Bangkok is a city full of shopping malls, and competition is most intense in the roughly three-square-mile area around Rama 1 road, which contains the bulk of them. The rivalry means retailers are constantly reinventing their identities and offering “new” shopping experiences to younger generations. The lifespan of buildings here is similar to that of fashion collections, and the structures are expected to be either highly adaptable or expressly unique.
At the end of this road is Ratchaprasong, the largest mall in Bangkok, which has undergone several major redesigns in the last 20 years. Its latest addition is The Groove at CentralWorld, situated in front of an office tower, occupying what used to be a rare open space in central Bangkok. It connects to the local BTS Skytrain via a walkway bridge. The requirements and the setting did not provide an easy task for the architect, Los Angeles–based Synthesis Design + Architecture, which needed to respond to the context’s fast pace and surreal setting. Since the main approach to the building is not on street level, the smaller-scale building had to nonetheless attract commuters’ attentions from the Skytrain, and from the walkway between its stations.
The overall concept of The Groove, like most new semi-outdoor boutique malls in Thailand, is to be more intimate and friendly than its predecessors. The project features restaurants and bars, so it accommodates customers both day and night. The emphasis of the design is on the facade’s curving lines, and creating a sense of fluidity within the internal circulation.
The central courtyard, which provides space for many activities, is covered with a translucent roof, allowing soft light into the building. This makes the space feel open and airy while keeping the heat out.
The external facade incorporates perforated aluminum panels, which shine during the day against Bangkok’s sun. At night, the LED lighting system illuminates the facade as a graphic display, emphasizing the lines of the openings. When viewed from the Skytrain, the building looks futuristic yet informal—a rare treat in the Bangkok skyline.
Though an old, established brand, Central Group has been refreshingly brave with its choices of architects for newer projects like The Groove, Central Embassy, and even provincial malls such as Central Salaya. The design, or in some cases, redesign, of these buildings is reinvigorating the company’s identity and could set the tone for shopping malls throughout Thailand.