DESIGN – Imitation The Worst Of Flattery
Design is something that continues to be a contenious subject here on the island. I recently read an extremely intelligent article by Scott Gorsuch of the consulting firm Leisure Design Group which appeard in the Phuket News and am reprinting it with his permission –
"The old adage not withstanding, imitation – as it turns out – is usually the worst sort of flattery. Occasionally however, a sharp architect will be inspired by a great building or design example, and then reinterpret it in a new and flattering way. The result is something itself unique, paying homage to a design icon and eschewing thoughtless imitation.
An excellent example of the latter would be Sala Phuket, where the Thai architectural firm Department of Architecture has created a spacious contemporary resort infused with subtle 19th century Sino-Portuguese design elements. The result flatters, rather than imitates, the iconic Phuket style. Jean Michel Gathy's artful – and restrained – incorporation of a traditional Thai roofline into his otherwise contemporary villa designs for the Cape Residences on Cape Yamu yield a similarly successful and satisfying result. By contrast, one need only glance at the slavish and thoughtless reproductions of Lanna style architecture on other east coast oceanfront villas to instantly observe a dismal failure. Reproduction without consideration of time, place, and context almost never succeeds. All too frequently, the result is an eyesore that will be visible to all for a very long time.
Probably no greater example of such blemishes on Phuket are the countless shophouse style commercial developments that continue to proliferate without regard to aesthetics or (apparently) demand, as great numbers of them sit empty long after construction is complete. Great swaths of Phuket's landscape are blighted by endless rows of these soulless, monotonous blocks. Up to four stories in height, the ground floor presents an unwelcoming steel shutter, while the faade of the upper floors presents the worst sort of imitation Sino-Portuguese windows, which are in turn covered with giant commercial signage. Was there ever any intention of letting light into these buildings? Does anyone actually live – or work – on the upper floors? Does Phuket have any sort of regulations governing the size or placement of signs? Mysteries of the Orient, all…
Fortunately, some relief appears to be in sight. Several recent commercial developments on the island give a nod to the traditional style, but with a vastly approved architectural appearance. These new buildings provide glass on the ground floor, inviting us to peer inside and perhaps visit. Upper floors present a faade design that is compatible with the ground floor entry, allows additional light into the building, and even provides a purpose built section for signage, of moderate size, that does not obscure windows. The entire effect is aesthetically pleasing, functional, and friendly. One is automatically drawn to rent space, or to patronize occupant businesses that do.
Construction cost is marginally higher, and perhaps rent as well, but there are still a plethora of the more basic units available for those on a tight budget. For anyone who believes – as I do – that design matters, a small extra expenditure would be worth the cost. Here's hoping that more of Phuket's commercial developments choose to innovate rather than imitate, improving the scenery for us all."
For more information on the Leisure Design Group <link>http://www.leisuredesigngroup.com*CLICK</link>