Amansara: A Royal Re­treat

Indonesia Design - Defining Luxury - - ESSAY -

Amansara is a peace­ful royal refuge that brings you away from the hus­tle and bus­tle of Siem Reap. It is a haven where pri­vacy is its main fo­cus set in an in­ti­mate and re­laxed space where the guest could feel at ease. Opened its doors to the pub­lic in 1962 for the as Villa Princiere (be­fore chang­ing the name into Villa Ap­sara later on), this prop­erty was orig­i­nally built as a royal re­treat of King Fa­ther Norodom Si­hanouk.

The his­tory of this small lux­ury ho­tel, which has be­come the ar­chi­tec­tural gem in Siem Reap, stretches back to the late 1950’s when French ar­chi­tect Lau­rent Mon­det came un­der King Fa­ther Si­hanouk’s radar while work­ing with Vann Moly­vann in France. The King was im­pressed by his abil­ity to bring the moder­nity into life and wanted the ar­chi­tect to work on the grand com­plex he was cre­at­ing.

Fol­low­ing the min­i­mal­ist move­ment, Mon­det to­gether with Moly­vann de­signed this state guest house into a se­ries of sin­gle-

storey white build­ings con­tain­ing lux­u­ri­ous guest suites, two swim­ming pools and a cir­cu­lar din­ing room with floorto- ceil­ing win­dows jux­ta­pos­ing the serene land­scape.

Its tur­bu­lence past took this royal re­treat into its aban­don state dur­ing the Kh­mer Rouge regime. It had a few un­suc­cess­ful res­ur­rec­tion at­tempts in the 1980’s and 1990’s; how­ever, it was not un­til 2002 when Aman Re­sorts founder Adrian Zecha (who stayed here dur­ing the hey­day of Villa Princiere) de­cided to re­store this com­plex to its for­mer glory. Work­ing to­gether with Aus­tralian ar­chi­tect Kerry Hill, they take the in­spi­ra­tion from the orig­i­nal de­sign by re­tain­ing the 1960’s charm and el­e­gance while giv­ing a con­tem­po­rary makeover with sleek lines and sub­tle curves.

The for­mer royal en­clave has trans­formed into a 24-suite re­treat (12 suites and 12 pool suites), yet it boasts sim­i­lar de­sign and fea­tures an open plan set­ting with fin­ishes in ter­razzo and tim­ber. The colour theme is muted and cre­ates a sooth­ing am­bi­ence over the com­bined sleep­ing and liv­ing area. Floor-to- ceil­ing win­dows of­fer views of the court­yard fea­tur­ing a small wa­ter gar­den or 6m x 5m pool in the pool suite. De­sign high­lights in Amansara in­clude the roof ter­race with cush­ioned seat­ing and low ta­bles shaded by trees (of­fer­ing great cock­tails and amaz­ing tra­di­tional per­form­ing arts), the sexy look­ing spa dom­i­nated in black fea­tur­ing four treat­ment rooms, and the cir­cu­lar din­ing room with a soar­ing seven-me­tre high ceil­ing where King Si­hanouk once en­joyed screen­ing his col­lec­tion of movies.

Since the day this place com­menced its op­er­a­tions in 1962, it has gained in­ter­na­tional pop­u­lar­ity with the likes of Jac­que­line Kennedy, Peter O’toole, Charles de Gaulle to Brad Pitt and An­gelina Jolie. The way I see it, Amansara will con­tinue be­com­ing the city’s ar­chi­tec­tural and his­tor­i­cal gem.

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