Dusit Thani Hotel Heritage to Be Preserved with Silpakorn University

Dusit Thani, Bangkok, accommodation, heritage

As the Dusit Thani, one of Bangkok most iconic hotel, will definitely close its doors on January 5, both Dusit International and Silpakorn University are launching a project for the preservation of the hotel’s heritage and its integration into the new Dusit Thani…

Dusit International, one of Thailand’s leading hotel and property companies, announced a partnership with Silpakorn University to launch a unique project to preserve the rich architectural and artistic heritage of the company’s iconic flagship hotel, Dusit Thani Bangkok. The property, located at the corner of Silom Road, will be redeveloped next year as part of a landmark mixed-use development.

Officially titled ‘Preserving Dusit Thani Bangkok’s Artistic Heritage,’ the project will see preservation experts from Silpakorn University carefully identify, document, dismantle and preserve key items of historical or artistic value in the property for their future integration in the new version of the hotel, which is slated to open in 2023.

Data and photographs of the project will also be presented in a digital book for those who wish to learn more about the original building.

Opened in 1970, Dusit Thani Bangkok is a rare example of contemporary Thai architecture which distinctively blends western modernism with traditional Thai design. Inspired by the great pagoda of Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), the unique structure has long drawn the attention of architecture students impressed by its convention-defying form, which heralded a new era of development in Bangkok.

The hotel’s interior is also lauded for its rich artistic heritage. The Thai motifs and murals that adorn the columns and walls of the hotel’s signature Thai restaurant, Benjarong, for example, were hand-painted by Paiboon Suwannakudt, famously known as Tan Kudt, a neo-traditional Thai painter who was a key figure in the modern reinvigoration of Thai mural painting. His intricate paintings and murals will be carefully preserved for use in the new Dusit Thani Bangkok. Benjarong’s carved timber ceiling will also be carefully dismantled for use in the new hotel.

Silpakorn’s experts will also study the hotel’s distinctive landscaping, particularly the renowned waterfall garden. Prize trees will be documented and preserved as much as possible.

The ‘Preserving Dusit Thani Bangkok’s Artistic Heritage’ project was officially launched earlier this week. Speaking at the event, Mr  Chanin Donavanik, Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Executive Committee, Dusit International, explained that “my mother, Thanpuying Chanut Piyaoui, always believed in Thailand’s potential to become one of the world’s most successful tourist destinations, and she believed the best way to put Bangkok on the map, and support the kingdom’s growth in this regard, would be to create a distinctive hotel that complied with international standards while showcasing the finest facets of Thai culture. Dusit Thani Bangkok is the result of this vision, and the building’s unique design, décor and artworks are indeed representative of an era of great change in the country. With the hotel now about to undergo a significant change for a new era of tourism, we would like to preserve as many items of historical and sentimental value as possible. I believe our past is the inspiration for a sustainable future, and I am delighted we could partner with Silpakorn University for this unique project.”

Assoc. Prof. Sayumporn Kasornsuwan, Vice President for Art and Culture, Silpakorn University, said, “Dusit Thani Bangkok is an excellent learning centre for those interested in the development of art, culture and architecture in Thailand, and we are very happy that Dusit wants to preserve the key historical elements of its flagship hotel for posterity. Lecturers from faculties such as archaeology, architecture, painting, sculpture and graphic arts, as well as the university’s Art Centre and partners, will be heavily involved in this project. While it will certainly require a great deal of time, effort and finance, Dusit is determined to invest in the preservation of its heritage.”

Asst. Prof. Chawalit Khaokiew of the Faculty of Archeology, Silpakorn University, said, “This project consists of three parts. First, we will carry out the preservation work that covers the carvings, paintings and murals in Benjarong Restaurant, as well as valuable components of the hotel’s exterior. This requires an integration of disciplines such as painting, engineering, architecture and archaeology. Second, we will study the hotel’s architecture, landscaping and various historical artworks to create a scale model showcasing all of the building’s key elements. Third, we will help to promote the architectural value of the hotel through an exhibition of paintings by National Artists Sarawut Duangjampa and Panya Wijinthanasarn, and 18 acclaimed painters. This exhibition will be staged at the hotel throughout December until January 5th. Information collected will be compiled in a digital book to be shared with the public.”

Ms Suphajee Suthumpun, Group CEO, Dusit International, said, “It’s an honour to work closely with Silpakorn University to document the rich tapestry of Dusit Thani Bangkok in its transitional period. Silpakorn University is a time-honoured institution that stands out in the field of art and culture and in preserving and promoting the artistic and cultural heritage of the kingdom. This joint effort aims to preserve meaningful memories of the hotel and bring them to life once again in the next four years when the new Dusit Thani Bangkok opens its doors. We hope that the artefacts we preserve will create a warm atmosphere that delights new guests seeking new, impressive experiences, as well as regular guests who have an emotional attachment to the original hotel.”

The Dusit Thani is one of the last hotel properties in Bangkok to reflect the development of the town in the late sixties/early seventies. Hotel construction at that time reflected the desire by Thai property owners to look for modernity with a Thai twist, creating unique architectural masterpieces.

The demolished Siam Intercontinental

Unfortunately, over the years, most of these properties disappeared, one of the greatest losses in Bangkok being the Siam Intercontinental with its triangle roof, which evoked a Thai temple. It was destroyed in 2002 to make way for  Siam Paragon shopping mall. Today, the only large hotels dating back to that period of time are the Narai Hotel (opened in 1968) on Silom Road and the Indra Regent Hotel (opened in 1971) on Ratchaprarop Road.