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It’s Open House at the ‘palace’

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A magnet for the wealthy, Central Embassy devotes its entire top floor to anyone at all, and the setting is amazing

THE NAME, Open House, is as simple as the concept for the new space just unveiled at Central Embassy. It’s a place where folks can eat, work, study or just relax, maybe even have a nap.
But, as befitting this most posh of Bangkok shopping malls, Open House is one eye-popping place to loaf.
The whole top floor of the retail palace – 7,000 square metres – has become a vast, open-concept “co-living space” beneath soaring ceilings, with huge glass panels all around offering great views.
A restaurant, lounge, bar, bookshop, art gallery, design shop, kids’ playground and “co-working space” nestle against the ritzy Embassy Diplomat Screens cinema. Work is still underway on the 220-suite Park Hyatt Bangkok, due to open next month. 

It’s Open House at the ‘palace’

Under lofty ceilings, Open House’s open-plan is vast, seamless, minimalist and multi-functional.

“It took almost two years to complete this project,” says Central Embassy managing director Barom Bhicharnchitr, who speaks of “driving traffic” and “a dynamic space that’s sensible to time”. 
“Accessible luxury is the key, but luxury’s not about price – it’s mostly about the quality of life,” he says.
Political uncertainty and a global economic slowdown didn’t stop the Central Group from opening the Bt18-billion Embassy in 2014 on part of the former British Embassy site at Wireless and Ploenchit roads. Its curving 200-metre facade advertises high-end brands like Gucci, Prada and Ralph Lauren. Ticket prices in its main VIP cinema top Bt1,000.
All this opulence might pull in foreign tourists and well-off urbanites, but a lot of people couldn’t help feeling left out. So Open House is the attraction for the rest of us, especially the younger crowd.

Comfy sofas are scattered about. Natural wood predominates. Living trees add to a sense of calm wellbeing. A wall of books beckons. The Wifi is, of course, free, just like the selfies everyone’s taking there. 
“I saw a picture of Open House online and was really impressed by the huge area,” says early visitor Kullaya Akararatsamimarn, 20, a university student. 
“The mall is too expensive for me to be a regular customer, but Open House really invites you to spend time here. You can read a book, sip a coffee or just chat with friends. I love being able to look through all the books without someone bugging me to buy something.” 

It’s Open House at the ‘palace’

Central Embassy’s new “co-living space” has a bookstore, kids’ playground, art gallery and dining areas.

Barom says all five lower floors of Central Embassy have “traditional tenants” who were keen to see the mall draw a broader range of shoppers. “So we decided to explore a new lifestyle concept on the sixth floor that combined many interests in one place, where people could spend more time or even stay all day. The retail business is so competitive these days that you have to offer much more than shopping – you have to offer ‘experiences’.”

It’s Open House at the ‘palace’

The greenhouse-like “co-working space” has fast Internet, meeting rooms and a bar.

Key to the revamp was Tokyo-based design studio Klein Dytham Architecture, which has worked for Uniqlo, Nike, Google Japan and giant Japanese retail chain Tsutaya.
“The idea was to provide an indoor park for people of all ages, a place they can relax, freshen up and hang out,” says Astrid Klein, the founding partner with Mark Dytham. 
“Bangkok is so hot and you can’t really go outside, but here you can sit and stay cool and enjoy the greenery. Shoppers these days are educated and sophisticated – they don’t want to be reminded all the time that they should be making purchases. 

It’s Open House at the ‘palace’

Some of the best dining venues in town have their wares on offer catering to the full range of tastes.

“But when they’re happy and having a good time, they tend to spend more. And this is the sort of place where memories are made – the memory of the day they went to Open House rather than the day they bought a pair of sneakers.”
This is the firm’s second project in Thailand after “lifestyle bookshop” Think Space at Central Festival EastVille opened last year. That amazing spot on Ekamai-Ram Intra Road covers 3,000 square metres over two and a half floors, and Open House at Central Embassy is even grander.

It’s Open House at the ‘palace’

The huge books wall forms the backdrop. /Courtesy of Central Embassy

The ceiling six metres up is decorated with 9,000 hand-painted tree leaves so it looks like a sprawling arboreal canopy. Light pours in through the wrap-around glass panels. The supporting columns are covered in timber-like fretwork. The Art Tower, a gallery, feels natural even as it serves to anchor the whole space. Up above the artwork on exhibit is an area filled with plants where visitors can sit and admire the views.

It’s Open House at the ‘palace’

Kids have a book corner as well as a playground.

The library with its wall of books, also high-ceilinged, forms a terrific backdrop and has stairs leading to a balcony of glazed glass from which you get at the upper rows of reading material and still more interesting views. Behind the book wall is the “co-working space” resembling a greenhouse. The Internet connection is fast and there are meeting rooms along the side and, the ultimate distraction, a nice-looking bar.
“Normally in a big space like this, people start to feel like ants and decide ‘This isn’t the place for me’,” says Klein.
“But being in a big space is also a luxury because you can fully breathe. The challenge is to provide comfortable corners and human-scale spaces where they feel not so exposed. It’s a matter of balance – to appreciate music, you have to also have silence, and to appreciate a big space, you need little spaces. Partitioning the space without blocking the open feel of it is the key.”

It’s Open House at the ‘palace’

As far as the reading material is concerned, Shane Suvikapakornkul, owner of the Hardcover bookstore chain that has an outlet at Central Embassy, has assembled more than 20,000 titles, including rare and out-of-print scholarly works and large-format tomes on art, design, fashion and photography.
“The book area covers around 800 square metres,” says Shane, who also runs Serindia Publishing and the Serindia Gallery, which specialise in Central Asian works.
“There’s plenty of seating and everyone’s welcome to sit and read a chapter or two before deciding whether to purchase, or they can just rest. We have books from publishers in China and India too, and hopefully the guests of the Park Hyatt Bangkok will come here when it opens.”

It’s Open House at the ‘palace’

Peppina offers Italian delicacies

For hungry visitors, Barom has set up branches of some of the best dining venues in town with an eye to accommodating varied tastes. There’s Broccoli Revolution for vegetarians, great Italian fare at Peppina, Thai dishes at Lady Nara, Spanish cuisine at Rico, Japanese at Muteki by Mugendai, Chinese street food courtesy of Bao and Buns, meat and seafood from the Meat Bar and the Raw Bar, egg-based dishes for kids by Egg My God, pastries from Paris Mikki, Movenpick ice cream and a wine-and-cocktails bar called the Casks. 

GO AND BEASTONISHED
Open House is on the sixth floor of Central Embassy near the Ploenchit BTS station.
It’s open daily – Sunday through Thursday from 10 to 10 and Friday and Saturday until midnight. 
Call (02) 119 7777 or visit www.CentralEmbassy.com.

Published : March 31, 2017

By : Khetsirin Pholdhampalit The Sunday Nation