SO Sofitel is a modern day epic of metrical composition revealing an articulate representation of past, present and future Bangkok. The story that unfolds is affectionately whimsical and inquisitively thought provoking.
This urban oasis overlooking Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s equivalent of Central Park in New York City, was conceived to weave a narrative of Thai and French cultures through the representation of five elements: earth, water, wood, metal, and fire. Responsible for the fire element, PIA envisioned the mandate as “energy”.
The narrative begins on the ground floor, which revolves around the concept of Bangkok, the cosmopolitan city that pulsates with life and excitement. Latent power remains hidden in the world’s longest capital city’s ceremonial name, commonly abbreviated to “Krungthep”, or the City of Angels. To unveil its significance, the meaning translated into the vernacular is inscribed in ancient Thai script on grey lava stone walls.
The two main foyers facing Rama IV and Sathorn Roads feature Thai and French designed interpretations of the East, in the form of ceiling installation art. The Thai installation is a simple teak lattice sculpture in keeping with the solemnity of the space. The other, by French fashion designer Christian Lacroix, is a colourful, vibrant vision of the East filled with mythical creatures.
Rising to the 9th floor lobby and lounge, a variety of seating is provided for guests to enjoy vistas of the entire expanse of Lumpini Park at a comfortable height just below eye level. The discreet ceiling and wall treatment of perforated metal sheets which is the modern incarnation of the Nang Yai, or traditional shadow-play, keeps the focus on the panoramic views. It is only at night that these shadow-play inspired decorations appear in its best light.
Guests are greeted on the 7th floor by an impressive white porcelain stag staring back at them in placid repose. This quiet interlude of dreamlike beauty quickly changes as guests turn toward the sights and sounds of the “Red Oven” restaurant just a few metres away. Billed a ‘World Food Market’, the bustling atmosphere recreates an open air French market with a large red cooking range anchoring the open-kitchen layout. Stepping out to the exterior terrace, the highlight is a wall which is covered in freehand drawings done by PIA’s designers. Drafted in chalk whilst discussing the ideal artwork for the space, the designers discovered that their doodlings possessed a sense of humour and spontaneity that perfectly matches the liveliness of the location.
For dessert, take a trip to the “Chocolab” confectionery shop and café. In a factory-like setting as befits a workshop, guests can witness the entire chocolate-making process, imaginatively referenced with a large precarious drop of chocolate suspended from the ceiling.
At “So SPA”, parallels are drawn between guests and the Makaleepon, rare mythical beautiful womenlike creatures born from fruit ripened on magical trees found only in the mystical Himmapan forest. Teak tree trunks spanning the floor to ceiling and murals of mythological creatures and plants along the path to the spa lends the impression of a journey taken through the mysterious depths of this legendary forest.
Crowning these wonderful settings is the Ballroom with 7 metre high ceilings. Designers took the mandate of a “red carpet treatment” literally, relieving the sea of crimson with black and white checkerboard flooring and specially commissioned black crystal chandeliers. Classical wall features are given a modern twist with grey painted profiles of plinths, assembled vertically to form three dimensional shapes. These gentle curves find resonance in the double-bass displayed by the entrance where a surreal note is struck with numerous vintage clocks hung on a raw concrete wall as if to assure Cinderella that the clocks will chime at midnight.
The variety of witty, charming tableaux that refer to legends and culture, fact and fiction, makes a statement that in this divine city, the capacity for the past, present and future to coexist harmoniously is quintessentially “So Bangkok”.
Project: SO Sofitel Bangkok
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Design Studio: PIA Interior