BANGKOK, only a small trad­ing post in the 15th cen­tury when Ayut­thaya ruled the known world, be­came the cap­i­tal of Siam 236 years ago, su­per­sed­ing Thon Buri on the op­po­site bank of the Chao Phraya River. It’s cer­tainly un­der­gone much rad­i­cal change since then, mainly in the last 50 years, while Thon Buri – the cap­i­tal for just 14 years – has re­mained its quiet neigh­bour.

Now, though, Iconsiam – the most ex­pen­sive mixed-use de­vel­op­ment in Thai his­tory at a price tag of Bt54 bil­lion – is about to change the face of Thon Buri and the life­styles of its res­i­dents for­ever.

Her Royal High­ness Princess Maha Chakri Sirind­horn of­fi­cially opened the new­est land­mark on Charoen Nakhon Road yes­ter­day in what was billed as a “Mega Phe­nom­e­non”. The event at dusk was by in­vi­ta­tion only, but ev­ery­one can join in the rest of the open­ing fes­tiv­i­ties to­day and to­mor­row.

An im­pres­sive line-up of for­eign en­ter­tain­ers was on hand for the of­fi­cial open­ing, among them South Korean su­per­stars Choi Si-won and Kim Dong-jun, Tai­wanese boy band F4 and Amer­i­can singer Ali­cia Keys. Also spot­ted on the red car­pet were Dan Stevens, Kenny G and Naomi Watts.

The grand event, which is said to have cost Bt1 bil­lion, shone a spot­light on Thai­land’s rich her­itage, show­cas­ing both tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary art and cul­tural per­for­mances in par­al­lel with shows from over­seas.

“Iconsiam was cre­ated to glo­rify the proud sto­ries cov­er­ing ev­ery di­men­sion of Thai­ness by pre­sent­ing them in ex­cit­ing ways, blend­ing them with the ul­ti­mate grace­ful­ness of the unique Thai iden­tity and putting them to­gether in one venue,” said Cha­datip Chutrakul, one of the project’s di­rec­tors. “The de­vel­op­ment brings to­gether the best Thai­land has to of­fer and projects Thai­ness onto the world stage.”

Iconsiam, a joint ven­ture of Siam Pi­wat, Mag­no­lia Qual­ity De­vel­op­ment Corp and Charoen Pokphan Group, has seen ex­perts in var­i­ous dis­ci­plines from many coun­tries col­lab­o­rat­ing with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to build a new sym­bol rep­re­sent­ing the vi­sion of an era that will make all Thais proud.

In term of ar­chi­tec­ture, the two mod­ern re­tail com­plexes, Iconsiam and Icon­luxe, are closely as­so­ci­ated with cul­tural val­ues and be­liefs tied to the Chao Phraya River, in­clud­ing in­spi­ra­tions from the krathong and baisri, the way a krathong is folded, trans­lat­ing tra­di­tional Thai de­sign sig­na­tures into mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

The Icon­luxe com­plex re­sem­bles three glass krathong with the fa­cade stretch­ing 300 me­tres along the river. A spe­cial glass is used to cre­ate ver­ti­cal pleats all over the com­plex and is in­spired by a tra­di­tional Thai dress with a pleated wrap shawl.

World-class brands in all cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing fash­ion, jew­ellery and elec­tron­ics, have been quick to show their con­fi­dence in the new lo­ca­tion. The first Ap­ple Store in Thai­land is one of the high­lights and is rep­re­sented by a spe­cially de­signed replica of the Thai al­pha­bet sym­bol “aor”, which links the first let­ters of “Ap­ple” and of “Iconsiam” in Thai.

Su­per brands such as Gucci, Tif­fany & Co, Louis Vuit­ton, Dior, Bvl­gari, and Bot­tega Veneta are all here, and Her­mes takes lux­ury one step fur­ther by open­ing an el­e­gant du­plex store. The British brand Cos also has a du­plex, while JD Sport, one of the top re­tail­ers in the UK, has cho­sen Iconsiam for its first flag­ship store in Thai­land. Triplex stores house such big names in street fash­ion such as H&M and Ur­ban Re­vivo.

Patek Philippe is also an­swer­ing “Present!”, op­er­at­ing its big­gest store in South­east Asia with a floor space of 223 square me­tres. Narun Tham­mavaranukup, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of PMT the Hour Glass, im­porter of Patek Philippe, says the lo­ca­tion of Iconsiam is the main at­trac­tion.

“The po­si­tion­ing is unique. We have a great pro­file of loyal cus­tomers on this side of the river too. It’s sur­rounded by five-star ho­tels, and is cer­tain to be­come a ma­jor des­ti­na­tion in Bangkok. Thais are among the most so­phis­ti­cated watch col­lec­tors.”

Opras Lavichant, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Paci­fica Group, dis­trib­u­tor of high­end fash­ion brands Coach, Max Mara, Furla, Etro, Camper, Ken­neth Cole and Keds, also has great ex­pec­ta­tions and sees a very pos­i­tive fu­ture for Iconsiam.

