It's Phuket Style
In a world gone crazy for chain-saw, buzzed up media, it looks like the days of those epic, thick-as-a-brick coffee-table architecture books have thank-fully come to an end. Unless it's for dummies, or those handy little chic Luxe Guides that fit in the sole of you Havaianas, today is ruled by iPhone apps and downloads.
Peering into our bananaland looking glass and trying to pinpoint a precise description of Phuket style is almost a phrase by Lewis Carroll about all that's Jabberwocky. While peaking out of the sand-filled rabbit hole into Asian design, we could perhaps articulate a response on the artful styling of Bali or, say, Sino-Portuguese. Though once we hit tropical modern all hell breaks loose in the storeroom and all we can do is dial 911 and wait for the design police to arrive.
Waiting has never been my strong point, so I am going to plunge straight in – perhaps traveling back to the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was a time when Amanpuri and Banyan Tree perhaps helped define an "English Patient"-type visitor, with those gauze bandages wrapped around the head, bringing clarity to private-pool villa living.
Perhaps the meds were slow in wearing off, so it's a little big hazy. But somehow, a combination of large spaces, absolute privacy, touches of Asian art, and synergy between a natural environment outside and indoors, created harmony and set a tone for the next two decades.
Lust filled the hearts of those who could afford the price of admission, so while low-end crack trends dominated the Western world, a different kind of junkie was born – the Aman.
American Ed Tuttle was at the leading edge of a pavilion-and-glass symposium that blended hotel and residence into one, from now until Zen. More fusion came as architects combed small groups of modern glassed buildings with graceful Thai-style roofs – including leading Thai architect, Harvard educated ML Tri Devakul, who pioneered many of the hotels and residences on the island.
Tracing the roots of the style clearly shows that many of the influences were grounded in the modern-architecture movement. Dropping some names: Le Corbusier, on to Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano and Charles Eames. Viewing new projects today by Adrian McCarroll or Martin Palleros reveals a striking metamorphosis for the iconic Case Study Houses of the period from the 1940s to the 1960s on the US west coast.
As in all things Asian, organic growth and adaptation, in a marriage of the best of the east and the west, can be bundled up into what's on show as Phuket style. Maybe the best adage would be luk khrueng architecture in the land of Alice.
Despite an ongoing fab onslaught of new works of art, which moonlight as villas and retreats of the rich and famous, you need an analysis that is more than skin deep. Whether or not there is, in fact, a Phuket style; the true mission of designers in this lovely part of the universe is framing the natural splendour of the island itself. Much like a painter who specialises in landscapes, without great dirt you can't get art. It's as simple as that.