Siam Discovery has recently reopened in Bangkok, Thailand, with interiors and exteriors designed and redeveloped by Nendo following the theme of a 'lifestyle laboratory'. Stephanie Peh writes.
Photography by Takumi Ota, courtesy of Nendo
The habits of consumers have changed drastically. Impetus to visit the brick and mortar to purchase something has significantly weakened, resulting in a competitive retail landscape worldwide. Given this scenerio, the retail space is no longer simply viewed as a place to hold and sell inventory. More attention is being given to crafting immersive, physical environments that the virtual world cannot rival – and setting up experiences that maintain the attention of digitally-savvy millennials.
One example of how things are changing can be seen in the newly reopened Siam Discovery. Located on a prominent and premium shopping stretch in Bangkok, the large-scale retail complex sports brand new interiors and exteriors spearheaded by Japanese design studio Nendo, which is led by founder Oki Sato.
The revamped mall sits somewhere between a shopping mall and department store. Nendo worked on the environmental design from common areas to the in-house curated retail space, which occupies most of the site, apart from some tenants.
There are minimum partitions with plenty of sitting spaces for pondering purchases and resting. The various retail spaces are heterogeneous, but individually geometrical and uniform, setting the stage for multiple worlds to come together to enrich the shopping experience. A sense of order and chaos enables products to ‘come to alive’.
A typical configuration of a department store would see merchandise being grouped by brand. However, Siam Discovery explores the theme of a “Lifestyle Laboratory” to entice visitors to discover new things. Nendo designed 13 motifs, including laboratory equipment and diagrams of molecular structures to define 13 different locations around the sales floors.
The finishes of the floors and ceilings in the common and retail spaces were mixed in a progressive manner, with varying materials blended together to create a cohesive space.
According to Nendo, the existing building – constructed in 1997 – was deep and possessed a narrow frontage, causing poor visibility and visitor flow at the front. Nendo extended and merged the many existing circular atriums throughout the building, creating “an elongated canyon-like space” spanning over 58 metres to draw visitors from behind the building.
For navigation purposes, a wall was installed along one side of the atrium to provide directory. Composed of 220 frame-shaped boxes incorporated with video screens, digital signage and merchandise display, the wall extends from the first to the fourth storey, drawing visitors upwards.
The building exterior was opened up to enhance visibility from the outside. Walls were removed as much as it was structurally possible, to dispel any sense of suppression felt previously. Bangkok is notorious for its scorching weather so to minimise heat, Nendo created a double-skinned facade decorated with a pattern that echoed the “stacked box” directory installation in the atrium.
The mall is represented by a “Discovery Man” mascot, who also serves as a guide for the complex. “We wanted to make a character that expressed intellectual curiosity and creativity,” says Nendo. As a result, the mascot’s head is a cube with a slightly open top, “as if something is always popping in and out,” continuing the familiar motif found in this project.
Despite the retail crisis, Siam Discovery enforces Thailand’s position as a shopping hub in Southeast Asia. The complex integrates various immersive lifestyle experiences within a physical realm that makes a trip to the mall an inspiring journey.