Architecture firm Hamiltons International on the luxury Chao Phraya Estate in Bangkok
Architects Andy Miller and Richard Scott-Wilson from Hamiltons International on the lay of the land for the ambitious Chao Phraya Estate in Bangkok
Headed by the Bangkok-based Country Group Development, the Chao Phraya Estate commands an impressive six-hectare site along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River and is slated to open in 2018. Once opened, it will include two hotels—Capella Bangkok and the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River—as well as a Four Seasons Private Residences and a 350-metre riverfront promenade lined with bars and restaurants.
Hamiltons International, which started out as the international arm of the UK based Hamiltons Architects, was commissioned to design the estate. The firm is headed by Andy Miller and Richard Scott-Wilson, who both trained under the renowned Norman Foster, and the duo share their insights from the creative process, particularly on the Four Seasons Private Residences’ innovative three-corner layout.
“The brief from Country Group Development was for something simple, timeless and elegant”
How is the three-corner configuration revolutionary and how will it benefit the residents? Richard Scott-Wilson (RSW): The design was driven by the Chao Phraya River— the upriver and downriver current of the waterway was partly the inspiration behind the diagonal, three-corner configuration, which means that each unit is essentially a corner unit with views of the river.
However, we also wanted the design to showcase the skyline of Bangkok. The team went through over 30 option studies to try out ideas. It was very much a process-driven approach, and we found that the diagonal configuration would allow each unit to have maximum views of both the city and the river. The design also allows us to have two core sections within the building so, instead of one common lobby, the intersection between the two squares means we can have more intimate lift lobbies on each floor, which is more suitable for the level of luxury that we’re aiming for.
Andy Miller (AM): This all came about after long conversations with the client. It’s easy to just focus on the river but when you look back towards the city, the skyline of Bangkok is also pretty interesting. We also wanted to veer away from the traditional garden-view or city-view offering, the result of having some units at the front and some at the back. Our background, the architectural practice in which we were trained, is all about starting with a blank piece of paper, about not having preconceived ideas and trying instead to decide what works best at the site.
What was your overall design vision for the project? AM: The depth of the site allowed us to create a garden-like area with the three buildings. The residential tower has the highest density, with the boutique-sized Capella Bangkok on one side. The Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok has 312 rooms but it’s broken down into sections with different courtyards, so it feels small and intimate.
When you come off the main road and enter the complex, you go through a long driveway and the noise dies down. So there’s also the whole idea of leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind and entering an oasis of calm and elegance. We also wanted to bring some life and dynamism to the area around the river, with the long promenade for bars and restaurants.
Were any of the specifications from Country Group Development particularly challenging for you? RSW: As architects, it’s very easy for us to get carried away by the design. The brief from Country Group Development was for something timeless, simple and elegant. We don’t often come across a brief like that, so it forced us to step back, reassess how we approach things and pare back on certain elements. It’s something that architects don’t do often, so there was a learning curve—but it was also refreshing for us.
How will the three properties differ yet complement each other? AM: It needs to look like one estate, but the three buildings also have to stand out in a way. The Capella is mainly to do with the interior and how it’s operated; the frame and building is relatively simple. The design of the residential tower is more playful, but you can tell that both buildings are from the same family.
In turn, the residential tower doesn’t look intimidating—we designed it so there are pockets of light and shadow, so it looks more elegant and a place that you want to live in. We applied the same concept for the Four Seasons—there are over 300 rooms, but it’s broken down and gathered around different courtyards for a more intimate ambience.
RSW: When you arrive at the Capella or the residential tower, from the moment you walk through the doors, you see the river from an elevated viewpoint. When you arrive at the Four Seasons, the experience is more about discovering the river. The Chao Phraya reveals itself as you walk through the property.
What are some of your favourite aspects of the design? AM: We wanted to make it a place that people who live in Bangkok want to come to, a destination that they want to dine at.
RSW: It’s very rare to find a site like this in Bangkok—one that allows the landscape, river and culture to come together. The overall ambition of the project was the best thing for us.
ONE OF THE INITIAL BLACK-AND-WHITE DRAWINGS OF THE FOUR SEASONS PRIVATE RESIDENCES IN BANGKOK
FROM TOP: RICHARD SCOTT-WILSON (LEFT) AND ANDY MILLER; A COMPUTER RENDERING OF THE CHAO PHRAYA ESTATE
AN ARTIST’S RENDERING OF THE CHAO PHRAYA ESTATE