By Kupluthai Pungkanon
The Nation Weekend
BANGKOK, only a small trading post in the 15th century when Ayutthaya ruled the known world, became the capital of Siam 236 years ago, superseding Thon Buri on the opposite bank of the Chao Phraya River. It’s certainly undergone much radical change since then, mainly in the last 50 years, while Thon Buri – the capital for just 14 years – has remained its quiet neighbour.
Now, though, Iconsiam – the most expensive mixed-use development in Thai history at a price tag of Bt54 billion – is about to change the face of Thon Buri and the lifestyles of its residents forever.
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn officially opened the newest landmark on Charoen Nakhon Road yesterday in what was billed as a “Mega Phenomenon”. The event at dusk was by invitation only, but everyone can join in the rest of the opening festivities today and tomorrow.
Drone lights add to the illumination for Iconsiam’s starstudded gala opening in Thon Buri yesterday, some 1,500 drones soaring above the Chao Phraya River./Nation: Ratchanon Intharagsa
An impressive line-up of foreign entertainers was on hand for the official opening, among them South Korean superstars Choi Si-won and Kim Dong-jun, Taiwanese boy band F4 and American singer Alicia Keys. Also spotted on the red carpet were Dan Stevens, Kenny G and Naomi Watts.
The grand event, which is said to have cost Bt1 billion, shone a spotlight on Thailand’s rich heritage, showcasing both traditional and contemporary art and cultural performances in parallel with shows from overseas.
“Iconsiam was created to glorify the proud stories covering every dimension of Thainess by presenting them in exciting ways, blending them with the ultimate gracefulness of the unique Thai identity and putting them together in one venue,” said Chadatip Chutrakul, one of the project’s directors. “The development brings together the best Thailand has to offer and projects Thainess onto the world stage.”
The design spaces of the retail complexes /Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich
Iconsiam, a joint venture of Siam Piwat, Magnolia Quality Development Corp and Charoen Pokphan Group, has seen experts in various disciplines from many countries collaborating with local communities to build a new symbol representing the vision of an era that will make all Thais proud.
In term of architecture, the two modern retail complexes, Iconsiam and Iconluxe, are closely associated with cultural values and beliefs tied to the Chao Phraya River, including inspirations from the krathong and baisri, the way a krathong is folded, translating traditional Thai design signatures into modern interpretations.
The Iconluxe complex resembles three glass krathong with the facade stretching 300 metres along the river. A special glass is used to create vertical pleats all over the complex and is inspired by a traditional Thai dress with a pleated wrap shawl.
The ceiling is adorned with the light sculpture “Flow”, created by British outfit Haberdashery and Preecha Thaothong. /Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich
World-class brands in all categories, including fashion, jewellery and electronics, have been quick to show their confidence in the new location. The first Apple Store in Thailand is one of the highlights and is represented by a specially designed replica of the Thai alphabet symbol “aor”, which links the first letters of “Apple” and of “Iconsiam” in Thai.
Super brands such as Gucci, Tiffany & Co, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Bvlgari, and Bottega Veneta are all here, and Hermes takes luxury one step further by opening an elegant duplex store. The British brand Cos also has a duplex, while JD Sport, one of the top retailers in the UK, has chosen Iconsiam for its first flagship store in Thailand. Triplex stores house such big names in street fashion such as H&M and Urban Revivo.
The first Apple Store in Thailand boasts a specially designed replica of the Thai alphabet symbol “aor”, which links the first letters of “Apple” and “Iconsiam”.
Patek Philippe is also answering “Present!”, operating its biggest store in Southeast Asia with a floor space of 223 square metres. Narun Thammavaranukup, managing director of PMT the Hour Glass, importer of Patek Philippe, says the location of Iconsiam is the main attraction.
“The positioning is unique. We have a great profile of loyal customers on this side of the river too. It’s surrounded by five-star hotels, and is certain to become a major destination in Bangkok. Thais are among the most sophisticated watch collectors.”
Opras Lavichant, chief executive of Pacifica Group, distributor of high-end fashion brands Coach, Max Mara, Furla, Etro, Camper, Kenneth Cole and Keds, also has great expectations and sees a very positive future for Iconsiam.
