre and the Shanghai Tower, a 128-storey building that will become China’s tallest building when completed in 2014.
Closer to home, the Bangkok skyline is also slowly transforming itself with iconic buildings.
One of the newest five-star hotels on the corner of Sathon and Rama IV roads, the Sofitel So, was designed by the award-winning Thai architect Smith Obayawat and five of the country’s leading interior designers who teamed up with Christian Lacroix, the renowned French designer.
Park Ventures Ecoplex, on the corner of Witthayu and Phloenchit roads, is another new landmark, designed by Palmer & Turner. At 34 storeys, the building features the Okura Prestige Hotel and 27,000 square metres of grade-A office space. Apart from an eco-friendly design that promotes energy efficiency and sustainability, the building’s architecture is inspired by the “wai” design concept incorporating the warm traditional welcome gesture in Thai culture, which has created a unique architectural landmark for Bangkok’s skyline.
Rising to completion along the Chao Phraya, The River by Raimon Land comprises two riverside towers that have been carefully conceived to feature an interplay of elegant curved glass facades contrasted with straight elevations and bold wall elements. The project concept designer is Hans Brouwer of HB Design, a former protege of Sir Norman.
Apart from completed projects, Bangkok has many more iconic landmarks in the works and set to open in the next few years. Among those announced and already under way is Central Embassy, incorporating a retail development and a Park Hyatt hotel located on the former British Embassy site. Central Embassy will combine cutting-edge design technologies and feature a stunning facade inspired by traditional Thai temples constructed from shimmering shingles.
One of the most awaited projects is Mahanakorn, which will feature the Ritz Carlton Residences, Bangkok Edition Hotel, Mahanakorn Terraces retail space and Mahanakorn Square. The distinctive design of the 77-storey high-rise incorporates a threedimensional architectural “pixel” that surrounds the tower. Once completed in 2014,Mahanakorn will be Thailand’s tallest building.
Another recently launched project to be completed in mid-2015 is Magnolias Ratchadamri Boulevard the home to be of a Waldorf Astoria Hotel and 316 luxury residences. Set over 60 storeys, the building’s architecture has been carefully designed featuring two layers of a three-dimensional petal that spirals along the tower’s full height and the podium’s full length, as if springing up from the ground like a magnolia.
Apart from the aesthetics, which were inspired by Gensler Consultants, the project’s in-house architecture team ensured the design promotes savings in energy and water and is well suited for the local environment. In complying with LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) criteria, the design rises to the challenge of not only inventing iconic designs, but also promoting sustainability and energy efficiency.
Globally there will always be a race to create the best of the best and the challenge will never end. The creation of iconic designs has been more than ever closely associated with property in prime locations.
We can expect to see more and more iconic buildings taking shape in Bangkok, particularly on prime land sites that have recently sold at record prices. The exorbitant land costs in many recent transactions mean the sites will necessarily be developed as luxury projects. Buyers for these top-priced properties will expect to get what they pay for. With the close association of luxury projects to iconic designs, it will be interesting to see what developers and designers will come up with next.