ANDRÉ FU UNVEILS NEW HOTEL DESIGN MASTERPIECE – WALDORF ASTORIA BANGKOK
At the end of August, the first Waldorf Astoria hotel opened in Southeast Asia, in the heart of Bangkok’s vibrant metropolis. Design by internationally celebrated 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 first to narrate the Waldorf Astoria story in a Southeast Asian context, Fu’s vision is a thoughtful interfusion of the Waldorf Astoria brand’s legendary heritage, a present day narrative of the capital city that it lives in, and what modern travellers are seeking. The experience delivered is highly refined – one that blends with Fu’s signature language of relaxed luxury that is very relevant to today.
“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. 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.” says André.
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-metre 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 moulded 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 colour palates to feast the hotel journey.
A walk across the white marble floor will seamlessly lead guests to the elevator to the Upper Lobby. A synergy of inside-outside, modern-classic, luxury-casual tugs subtly on one’s senses, “We have choreographed a scenography for when guests arrive,” says Fu.
THE UPPER LOBBY
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.
A path of hanging pendant lights leads guests towards Peacock Alley. At its entrance stands the white marble sculpture Messenger I by British sculptor Louise Plant (Messenger II stands near the Grand Staircase). The artwork embraces Fu’s expression of materiality by transforming a tactile material like marble and making it soft. This juxtaposition of hard stone and fluid shapes also refers to movement from one place to another.
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.
Seating is provided by relaxed sofas with smooth silhouettes, and the soft furnishings have a colour palette primarily of bronze, mineral grey, dusty gold and mauve purple.
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-metre 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.’’
At the Brasserie’s entrance, Fu has created a glass salon where an island coffee bar decked in profiled brass and charcoal canisters takes centerstage. Guests shall be treated to a visual feast of live cooking activities – from the western open kitchen and the dessert pantry to a separate kitchen dedicated to oriental cuisine. With accents of tree plantations and an array of ceiling fans, the open-plan restaurant is airy and uncluttered. The room is crafted with accents of racing green, and its smaller elements such as chinaware and classic glassware have been curated by Fu to ensure they enforce his modern-classic design narrative.
The signature dining venue of Waldorf Astoria Bangkok is Front Room, located at the Street Level Grand Entrance Lobby, and home to one of Fu’s favourite design moments at Waldorf Astoria Bangkok. It is an 80-seat contemporary, comfortable dining room with open kitchen, enabling Chef de Cuisine Rungthiwa (Fae) Chummongkhon to channel her innovative style of Thai-inspired Nordic cuisine.
The 8-metre high dining venue is highlighted with a key lighting installation that stretches across the double-height ceiling – as a subtly-worked reference to the floating lanterns during Yi Peng Festival in Northern Thailand. Over 200 glass lanterns have been delightfully set in a matrix of bronze frames that appear to float.
The colour palette of the modern-classic furnishings is based on oriental herbs, earthy taupe and silvery grey with accents of lime-green and turquoise, all balanced against a backdrop of light washed oak wood. Most of the ceramic plates used are handmade and hand-fired in northern Thailand. Front Room’s setting complements a mood for cocktails, innovative cuisine and wine, especially in the evening.
GUEST ROOMS AND SUITES
Waldorf Astoria Bangkok’s 171 guest rooms are located from Levels 6 to 15. As guests exit the elevator, they are first transported into a calm refuge with a residential feel. The colour palette of the corridors is subdued and lighting glows softly. Corridor walls and guest room doors are in a grained light-coloured wood, and the grey carpet has a dancing calligraphy pattern that alludes to the guests’ own movements through the hotel. Signage is in hand-worked bronze and references the arched fingers of Thai classical dancers.
Outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows, all the guest rooms have very tactile features, starting with hardwood flooring and large wood furniture that is grained. Over 2,388 pieces of artisanal décor and artwork have be selected throughout the hotel to celebrate its sense of place. Evoking a sense of calm interwoven with subtle hints of Thai references, each room is thoughtfully appointed with key features that include a purpose-designed bar cabinet, intricate bronze screens that are crafted with a pattern that emulates the dance movement, walk-in closet, as well as the use of solid timber to enhance the expression of materiality.
In the 136 spacious 50 sq. m. King and Twin Deluxe Rooms, the colour palette is a warm dusty gold with peach accents. The 22 King Deluxe Suites, which are 75 sq. m. in size, feature an open-plan layout with a bedroom, living and dining area, in a deeper colour palette of luxurious mineral blue with mustard gold accents.
The ten 100 sq. m. Astoria Suites feature a bedroom, separate living and dining area, powder room and private pantry. The two 150 sq. m. Waldorf Suites each feature two en-suite bedrooms and an entrance foyer in dramatic mineral blue that opens out into the airy living and dining area. The expansive 300 sq. m. Royal Suite offers an exceptional cityscape that includes The Royal Bangkok Sport Club and features two bedrooms, separate living room and a dining room for eight with fully-equipped kitchen and bar counter.