The Central Embassy in Bangkok is Thailand’s largest retail mall. Built in the former gardens of the British Embassy, this building is an architectural landmark that strengthens the Bangkok skyline. The structure is a six floors shopping center that hosts names of fashion, beauty, design, dining and tech. The place also host works and performances by worldwide artists. It’s here that the Open House has its venue, conceived by the Tokyo based Klein Dytham Architecture studio established, since 1991, by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, graduates at the Royal College of Art. In 1996 Yukinari Hisama joined the studio as a key member. They built the Daikanyama T-Site/Tsutaya Books (2011), The Giza Place (2016) and the Open House (2017), that, in the same year, won the ‘Most Beautiful Bookstore’ award by the Asian Bookstore Forum.
The Open House has inaugurated to the public in March 2017. It was a challenge to transform a hangar-like space into a village. The venue is composed of fourteen restaurants and bars, a bookstore, a co-working space, a children’s area and shared areas. The Klein Dytham Studio decided to split the space with a series of towers for each of the fourteen restaurants. The Studio not only made the restaurants visible from a long distance, but also hide the kitchen, enclosed the columns and reduced the visual impact. The towers are covered with different wood carving patterns. The variety of patterns serves to change the movement of the light through the space. Mirrored panels on the ceiling makes the towers appear extended beyond space.
The open space is surrounded by a bookstore specialized in rare titles of art books and magazines, some zines, and also out-of-print collectables. It was established by Hardcover Art Books, a Thai publishing house, conceived by Shane Suvikapakornkul, director of ‘Serindia Publications and Gallery’ and of the ‘Good Design Store’. It showcases a range of art, design, photography, travel, cooking and lifestyle books. The concept of the bookstore started from the celebration of the print culture, with a emphasis on everything that concerns print and paper. The bookstore has also a workshop space area for activities like paper dyeing or bookbinding. The Book Tower is dedicated to cookbooks, instead, the Book Station has children’s books, Thai art, culture books, Thai literature and translation of works by independent Thai publishers.
The Book Wall displays all the visual art books. On the lower level, the art books are divided into categories, such as photography, art, fashion, design and architecture; in the mezzanine, the titles are divided by publisher. On the very far end of the wall, there are some collections of Japanese photography. Next to the children book’s section, there’s the Open Playground, a corner for kids with a tiered platform, a trampoline, a ball pool and a slide. The white tower in the middle of the space is the Art Tower. It contains a small gallery and, on top, a look-out surrounded by trees. It is a space for art and exhibitions. Every month there are different expositions displayed in the tower. Large shelves, along the white wall, shape the light and emphasize the design of the place illuminating the tower.
As the sharing ideal is the starting point of this project, all over the space there have been located communal areas, where people can eat, talk, study and work. Behind the Book Wall, it’s set the Greenhouse, a co-working space hidden and quieter, where also a suite of meeting rooms is situated. All the furniture is in a green color palette in dialogue with plants set on the floor and on the ceiling. Food and drinks from any restaurant of the building can be ordered and delivered to your desk, to work without interruptions. The green notion was also extended to the ceiling motifs, where a pattern of hand-made leaves spreads to the whole space, returning the concept of the former British Embassy Gardens and taking inside the rooftop gardens visible from the outside. The 9.600 leaves are not only decorative, but help to reduce the impact of the extensive white ceiling by transforming the architecture in a piece of art.