A contemporary heritage hub for Bangkok
The up-until-now rather quiet Central Embassy is finally bustling with life, and this has a lot to do with the opening last May of Open House, located on the 6th floor of this luxury shopping mall. And this living art space heralds a cultural shopping revolution in Bangkok.
Sometime in the future, Open House might be considered a “heritage site” for those interested to rediscover the early decades of the 21st century of Bangkok. Just imagine, a huge sunlit open space featuring light-coloured woods, green spaces, and… books! Probably for the first time in Bangkok, there is a space—which is not a public library—where books are the true stars.
“We wanted to put back books in the life of Bangkok people but make it an attractive place to visit, as over the years, many Bangkokians, especially the younger generations, have lost the taste of reading and flipping into a book”, explains the man behind this cutting-edge concept, Shane Suvikapakornkul. This soft-speaking, well-mannered gentleman is well known in art circles, as he is the driving force behind the Serindia Art Gallery, Serindia Publishing House, and HardCover Bookshop.
The project to create a new space began some three years ago but Central Pattana, the owner of Central Embassy, wanted to wait until the opening of the Park Hyatt Hotel, which is integrated to the whole complex. The idea of creating something totally new, different, and over-the-top came from Taee Barom Bhicharnchitr, marketing manager of Central Embassy. He is himself son of Yuwadee Chirathivat, President of Central Retail Corporation, and represents this new generation in Thailand looking now at bringing Bangkok to a new era in development and lifestyle.
Some 300 million baht alone (US$90 million) was invested into the 6th Floor of Central Embassy mall to transform it into a new mecca for arts, books, and culture. Central asked Tokyo-based Klein Dytham Architecture to oversee the innovative design.
“My ambition with Open House is to celebrate the print culture, especially art books,” continues Shane. “Open House represents all the various types of print culture, not only in books but also in other forms such as printed photography and paperware. The purpose is to show that in our contemporary world, the print culture survives and continues to prosper.”
Shane also helped to design the bookshelves and the spaces, and now some 20,000 titles are on sale, including a lot of rare books and second-hand titles that are difficult to find nowadays. In the middle of the floor space, a cubicle serving Serindia Art Gallery has pieces of art on display.
So far, Open House has been successful, as any novelty will inevitably attract crowds of curious Bangkokians and non-Thais eager to discover a new space in the city. In fact, Open House has turned into one of the most exposed space on selfies with hundreds of youngsters taking pictures in front of open books and art pictures and photographs. Last but not least, this 6th floor concept also integrates a couple of restaurants and chic eateries between the two books spaces.
“It works so far,” admits Shane. “We sell far more books than before and this is turning into a place to hang-out—a new social life point as this huge area contains lots of intimate private space that people can investigate.”
This was exactly the purpose behind the concept. As Central Embassy says on its website: “Open House is a collective place where passionate workers share the space with foodies, where crafters meet keen creators, where art students sit between book worms and film nerds, where diligent people join mutual area with happy-go-lucky personages, where families happily hang out with single friends, and where couples and lone souls can enjoy the same relaxed atmosphere.”
Although the website encourages visitors to eat and flip through books at the same time—which is totally forbidden if the book has not been purchased beforehand—Open House is likely to become Bangkok’s new chic, trendy, cultural hub, and the balconies offer amazing views on the soon-to-disappear British Embassy (hopefully the old Embassy building, dating back to 1922 and shaped in late Edwardian classical style, will not become another victim of redevelopment).
Central Embassy is in full swing to bring into being a contemporary Bangkok—emphasizing shopping, but also the urban hipster art of living. Exhibitions, special events, the exclusive Park Hyatt (which contains an outstanding collection of contemporary art pieces), and more can all be discovered behind the glitzy façade designed by British architectural firm Amanda Levete. Finally, contemporary heritage in Bangkok gets a true icon.
Central Embassy is located at 1031 Ploenchit Rd. (Ploen Chit BTS station) and is open daily from 10am to 10pm. Tel: 02 119 7777.