“This place is not just a shopping mall but a lifestyle venue. The tenant list is complete and the decor is truly beautiful. All the brands in our group will be represented here. Coach and Nyx will have their own stores with the full range of product lines,” he says.
Iconsiam is also home to the first branch of Siam Takashimaya, which is taking up 35,000sqm of floor space. Japan’s most iconic department store, it was founded in 1831 in Kyoto and is today led by Shigeru Kimoto.
The first branch of Siam Takashimaya takes up 35,000sqm, combining the best of Thai and Japanese retailing./Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich
Siam Takashimaya combines the best of Thai and Japanese retailing, with Kimoto writing in the official press release that products from more than 530 brands, 80 of them newcomers to Thailand, will be on sale. “The staff is ready to give you a warm Japanese welcome – omotenashi. We believe that every customer will be impressed with our hospitality,” he says.
Anujtha Jaovisidha, director of Jao Prosperity, which is operating four food outlets at Siam Takashimaya – Kimukatsu Toku restaurant, Ichii Jidoriya, Azabu Zabo and Qpot Caf้ – is very impressed by the development.
“At first I was concerned about commuting to the shopping complex, but the shuttle boat is very convenient. I think it will be a great tourist destination.
“Siam Takashimaya is very Japanese with an exquisite and detailed-oriented design. Thais are already familiar with Japanese products. I’m sure they’ll like shopping here, and the prices are reasonable too, on a par with Japan,” she says.
The interior has 16-metre gilded pillars in exquisite and graceful Thai patterns designed by celebrated artist Preecha Thaothong, illustrating the story of Suvarnabhumi,
the Golden Land./Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich
And there’s plenty more to do than just shop, including admiring the masterpieces created by more than 100 artists and architects, both local and foreign.
Associate Professor Preecha Thaothong has translated his vast knowledge of the aesthetics, philosophy and ethics of Suvarnabhumi – the “golden land”, an ancient name of this region – into the interior design, with exquisite and graceful patterns gilded on four majestic 16-metre pillars. The Thai patterns are chronologically ordered by era, from Ban Chiang, Champasak, Funan, Nanchao, Dvaravati and Chiang Saen to Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin.
The “Pillars of Auspiciousness” by Professor Thavorn Koudomvit symbolise prosperity./Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich
In this he has been ably assisted by artist Thavorn Ko-udomvit, who has turned natural elements considered auspicious in traditional Thai culture into a design printed with real leaves on the pillars. These auspicious leaf prints are in gold, symbolising the value and brilliance of each civilisation.
Lasvit, a leading chandelier designer and manufacturer from the Czech Republic, has come up with a one-of-the-kind crystal chandelier called “Joy”, while light-sculpture expert Haberdashery from England is behind the “Flow” sculpture.
Sook Siam brings together the best of local must-buy items and foods from all 77 provinces./Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich
And showcasing the rich heritage of Thai history and culture, Sooksiam brings together the best of Thai brands in all categories, from fashion to handicrafts to must-buy items from all 77 provinces.
Artists from every region have come together to preserve precious local wisdom. Visitors can explore the whole of Thailand and fully appreciate the stories and inspirations behind these art pieces simply by scanning the QR Code provided next to them.
Outdoor river park /Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich
Outside, meanwhile, the 10,000sqm River Park boasts the longest multimedia water feature in Southeast Asia, costing Bt400 million, and a huge stage adorned with a sculpture by National Artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.
STILL MORE TO COME
The River Museum Bangkok, set to open in July, will be Thailand’s first world-class museum complex bringing together the historical and cultural heritage of the country under one roof.
Free shuttle buses run from BTS Taksin (Exit 2) and BTS Krung Thonburi (Exit 1) every 10 to 15 minutes from 8am to 11.30pm.
Free shuttle boats are provided at four piers – Sathorn, CAT Telecom, Si Praya and Ratchawong – and run every 10 to 15 minutes from 9 to 11.
The mass transit Gold line, which will connect with the Green, Red and Purple lines, is currently under construction, as are four more piers to support water travel via private yacht, boats and ferries.
Find out more at www.Iconsiam.com.