Last month, the first Waldorf Astoria hotel opened in Southeast Asia, in the heart of Bangkok's vibrant metropolis. Designed by André Fu and his Hong Kong based design studio AFSO, the project has been one of the most highly anticipated luxury hospitality builds in Southeast Asia of recent years. Located within the 57-storey Magnolia Ratchadamri Boulevard, in the bustling Ratchaprasong intersection, the 171-room state-of-the-art full-service hotel is owned by Magnolia Finest Corporation Limited and managed by Hilton.
"The inspiration for the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok is birthed out of my personal reflection of many artisanal aspects of Thai culture, infusing these elements with what I felt would evoke the quintessential Waldorf Astoria experience," André stated. "I am also hugely inspired by the art deco motifs in the original Waldorf Astoria New York and I sought to challenge myself with the goal to juxtapose these elements into a new form of expression in the Bangkok hotel."
Contrasting the unexpected with familiarity, the arrival experience at Waldorf Astoria Bangkok marks the start of the translation of an iconic story with a local perspective. The exterior is a modern, dramatic and fluid profile which gives the skyscraper a bold statement on Bangkok's skyline, signifying a celebration of the purity of the Magnolia flower - a prominent, fresh theme which flows through all levels of the hotel's interiors. Upon entering at the Ground Level Lobby, however, guests will be immediately immersed into the premise of an iconic, original Waldorf Astoria property.
Set against a 8-meter high lobby lined in pristine white Carrara marble, guests are greeted by a pair of symmetrical floor-to-ceiling burnished bronze screens, wrought into an intricate lattice that intertwines the iconic Art Deco motifs to represent the brand's flagship property in New York. The quintessential arched finger silhouettes of Thai classical dance accentuate the sense of movement, and handmade bronze screens are molded into a curvilinear profile for a sculpted and sensuous effect, positioned in an open "V" to symbolise hands in a welcoming gesture. Their apex directs one's eyes to the serene view of topiary landscape that serves as a lush backdrop to the space.
The arrival experience is also garnished with bespoke wall-hung glowing pendants, an abundance of tablelamps and candle stands, to evoke a strong residential ambience. Fu introduces a collective of bespoke furnishing in mineral azure blue and dusty sand color palates to feast the hotel journey.
As guests step out of the lifts on Level 6, they enter into a double height airy space that juts out over the cityscape, and are immediately transported into a world of serenity. The privileged aerial view showcases a captivating outdoor water feature surrounded by a ribbon of organically-crypt hedges, and the lush grounds and greenery of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club.
Level 6 of the hotel also provides two distinctive guest food and beverage destinations. Peacock Alley is a 70-seat lounge that presents a visually compelling and elegant setting at all times of day. Alluding the traditional clock presented at the original Peacock Alley Bar in New York, one's eyes are immediately drawn to the handmade clock lattice that stands behind the marble bar. Of the hotel's six oversized bronze screens, the one in Peacock Alley is the most symmetrical in form and the most evocative of classic Art Deco style highlighted with Thai reference. A mammoth white marble wall backdrop, against its nature, undulates softly and has been further sculpted to curl at its sides. The wall dissipates suddenly with the floor-to-ceiling glass façade and the dramatic cityscape view.
At the opposite end of the Lobby lies The Brasserie. With its intriguing horseshoe shape, the 110 seating dining venue is connected by an arcade of four-meter high marble arches, another nod to the Waldorf Astoria's flagship property in New York that was first opened in 1931. Fu says: "One needs to understand the context of what made a hotel like Waldorf Astoria, and what makes it iconic. Ultimately it's about the spirit of the place that makes it interesting for people to converge at, and also return to. So it's not so much about what I do visually, but more about what I do to make it relevant, how I tap on the ethos of that and translate it to create a personality and an experience, and also incorporate relaxed luxury."
Photos: Courtesy of AFSO