Waldorf Astoria Bangkok and Andre Fu’s East-meets-West design ethos
The recently opened Waldorf Astoria Bangkok is the latest incarnation of hospitality designer Andre Fu’s singular take on East/West fusion. We take a look inside the new hotel and see what inspires Fu in his design approach.
Design beginnings at Waldorf New York
Andre Fu is one of the most well known and respected designers in the hospitality industry. The opening of his latest project, the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, is something of a dream for Fu, who spent his teenage years in New York City, which at the time was a veritable playground for hotel design and architecture. Before he studied architecture, he would wander around New York, popping into the innumerable hotels that were either iconic or on their way to being so, one of which was the Waldorf Astoria, one of the city’s most celebrated hotels. He says of the New York property, “It’s quite a monumental space. That stuck in my mind. I mean I never knew that one day I would be doing a Waldorf.”
Hailing from Hong Kong, Fu is more than familiar with the Thai capital, where he often goes on weekend trips around twice a year. However, his relationship with the city has changed over the past number of years since he was approached to design the new Waldorf. He wanted to create a hotel in Bangkok where he would want to stay, as he found the city lacking in this respect. The project also offered him an opportunity to engage with the city in a new way, to reassess afresh, and he says,”I was asked to do embark on this journey to create the hotel. Maybe, for me now, if there’s a place that I’m really curious about, maybe it’s to do a project there, and to understand it, absorb it, truly immerse in it from a nomadic perspective, work with locals and see how I interpret it in the context of a hotel story.”
Contemporary Thai culture
Thai influences permeate the interior design of the building, but Fu has taken care to make this subtle so as to avoid them being read too literally, something which he sees as a design danger. The magnolia flower is reference in the shape of the building, and the swirling feature staircase takes its inspiration from Thai dance, with Fu explaining, “ There’s a certain scenography we have curated for guests as they explore the hotel. I call it an unfolding.” The lighting in the ground floor restaurant is inspired by the paper lanterns popular on Thai beaches, but these have been reworked to incorporate the art deco character of the Waldorf in a truly East meets West move. Fu says, “It’s about, how do you retain that Waldorf thing, but make it fun? Make it intimate? Because that’s the experience that people actually want. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but it’s with the way I see design. It’s really a response.”
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