Richard Constable

Along the Bangkok riverfront

A new iconic building for a city that's changing fast

Among the many modes of transport and routes of travel, by path, bridge, road and rail - part of my journey to the Catholic school of my most recent teaching position involves a brief voyage from which I was first presented with what on Friday became Bangkok's latest luxury end department store, the ICONSIAM Si Phraya. 

Embarking from Sathorn Pier early in the morning on the wet and rainy first day of this semester on the river of kings via a well-worn still colorful long-tailed boat, there from a visually animated vantage, the ICONSIAM gave an impression of being similar to an abstracted intricate chunk of pale green emerald with a centered wigwam shaped pediment. 

In spite of being a substantial building itself, it is relatively dwarfed on its far flank by two 70 floored inclined matching Magnolia Waterfront Residences which have a total of 379 condos, though it momentarily manages to project both the strength of precious stone and filigree fragility. 

Artisans have aged the emerald colored panels to create an appealing weathered look to the facade, elite designer labels Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and Hermes ornate three huge special glass pleated windows on the second floor while the high-tech Apple logo has taken the central pride of place. As I understand it these three windows represent krathongs; floated upon the river annually during the Loi Krathong festival, the architectural pleats in the glass were inspired by Thai traditional dress, a wrapped shawl around this opulent part of the complex; the ICONLUXE. 

In the foreground, the River Park which boasts the largest water feature in Southeast Asia at the edge of its pier and rowdy river water is an approximately 30 meters high gated jet black wrought iron and cast iron gold colored entrance, for nautical arrivals. This enormous and superbly crafted piece of workmanship has at its sides Thai traditional designed structures that suggest an opened armed welcome. There are two flights of steps on the left and on the right of what will become an internationally known and recognized landmark not to mention a million photo shot taken opportunities for ferry boat passengers.

On Thursday morning at around seven as I strolled from the Si Phraya Pier when making my way to the school where I teach kindergarten kiddies, on passing the exclusive five-star Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel I observed uniformed military officers who were using sniffer dogs in its grounds to ensure security for the presumably VIP guests in connection with the ICONSIAM. The grand opening day was on Friday and having invested an estimated one and half billion American dollars they weren't taking any chances.

It reminded me of how far Thailand and Bangkokians have come not only in the past sixteen and a half years that I have resided here, moreover from when in 1960 my parents' good friend an Irishman by the name of Ray Quinn came to Bangkok as a nineteen-year-old with the Swedish telecommunication company Ericsson. Ray was part of a team that came to put on the landline for VIP's and only for VIP's in the capital, he also recollects that at that time there were paddy fields from where the BTS Saladeang station now stands to the Pat Pong in the city's center Silom road. It has truly been an astounding and stunning transformation from those not so distant days into the modern metropolis we know today in just under sixty years.

Unfortunately, due to the commitments of teaching 42 lessons a week because of the responsibilities of being an EFL teacher father of two I shan't get the chance to visit this magnificent complex until the Christmas break. Then I will be taking my daughters for some relatively modest retail therapy in order to get a closer look at the ICONSIAM - which incidentally offers 'Seven Wonders' which include a sensational state of the art auditorium and a National Treasure museum. 

In my opinion for what it's worth the ICONSIAM is an extremely welcome addition to the rapid and ever-changing City of Angels' skyscape, nevertheless, some of its wares will no doubt be beyond the pockets of all-but accredited international school and/or trust fund teachers. On the other hand, it could make for a cool weekend/evening outing or a great venue for either a celebratory lunch or dinner while gazing at the infinite variety of boats cruising down the river. Whatsoever believe you me if you only have an appreciation of architecture or whether you are a would-be customer, day tripper or observer it is well-worth checking out! 

Ultimately, the construction which is now taking place of the 615 meters (2,018 ft) high, consisting of 125 floors The Grand Rama 9 Tower is scheduled for completion in 2021, a tribute to the late father of modern Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej. It will become the eighth tallest building in the world, overshadowing the capital's present tallest skyscraper MahaNakhon 314.2 meters (1,031 ft) 77 floors by being almost twofold. Consequently, what unimaginable futuristic changes will my three, four and five-year-old sprogs/students witness and experience over the next six decades or so in the growth of economic, engineering, technological and social advancements in Thailand? 


"City of Angels landscape"? someone needs to travel to other places. If you get high enough to look across Bangkok you can see what an architectural mess it is. No planning whatsoever. Just a product of money paid by wealthy land owners to built what they want where they want.

By Mark, Bangkok (19th November 2018)

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