“This place is not just a shop­ping mall but a life­style venue. The ten­ant list is com­plete and the decor is truly beau­ti­ful. All the brands in our group will be rep­re­sented here. Coach and Nyx will have their own stores with the full range of prod­uct lines,” he says.

Iconsiam is also home to the first branch of Siam Takashimaya, which is tak­ing up 35,000sqm of floor space. Ja­pan’s most iconic de­part­ment store, it was founded in 1831 in Ky­oto and is to­day led by Shigeru Ki­moto.

Siam Takashimaya com­bines the best of Thai and Ja­panese re­tail­ing, with Ki­moto writ­ing in the of­fi­cial press re­lease that prod­ucts from more than 530 brands, 80 of them new­com­ers to Thai­land, will be on sale. “The staff is ready to give you a warm Ja­panese wel­come – omote­nashi. We be­lieve that ev­ery cus­tomer will be im­pressed with our hos­pi­tal­ity,” he says.

Anu­jtha Jao­visidha, di­rec­tor of Jao Pros­per­ity, which is op­er­at­ing four food out­lets at Siam Takashimaya – Kimukatsu Toku restau­rant, Ichii Ji­doriya, Az­abu Zabo and Qpot Café – is very im­pressed by the de­vel­op­ment.

“At first I was con­cerned about com­mut­ing to the shop­ping com- plex, but the shut­tle boat is very con­ve­nient. I think it will be a great tourist des­ti­na­tion.

“Siam Takashimaya is very Ja­panese with an ex­quis­ite and de­tailed-ori­ented de­sign. Thais are al­ready fa­mil­iar with Ja­panese prod­ucts. I’m sure they’ll like shop­ping here, and the prices are rea­son­able too, on a par with Ja­pan,” she says.

And there’s plenty more to do than just shop, in­clud­ing ad­mir­ing the mas­ter­pieces cre­ated by more than 100 artists and ar­chi­tects, both lo­cal and for­eign.

As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Preecha Thaothong has trans­lated his vast knowl­edge of the aes­thet­ics, phi­los­o­phy and ethics of Su­varn­ab­humi – the “golden land”, an an­cient name of this re­gion – into the in­te­rior de­sign, with ex­quis­ite and grace­ful pat­terns gilded on four ma­jes­tic 16-me­tre pil­lars. The Thai pat­terns are chrono­log­i­cally or­dered by era, from Ban Chi­ang, Cham­pasak, Fu­nan, Nan­chao, Dvar­a­vati and Chi­ang Saen to Sukhothai, Ayut­thaya and Rat­tanakosin.

In this he has been ably as­sisted by artist Tha­vorn Ko-udomvit, who has turned nat­u­ral el­e­ments con­sid­ered aus­pi­cious in tra­di­tional Thai cul­ture into a de­sign printed with real leaves on the pil­lars. Th­ese aus­pi­cious leaf prints are in gold, sym­bol­is­ing the value and bril­liance of each civil­i­sa­tion.

Lasvit, a lead­ing chan­de­lier de­signer and man­u­fac­turer from the Czech Repub­lic, has come up with a one-ofthe-kind crys­tal chan­de­lier called “Joy”, while light-sculp­ture ex­pert Hab­er­dash­ery from Eng­land is be­hind the “Flow” sculp­ture.

And show­cas­ing the rich her­itage of Thai his­tory and cul­ture, Sook­siam brings to­gether the best of Thai brands in all cat­e­gories, from fash­ion to hand­i­crafts to must-buy items from all 77 provinces.

Artists from ev­ery re­gion have come to­gether to pre­serve pre­cious lo­cal wis­dom. Vis­i­tors can ex­plore the whole of Thai­land and fully ap­pre­ci­ate the sto­ries and in­spi­ra­tions be­hind th­ese art pieces sim­ply by scan­ning the QR Code pro­vided next to them.

Out­side, mean­while, the 10,000sqm River Park boasts the long­est mul­ti­me­dia wa­ter fea­ture in South­east Asia, cost­ing Bt400 mil­lion, and a huge stage adorned with a sculp­ture by Na­tional Artist Chalerm­chai Kosit­pi­pat.

Drone lights add to the il­lu­mi­na­tion for Iconsiam’s star-stud­ded gala open­ing in Thon Buri yes­ter­day, some 1,500 drones soar­ing above the Chao Phraya River.

The in­te­rior has 16-me­tre gilded pil­lars in ex­quis­ite and grace­ful Thai pat­terns de­signed by cel­e­brated artist Preecha Thaothong, il­lus­trat­ing the story of Su­varn­ab­humi, the Golden Land.

The “Pil­lars of Aus­pi­cious­ness” by noted artist Tha­vorn Ko-udomvit sym­bol­ise pros­per­ity.

The first branch of Siam Takashimaya takes up 35,000sqm, com­bin­ing the best of Thai and Ja­panese re­tail­ing.

Sook Siam brings to­gether the best of lo­cal must-buy items and foods from all 77 provinces.

The ceil­ing is adorned with the light sculp­ture “Flow”, cre­ated by British out­fit Hab­er­dash­ery and Preecha Thaothong.

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