Samsen STREET Hotel

CHAT Architects

The Building

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The Samsen STREET Hotel involved the renovation of a ‘curtain sex motel’. Catering to secret affairs, this is one of Bangkok’s longstanding ‘unspoken’ typologies and has a spatial sequence like no other. The secret couple usually enters in a car with tinted windows, accessing a secret auto court through an inconspicuous street tunnel, ultimately seeking romantic rendezvous in a curtain-covered parking space with an attached ‘love suite’.

The Samsen STREET Hotel turns the existing curtain sex motel model inside out – formally and programmatically – by transforming the once-introverted, dark and secretive building with a socially questionable program into a new street hotel/hostel typology that stimulates and re-activates street life in this former red-light district. This has been accomplished with the introduction of new ‘scaffolding’ components that reprogram the entire hotel and create new relationships with the street context.

The transformative scaffolding components were derived from improvised scaffolding commonly found in CHAT Architects’ research subjects: ‘Bangkok Bastards’ (or Thai street vernacular hybrids). They include construction workers’ houses, informal shantytowns, pop-up markets, and more. The Bangkok Bastards all customise this living scaffolding strategy as a multipurpose tropical veranda space. It is a local architectural component that has been overlooked by the public (including Thai architects). But it is an under-utilised and ingenious tropical urban strategy.

The existing hotel building was refinished in plain grey-polished cement plaster, while the new interventions come in the form of pastel-green ‘scaffolding’. There are three scaffolding elements. The soi (alley) transforms the rooms of the street facades with the addition of cantilevered daybed extrusions, and the gaps between them are filled by ‘vertical alley’ scaffolding that serves MEP elements and creates a vertical stage for neighbourhood concerts. The rabeang (sidewalk porch) is a plug-in space for local street food vendors. And the nahng glang plang (outdoor theatre) turns a new swimming pool in the former auto court into an outdoor movie theatre with ‘leg dangling’ balconies.

For the past decade, CHAT Architects has been trying to create a much-needed ‘manual’ for Bangkok architecture by studying its ‘live’ street vernacular. The Samsen STREET Hotel suggests a new way to create architecture that is appropriate for Bangkok – formally, tectonically, programmatically and culturally.

Furniture (guest room styling): 56th Studio, Ease Studio.

Photography: W Workspace