Stephen O’Dell of SODA and William Harris of AvroKO discuss the design highlights of the new W Bangkok. Yvonne Xu reports.
13 February, 2013
It was launched in 1998 in Manhattan. A conversion of the old Doral Inn hotel, W New York boasts high-tech hospitality and glamorous urban living, but that didn’t seal the deal.
What made the W brand fly was what followed – a succession of edgy, neon-bold concepts that built an increasingly distinctive brand. W is a collection, not a chain. Each W hotel and resort, while delivering the brand’s signature touch of razzle-dazzle, remains strongly unique unto itself and its locale. For that, W has been topping travellers’ destination lists, but it is also equally desired by designers as a creative avenue and playground.
W Bangkok – the Kitchen Table
“With W the field is really open,” William Harris of New York design firm AvroKO attests. “W has experienced true global growth within the past few years – on a very grand scale. That lack of conformity and point of view on luxury clearly resonates with guests.”
Stephen O’Dell of Thailand-based firm SODA finds the brand equally compelling: “How much more exciting an opportunity could there be when interior design is fused with contemporary fashion and music? To this day, the W Hotels brand offers a very unique and original hotel experience… it is a contemporary designer’s dream design brief.”
W Bangkok – exterior
O’Dell and Harris are the men responsible for setting the scene for W’s latest shining star in the region. W Bangkok was launched on the heels of W Singapore – Sentosa Cove (read Indesignlive.asia’s feature here). W Bangkok is composed of two buildings on North Sathorn Road – a new modern tower and a heritage building, which SODA and AvroKO respectively designed.
The overarching narrative is ‘Bejewelled Mystique’, something SODA interpreted “with a touch of noir” according to O’Dell.
He explains, “Our concept for the W Tower interior and podium design was to create a contemporary, modern counterpoint or juxtaposition to the traditional, historic and ornamental heritage building… The heritage building represents the ‘bejewelled’; while the tower is the ‘mysterious’.”
“The tower entrance podium, for which we were responsible, is conceived as a large theatrical backdrop to the heritage building,” O’Dell shares. “A sense of a New York 1940’s-style theatre opening is evoked with the large W logo spotlight on the facade. By day, the W logo is in shadowed bas-relief. The staggered glass facade further creates deep shadows and a deco noir style. Large dining and drinking terraces overlook the entrance courtyard and the restored mansion.”
Inside, a spectrum of see-and-be-seen spaces is appropriately set up. A highlight is the Great Room, an event hall conceptualised as a black box theatre. “It’s a one-of-a-kind in the city. The ceiling is a catwalk which allows extreme flexibility in setting up W-style media events, functions, weddings, meetings or conferencing,” O’Dell explains.
Working mainly with the century-old heritage building, AvroKO breathed life into the long-vacant site by way of styling and customised art.
“The concept for the heritage site started with a desire to illuminate the splendour of Thai decorative sensibilities within the distinctively Western architecture of the century-old residence,” Harris shares.
The experience inside was conceived as an ‘interior journey’ inspired by royal Thai costuming. “The ornamentation of the building juxtaposed against the richness of royal Thai costuming provides a lush design foundation. Both of these cultures have rich histories, slices of which are told visually through elements of a royal wardrobe,” Harris explains.
“The journey through the heritage site becomes an inspired tour through a head-to-toe royal ensemble. From the gilded headpieces to glimmering footwear, instances of Thai royal glamour are combined with a modern sensibility to ignite this uniquely amazing and historic building.”
The team also found authenticity in references to Thai myth and folklore, as well as working with local artists. “We brought Alex Face, an iconic graffiti artist in Bangkok, to the project to inject great visuals that continue to tell a compelling story of the quintessential Thai act of ‘making merit’ – through a very contemporary lens,” Harris points out.
Thai illustrator Maysa Yonavan was also engaged for a drawn-to-scale mural spanning the length of the lobby. “The collaborations that fuse East and West throughout the process, as well as on a concept level, have been really rewarding and ultimately enhance the overall authenticity and power of the styling elements,” says Harris.
Throughout these installations, AvroKO focused on the use of metallics and refracted colours. They not only enhance fixed design elements; the super-saturated colourations also deliver the signature W touch – the fun razzle-dazzle.
Top image: Wonderful Room.
Images courtesy of W Bangkok.
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