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Onion Reinvents Resort Architecture With Sala Samui

Resort architecture takes a curvilinear route in the sculpted Sala Samui Chaweng Beach Resort, courtesy of Thai design studio Onion. The result is a tempered yet inspiring series of spaces.

Onion Reinvents Resort Architecture With Sala Samui

In Sala Samui Chaweng Beach Resort on the Thai island of Koh Samui, there are none of the tropes of traditional resort architecture. Replacing sloped roofs and ornamented timber posts is an architecture rooted in the changing forms of the moon and the corresponding effects.

“Everything at Sala Samui Chaweng Beach Resort is designed to enhance a sequence of light, shade and shadow,” says Arisara Chaktranon, co-founder of Bangkok-based design studio Onion who oversaw the entire design of the resort right down to the design of the furniture and lighting.    

And so, orbs, crescents and curves define the building – from the circular pool in the courtyard that encourages carefree ambling around it, to the repeated arches in the elevations each articulating a guestroom.

The overall image is reminiscent of Roman aqueducts but streamlined and whitewashed to reflect the iridescence of the strong tropical sunlight, different proportions offering a playful demeanour.

In the guestrooms, elliptical cutouts in the verandah sunscreens overhead frame views of the sky and the circle motif take their place in bathtubs, lighting fixtures and doorways.


“At least seven different curves are layered from the building envelope to the interior spaces. Each curved wall separates each activity such as swimming, bathing and sleeping. Moving shadows make each room different,” says Arisara.

Against the alabaster foil, warm timber clads columns and walls, with bamboo continuing the curved motif in rolls on the public area ceiling and framing elements at the guestroom vanity that ingeniously turn downwards to loop into towel hangers.

Each of the 138 guestrooms has the luxury of a swimming pool and also the view of the sea’s glistening azure waters. Fifty-eight of the guestrooms were opened in January this year, with the rest in the roadside block to be completed at the end of this year.

“Even from the lobby, one can see the sea right away. This is how we perceive luxury. Luxury is not about what we build; rather, it is about the space that we decide not to build,” says Arisara, pointing out the expansive 2,800-square-metre beachfront courtyard bordered by the guestrooms that they incorporated into the resort’s planning.

Curves in the architecture project a sense of harmony in their continuity. Here, Onion has employed it well to craft sensual and calming ambiences. 

The anodyne environment of the resort is matched with moments of wonder, heightening the awareness of one to his or her surroundings as the tactility of surfaces are nuanced by shadows in the curved profiles, and arches romantically frame sceneries and thresholds.

This makes the Sala Samui Chaweng Beach Resort an ideal destination for rest and reverie – and a perfect stopover for partygoers who wish for a respite before heading over to the popular full moon party on Ko Pha Ngan.

The individualistic resort design is in keeping with the philosophy of the firm to push boundaries. With a unique name like Onion, the firm decidedly goes against convention.

In a former project, the Sala Ayutthaya hotel, brick walls ebb and flow and are laid into pavements with their side profiles facing upwards to create unpredictable rugged patterns. Here, they experiment with a single geometrical form to create a layered experience jolted with surprises for guests.

Photography by Wison Tungthunya 

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