A typical opening ceremony might involve a ribbon-cutting or reception. But for Gensler’s Bangkok office, true to its location, the opening was marked with blessings by Buddhist monks.
The 1,765-square-foot office occupies the 45th-floor penthouse of the Central World tower in the city’s Siam Square, an area populated with retail shops and international hotels and positioned at a prime intersection of high-speed rail lines. Though this loft-like space hovers high above the city, serving as a satellite of a global firm, Gensler’s newest office is deeply rooted in its Thai location.
“Thailand is experienced through layers,” observes architect Jordan Goldstein, a principal and managing director of Gensler’s Washington, D.C. office, who has spent significant time in the country. “Part of that history is a strong sensitivity towards patterns, which manifest in the rich textiles and silks as well as the craftsmanship of traditional wood screens,” he explains. Both provided inspirations for the office’s color scheme and material palette, which also subtly emphasize the Gensler brand.
Feng shui encounter
Before beginning the design process, Gensler consulted a feng shui master, whose evaluation guided the orientation of the office’s entry and circulation sequence. “It’s been an eye-opener in what feng shui principles actually are, versus the more decorative feng shui that we are exposed to in the United States,” notes Goldstein.
The master advised designers to orient the entry along a south-to-north axis, which required giving valuable real estate back to the corridor. Feng shui principles also led the Gensler team to design and incorporate a water wall and lotus pond at the entrance. Water gently falls down a 53-inch-wide, 91-inch-high cast-glass wall set within a recessed niche. The result is a cool and soothing counterpoint to the city’s hot climate. A swirling pattern etched into the stained concrete floor echoes the water theme and lures visitors around the corner towards the reception desk, which isn’t immediately visible from the entry—another suggestion from the feng shui master.
Local influence and materials
The reception desk itself is bracketed by locally fabricated teak wood screens—reinterpretations of traditional Thai screens. One veils views into the main studio space, while the other partitions the adjacent pantry. The latter features a strong geometric pattern playing off of the letter “G” (for Gensler) by rotating, mirroring, and repeating it. From various perspectives throughout the office, the two screens appear to overlap, and these layers imply boundaries without completely blocking the transmission of natural light.
Adjacent to the reception, a wooden trellis evokes Thailand’s coastal architecture as it hovers above the supporting spaces of the pantry and conference room. In lowering the ceiling plane, the structure compresses the space, fostering a sense of intimacy. Red pendant fixtures in the conference room cast warm light through the wood beams like sunlight dappled through tree branches. While most everything in this project was locally sourced, the team commissioned lanterns from designer Doug Russell of Lighting Workshop in Brooklyn for the reception and pantry areas.
In contrast, the main studio space boasts a soaring ceiling and offers open seating for both permanent and visiting staff. Canted perimeter glass walls frame views of the city below and flood the space with sunlight, mitigated with automated blinds. The room is predominantly white, save for a few splashes of color, including red, yellow, and indigo hanging banners with traditional tassels attached to the ends. The designers wanted to incorporate the tradition of Thai textiles, so they visited a silk market and purchased rolls of fabric to create the banners. Red is coincidentally Gensler’s brand color, and according to local culture, red brings good luck.
Like other design elements in the office, the banners are not merely decorative: They serve as pull-cords for the light fixtures.
“With an abundance of daylight, we don’t use the overhead lights every day,” notes Janie Horas, senior associate and general manager of the Bangkok office. However, she says that when new clients visit, they are always impressed by this unique concept that captures a bit of the
Key Design Highlights
- Gensler was particularly mindful of Thai culture and consulted a feng shui master to help determine orientation of space. Local materials were also used wherever possible.
- The space was designed for flexibility: Workstations accomodate both permanent and visiting staff, while the office pantry and “tea room” double as a conference room.
- User comfort is paramount. Double-height windows feature automated blinds, and overhead lighting can be turned on with readily accessible cords disguised as tassels.
- Locally fabricated teak screens loosely define various spaces.
Where Bangkok, Thailand
What 1,765 total square feet on one floor
Cost/sf Withheld at client’s request