On a backstreet in the heart of Thonglor sits a unique and versatile space where different creative fields happily coexist.
In Bangkok’s diverse art, design and shopping landscape, We*Do Gallery defies pigeonholing. Not quite gallery, not quite accessory store, this townhouse conversion tucked down one of Thonglor’s well-heeled residential side streets is the brainchild of two European design fiends with big hopes for their business and the city they chose for it.
In a way we should feel flattered they’re here at all. Back in early 2011, German architect Markus Herchet and Spanish interior designer Francisco Polo were looking to escape Europe’s economic doldrums. They narrowed down their choices to two cities on the up: Rio de Janeiro, which is to host the Olympics in 2016, and Bangkok.
Obviously, it’s clear which won, but as for why, Polo explains:“ We were travelling here for nine years before we moved, so in some way it was just an easier move, but more than that we saw a development in architecture in Thailand that six years ago didn’t exist. Creative people started to move faster and in a more contemporary way.”
As far as relocations go, there’s was as modest as they come (“we arrived with only two suitcases and a small dog,” says Polo). But, after searching for, finding and repurposing their location – a big 1960s townhouse that used to be the Dutch Embassy – they’ve wasted no time in bringing their dream concept store cum design workspace to fruition.
Already it’s been named one of Wallpaper* magazine’s Top 20 spaces to be in Bangkok, and, though we don’t take our cue from anybody, in this case we agree with them. The wide, open, stripped-down shell is a picture of cool modern simplicity, with raw concrete floors and lines as well-defined as the techno beats that pulsate from the mini-speakers.
Objects for sale, most imported from Europe, sit on low white boxes scattered around the room. Striking art lends a welcome shock of colour to the stark white walls. And architectural plans for projects past and present lie splayed across work desks at the back. “Handpicked by us, the accessories and exhibitions are meant to compliment our design services,” says Polo. “It’s good for us, as people can see what we are all about.”
He’s speaking of conceptual, limited edition pieces such as the decorative wooden dolls based on original designs by Alexander Girard (B4,900), the scarves with botanical designs by Kamui Lim (B1,500), and the stunning gold-plate and silver brooches based on natural and geometric forms by Lotocoho (B10,000-B30,000), to name just three. He’s also speaking of furniture by designers such as Moroso, Knoll, Vitra Hay and Asplund, all of which exhibits the duo’s fondness for pure, clean, simple lines, not least because there isn’t that much of it.
As for the exhibitions, these rotate every few months and find the duo seeking out edgy European collaborators. For example, their first, The Oracle, paired photos by Errikos Andreou with more fey objects, such as the antique Chinese scrolls superimposed with haunting images of children, each of them drawn from old Victorian glass plates, as well as a hand-made book of spells by British writer J. L. Nash.
The hope is that all the above dovetails with and feeds into their design consultancy services, helping to promote them as arbiters of European contemporary style both here and around the region. Polo, who with his cropped hair, designer stubble and simple black getup is a picture of easy going, continental chic, is especially upbeat about their next show: a display of bizarre natural polymer-based objects by internationally lauded Italian designers Formafantasma that’s due to hit in January.
“It should help open up the market for us in Korea and Japan,” he says. This comment touches on a little gripe he has with the Thai design scene: though they have been getting work from local clients – from private homes to restaurants – Polo sees it as being a bit narrow-minded and inward-looking when it comes to its tastes. Then again, this is surely part of the reason why they’re in Bangkok and not Barcelona – in a city on the up, there is still a long way to go.