Samsen STREET Hotel

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  • 2021

  • Architectural
    Commercial and Residential

Designed By:

  • Chat Architects

Commissioned By:

L. S. Hotels & Resorts Group

Designed In:

Thailand

The Samsen STREET Hotel involves the transformation of a 47-year-old curtain sex motel in Bangkok’s old Samsen Red Light District. New green ‘living scaffolding’ components invert the original structure and program transforming a dark and introverted love motel into a light and porous ‘street’ hotel that re-invigorates neighbourhood life.


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  • CHALLENGE
  • SOLUTION
  • IMPACT
  • MORE
  • How does one renovate an old Bangkok "curtain sex motel" in a critical manner both architecturally and culturally? We began by NOT ignoring its dark history (as embedded in its unique architecture)... but to acknowledge its past and infusing it with a new transformative public program and culturally meaningful architectural agents. BUILDING HISTORY: Thailand's "love motel" prototype caters to couples engaged in secret affairs. Its spatial sequence is like no other - a couple arrives in a tinted-window car, accessing a central auto court through an inconspicuous street tunnel, and ushered into a curtain-covered parking slot with an attached "love suite".

  • The green "living scaffolding" components wrap and insert themselves into the existing unfinished concrete building, creating a new Bangkok STREET hotel typology. The 3 scaffolding components are: 1.) the "SOI"( alley): a vertical MEP service alley that doubles as vertical stage for neighborhood concerts 2.)the "RABEANG" (sidewalk terrace): a sidewalk urban interface for meeting, eating, drinking, chatting between hotel guests and locals. Special mobile "street" furniture can freely "colonise" the street. 3.) the "NAHNG GLANG PLANG" (outdoor theater): Here, old "curtained" drive-thru auto-court is transformed into pool lounge court with activated by an new outdoor theater and "leg-dangling" balconies.

  • The hotel introduces new programs that re-awaken the city by creating a new business street food model that not only appeal to foreign guests but assists the local community. The sidewalk scaffolding area ("rabeang") allows for water and electrical "plug-in" stations for nearby vendors. More importantly, it provides safe haven sales areas for the struggling mobile businesses who are currently targeted by the Thai military government in their effort to "clean up" the streets. The hotel's street-facing alley scaffolding ("soi") further stimulates urban life/local business by accommodating "vertical street concerts" during festivals, weekends, and holidays.

  • RECYCLING BUILDINGS: The recycling/up-cycling of existing buildings, no matter what their "pedigree" (even a love motel), becomes the focus of architectural design of the 21st Century - an age defined by an overwhelming rate of demolition of still-useful structures and unnecessary new construction - root causes of dust, heat, and degradation of the urban and rural environment. UTILIZING LOCAL, HOMEGROWN KNOWLEDGE: The hotel's "living scaffolding" concept was derived from improvised scaffoldings commonly found in the architects' research subjects - "Bangkok Bastards", or Thai street vernacular hybrids. These may include construction worker houses, informal shantytowns, pop-up markets - informal/cheap architecture that utilise the "living scaffolding" strategy as multipurpose, ventilative tropical perimeter zones. These veranda-like structures have been long overlooked/shunned by the Thai developers and architects (who favor clean modern air-conditioned glass boxes), yet are nevertheless ingenious tropical urban strategies. In the Samsen STREET Hotel, remnants of the existing building's "dark" history are not erased, but acknowledged and transformed. Homegrown local building knowledge, like the "living scaffloding" strategy found in construction worker houses, is utilized to facilitate life in the tropical Asian urban metropolis. Meaningful "live" cultural traditions, like street food and temple outdoor movie, are hybridized to create a new Bangkok neighborhood public experience.