The revamped Siam Center, Bangkok’s oldest modern shopping centre, has all of a revolution in the retail scene in Thailand. The investment of US$60 million (THB 1.8 billion) helped creating for the first time in Thailand a concept mall where art and design shape the shopping experience. The move ensures that Siam Center will continue to stay at the edge of Thai fashion and design avant-garde.
“You say you want a revolution Well, you know We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution Well, you know We all want to change the world”
Remembering the words of this old Beatles’ song “Revolution”? It could be the driving force behind the fifth revamp of Siam Center since 1973 –and to date its biggest one-, which reopened its doors on January 11.
The choice of this Beatles song is nothing of a coincidence as Siam Center celebrated its reopening with an exhibition on Pop Art with the iconic pictures of Mao Tse Tung, Marilyn Monroe and a giant can evocating Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell Soup…
Problems of shopping centres in Bangkok –and generally in many Asian cities- are their lack of creativity. How clean and modern they can look, they generally remain pretty boring in their concept with their shops generally lining up along an open atrium. Recently, Terminal 21 in Bangkok (Asok area) is a first attempt to break with this tradition. Conceived like an air terminal, each floor of the mall reflects a different destination with more or less success. While shoppers will desperately look for anything evocating back the glamour of Paris or Rome in the two floors carrying their names, they will certainly enjoy the atmosphere of the Istanbul or Tokyo floors, more inspired by their original model. But the near-by Ekkamai Gateway -opened in 2012 and supposedly modeled after a Japanese shopping mall- did not live to its promise to bring a Japanese experience with its dull interior design.
Siam Center is a complete different story with the idea from day one to make this Bangkok shopping experience really unique. For the first time, a shopping mall is infusing some excitement by integrating art and design into its commercial concept. According to Chadatip Chutrakul, CEO of Siam Piwat Co., Ltd., the owner and operator of Siam Center, the new retail development concept was a collaboration with retailers and brand owners to give the entire venue a consistent visual identity based on design. Brand owners and retailers have agreed to conceive their store designs to reflect an overall theme that is clearly and distinctly Siam Center. Most shops integrate pieces of art or special design elements. Inspiration came from the Soho district in New York with its bohemian trendy atmosphere. Retailers invested some 30 million US dollars on their own from the 60 million invested.
Innovative is the integration of art at any floor of Siam Center. From the lighting with over 500 led screens and monitors providing an ever-changing atmosphere to the seats, from flower arrangements to the shop spaces, all is reflecting art and design. Pieces of art from famous Thai and international artists are also on display on each floor.
Japanese sculpture artist Hirotoshi Sawada created two works inspired by the nature. The first art mobile sculpture, hanging over Siam Center North Entrance when entering from Siam Discovery, is called “Mist Seam”. Made of 4,000 pieces of transparent plastic in white, silver, and black colors, it evocates changing clouds. Another piece of Mr. Sawada hang over the main entrance on Rama 1 Road and is called “Line Forest”. The art piece was made of hundreds of long lines of plastic. Each piece signifies the forest comprising trees and grass that sparkle as sunlight touches them. On the ceiling hanging over the three atrium, Thai artist Prayoon Chanyavong created pieces of art display on giant LED screens.
Three other famous artists and photographers–Anurak Thangsomboon, Pornphoj Kanjanahatakij and Supachai Ketkaroonkul—present art pieces on the 2nd and 2rd floors, all inspired by the New Siam Center. Anurak Thangsomboon created installation sculptures and mixed media art pieces mixing glass with wool, Tagone wood (local wood from Isan), brass, and marble, along with the light and shadow technique. The collection on display at Siam Center consists of 6 pieces i.e. Invisible Thorn—the art piece made of glass is stabbed into thorns, Jaak’s Blow—7 different patterns of glass art piece, The Parch—the mixed media art and the artistic assembly of materials, and 3 other art pieces in the series i.e. The Parch 2/7, The Parch 5/7, The Parch 6/7 and lastly, Journey—the art created from cut spaghetti, spaghetti tongs and juice presser.
Pornphoj Kanjanahatakij is a renowned photographer for experimental photographs. Pornphoj shares about his collection “The Substantial” that was inspired by current fashion trends freaks, who dress to look like their idols. Only when deciding to get away with the main stream, can these ‘fashion-addicts’ be themselves. This idea aligns with the “Be Revolutionary” concept of the new Siam Center, which encourages all to dare being different.
Supachai Ketkaroonkul, Editor and Photographer, presents its “12 Portraits” collection inspired by the “Be Inspired” concept of Siam Center. The collection consists of portraits of 12 famous people from different industries. The exhibition lasts from now to 11 March 2013 on 2nd and 3rd floor of Siam Center. There is also a collection of strange dolls designed by various artists to admire on the first floor coming from Siam Paragon entrance.
All the exhibition sustains the concept that Siam Center has been turned into “Ideaopolis”, in fact its new tagline. Two exhibition on the first floor shows pieces of pop art from private collections as well as a moving sculpture. They are both interactive, fostering Shoppers’ curiosity and turning them into a piece of art themselves… Does Ideaopolis means that Bangkok managed to invent the future ideal shopping mall? Well, this is an interesting debate. And generated by a shopping mall, it carries all the seeds of a real revolution in Bangkok!