A brand new creative arts district is being built around the P. Tendercool design showroom
There’s a small soi running off Charoen Krung Soi 30, whose illustrious history began with some World War II era warehouses built by the Japanese. Then came the Chavanich Company building, a two-story pale grey minimalist geometric structure built in 1946. It’s a typical ‘Khana Ratsadon’ inspired building—Khana Ratsadon was Thailand’s ‘People’s Party’ in power during the leadership of Field Marshal Phibul Songran—and it is testament to the craze at the time for late Art Deco style.
The building belongs to the Chavanich clan, a Chinese-Thai family of traders present in the area for more than 70 years. And because it has been meticulously renovated, passersby tend to take notice of it.
“My grandfather started his operation here, as he traded along the Chao Phraya River, especially technical goods from Japan,” explained one of the family members. “In 1946, they built this beautiful structure that we are keen to preserve, as it is not only part of our family heritage but also part of the district’s heritage.”
Although it is still, to this day, the headquarters of the Chavanich company, a glance inside reveals a majestic staircase, a pure art deco jewel, while the first floor—not open to the public—has still a fine collection of late 1940s furniture. There is even a small museum dedicated to the family’s business which might be opened to the public in the future.
In the meantime, visitors can also pop into the beautiful showroom and art space of P. Tendercool, which belongs to Belgian designer Pieter Compernol. Together with his wife they run an exclusive shop which manufactures bespoke fine furniture, designed and executed by the craftsmen in their studio.
“We were looking for a large space seven years ago. And we found this wonderful place with its fabulous beams,” says Stéphanie Compernol, Pieter’s wife. “We kept it just as it was, took away some of the shelves, and transformed the space to give the feeling—to visitors and to ourselves—of an apartment home. We were very lucky to find such a structure in Bangkok that has not been demolished. But the Chavanich family is very much in love with this building.”
P.Tendercool is a company that specializes in designing and creating wooden furniture made from old planks. The planks mainly come from Thailand (some from Vietnam) and are patiently cleaned, restored, and finally assembled and turned into unique pieces. In addition, three to four times a year this design duo are inspired to organize art exhibitions, as a complement to their furniture production business.
“We don’t work as art specialists, but instead just organize art events according to our instincts, and also when friends introduce us to some of their artist acquaintances,” explains Stéphanie. “The sole criteria is that the works of art should match and blend with our furniture collection.”
This little design paradise—also just a short distance from the Portuguese Embassy—might soon see more people coming in. Both Soi Captain Bush and Charoen Krung road are poised to change dramatically with the opening of the new Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC) to be housed in the former Grand Central Post Office, thus transforming the entire Charoen Krung area into Bangkok’s new ‘Creative Arts District’.
A Creative District Foundation (CDF) has been created by private citizens as a non-profit organization to look after the responsible development of the designated areas of Bangrak and Klongsan, turning them into a single district that encourages artistic expression.
“We view this creativity as a resource that can be channeled to fill needs, or solve problems in the city, and it gives back to locals and visitors a piece of the history of Bangkok,” explains David Robinson, the CDF General Manager. “Soi 30 will actually be redeveloped as it will stand just behind the new TCDC. It will become a pedestrian area with some of the warehouses being converted into a design and art market, with a few cafes and restaurants as well. There is also a project involving a giant fresco from a Mexican artist, and a small park too.”
The vision of the entire area will be to sow the seeds of creativity within the district, bringing in art and cultural events to raise awareness and support, as well as to promote existing communities, preserve local heritage, and even bring innovative concepts in food, design, and digital activities. Robinson and his team are also working on an inaugural new event called the Brilliant Bangkok Festival of Light and Ideas, and promise more special events in the future.
In short, it’s yet another great way to nurture civic heritage and raise awareness of one of Bangkok’s oldest districts.