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AL_A’s Scripted Merger at Central Embassy Bangkok

Can traditional craft be merged with digital technology? Podium and tower, craft and technology, local and international – much has been merged by AL_A at Central Embassy Bangkok.

AL_A’s Scripted Merger at Central Embassy Bangkok

Image copyright Hufton + Crow

British architecture practice AL_A (headed by Amanda Levete) worked with Thai firm Pi Design on this 37-floor hotel, retail and leisure development located at the site of the former gardens of the British Embassy on Ploenchit Road in central Bangkok. Their client, the Central Group, is one of Thailand’s leading retailers and department store operators. Central Embassy’s podium retail mall opened in May 2014, but the tower has just recently been completed. And it makes quite an impression on the Bangkok skyline.

The form of the building is compelling for multiple reasons. The hotel tower and retail podium are fused together in a continuous curving looped form that’s suggestive of the merging of programmes. The podium form rises around two vertical light wells that open up the internal spaces. Outside, stepped terraces link the building with its context by providing places from which to view the city and to be seen from surrounding vantage points.

There’s a fusion of a different kind in the facade – a glistening composition of 300,000 aluminium tiles, each of which has two surfaces to reflect the city and the sky. AL_A describes the facade as something that builds on Thailand’s tradition of intricate pattern making, uniting traditional craftsmanship and digital design technologies. Certainly, it is possible to read a woven quality in the facade. AL_A wrote their own computer script that allowed them to develop the intricate pattern using only three types of tile. The result is a moiré-like effect that was designed in response to the surrounding conditions by playing with light and reflections.

Says Levete, “Central Embassy goes to the heart of what makes Bangkok such an extraordinary place. By embracing advanced technology as well as local heritage and culture, the building is local to its surrounding yet simultaneously redefines the location.” 

Images copyright AL_A unless otherwise stated.

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