Phuket's Very Own A-Team
Viewing those glossy architecture books in villas or upscale bookshops you often come across a myriad of titles about Thai-style design.
Oddly enough, the "show ponies" in most cases are foreigners or overseas firms who have adopted an alter-ego and now proclaim their newly found "Thainess".
It has taken Asia decades to emerge from a colonial "inferiority complex".
During the many years I have lived here, the two-tiered system of domestic products versus imported was the norm with, amazingly, the harshest critics of domestic products being Thais themselves.
As Asia has become "the factory of the world", brand name or not, consumers have seen a graying of the lines.
Nowadays, the "Made in Thailand" seal doesn't automatically relegate a product to a bench warming position while imports run the field.
One example that stands out from the crowd in Phuket is Pakhin Aunggulsant's Able Architects firm.
The firm is part of the AEP Group umbrella organization, lead by Mr Pakhin, which also includes Edifax and Prodigy One.
The three companies work together to cover integrated solutions for architecture and design, landscaping, 3D animation, project management, surveying and structural engineering. There's a lot going on here with this "A-Team".
A new offshoot of the industry offered by AEP Group is property "brand management" to integrate a client's product vision with the actual execution and completion of products.
It's the next logical step in property development.
At the forefront of AEP Group developments are residential condominiums, hotels and villas including: Surin Park Condominium, Kamala Falls Residential Resort, The Sky 2 serviced apartments in Rassada, Absolute Sansabai Resort & Spa in Patong, and the upcoming Kameha Natai hotel in Phang Nga.
Perhaps the most high-profile design job has been their award-winning Orang Laut (sea gypsy) Cultural Center here in Phuket. The use of vernacular architecture, natural thermal ventilation and overall "eco" focus on the natural mangrove habitat have earned accolades both at home and abroad.
At Mr Pakhin's office there is a large workforce of talented Thai staff working on projects ranging from in-house designs to collaborations with overseas firms. It's a lively intersection of East meets West with the best of both worlds.
All too often there's a knee-jerk reaction to use a telescope instead of a microscope in the early stages of appointing professional architecture and design consultants, and the number of gems here in Phuket are often overlooked.
A decade of breakneck-speed development as Asia's premier resort property leader has taught many lessons and educated a ready and willing workforce of innovative and talented Thai professionals.
While sustainability efforts in the West lead to "going local", preconceptions and the lack of familiarity are creating roadblocks to such developments in Thailand.
It's still tough for Thai companies to compete on a level playing field in certain sectors.
Brand Phuket, however, and its sizable collection of design options and prolific architectural firms – Roof Group and Naga Concepts to name two more – continue to amaze.
So, next time you care to start matching up many of the top structures you pass by every day, do a bit of research and see how many of them have been completed here by – yes you guessed it – Thais themselves.