Büro Ole Scheeren
By Jason Dibbs
MahaNakhon is the newest high-rise landmark in Bangkok's Central Business District, designed by German architect Ole Scheeren. Its pixelated form reaches 314-metres into the city skyline before gently dissolving back into the densely packed urban landscape below. The MahaNakhon project originated in 2009 whilst Scheeren was a partner at OMA. By the time of the groundbreaking ceremony in June 2011, Scheeren had splintered from OMA, inheriting projects including MahaNakhon and Singapore's The Interlace for his new studio, Büro Ole Scheeren.
Initially presiding over OMA's projects in Asia, Scheeren has resided in Beijing and Hong Kong for the past decade. In that time he has acquired an intimate understanding of the complex economic and social forces driving rapid change across the region.
Asia's unparalleled scale and speed of growth have required a new way of thinking about the future and about possibilities - it has required a set of completely different tools for how to tackle issues of extreme urbanization and densification through social and physical structures."/Ole Scheeren, Wallpaper Magazine
MahaNakhon attempts to address these issue by combining high-density planning with unique and opulent residential, retail and hospitality environments. Central to this strategy, are the pixelated elements spiralling around the entirety of the tower. At its deepest sections, the pixelated spiral carves approximately 5-metres into the horizontal plane of the tower. This innovative architectural pixelation and rotation of form presented a number of structural challenges. Arup's engineers were able to ensure the structural integrity of the high-rise whilst remaining true to Scheeren's architectural vision and intent. As the spiral carves its way up the entire length of the tower, it creates unparalleled views from 'glass skyboxes' in those apartments on the upper-side of the cut, as well as terraces on the lower-side that explore a play of interiority and exteriority, exploiting the potential of the humid, tropical climes.
Scheeren states that central to his work, is the "profound interest and commitment to architecture as a social construct." Elaborating further, he describes his method of form and systems generation as resultant of "analytical processes and courageous visions of how we can imagine the life of people to be different. They are four-dimensional structures in which spatial complexity and connectivity merge with the unfolding of multiple narratives of its inhabitants and users. In this sense we are primarily designing relationships - from functional to fictional - and this is what generates our architecture."
Riding on the success of The Interlace in Singapore, Ole Scheeren has continued his exploration and reinvention of architectural typologies in the design and construction of MahaNakhon. Consisting of a 155-room hotel, 209 apartments, retail and exhibition spaces, restaurants and bars, as well as an automated 485 car parking station, this complex of programs is integrated into MahaNakhon's three primary built elements: the pixelated tower, the dissolving 'hill-like' pedestal, and the attendant freestanding 'Cube.'
The antecedents for projects like MahaNakhon undoubtedly lie in Scheeren's successful 15-year career with Rem Koolhaas at OMA. Of his early architectural influences, Scheeren states that in 1989 he saw "the design by Rem Koolhaas for the competition for the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. There was something that, for the first time, seemed to answer some important questions for me. Or rather, it posed the right questions, something that revealed the sense of a potential in architecture."
Conceptual kernels for what has become the trademark dissection of program and form in Scheeren's work, can be found in some of the earliest work by his onetime mentor, Koolhaas. The architecture of Scheeren as well as Bjarke Ingels, two of the best known designers to have left OMA in recent years, can in some part be read as representative of two divergent paths in this lineage. Both are characterised by the intersection of artefacts remnant of deconstructivism and an overarching tendency towards hyper-rationality. Additionally, Scheeren's work on the CCTV building whilst still with OMA, can in hindsight be read as an augury of his departure. The DNA of those projects with which he carved out his reputation with OMA is still evident in subsequent works with Büro Ole Scheeren, but also present now is a unique distillation of geometrical forms and spatial concepts.
Recent accolades for Büro Ole Scheeren have included recognition for MahaNakhon as Thailand's tallest tower by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, as well the 2015 Award for the Best Mixed-Use Development in the Asia Pacific Property Awards. Looking forward, Büro Ole Scheeren have a string of projects in construction, most notably the Guardian Art Center in Beijing, DUO in Singapore and 1500 West Georgia in downtown Vancouver. These projects are all imbued with the same innovative approach to form and program that is characteristic of MahaNakhon. Scheeren best describes this approach in terms of a concurrent avant- and arriere-garde attitude. He states, that for "an architect the question of the future is an exciting challenge," and asks: "how can we imagine things to be different? How can we generate new prototypes for our lives and existence?" Yet, for Scheeren engaging with the social conditions of place is equally important, "not as historicizing or romanticizing it, but to understand its values and meaning."
Facts about MahaNakhon
29 August 2016
PACE Development Corporation
Ole Scheeren (Büro Ole Scheeren/formerly OMA)
Mixed-use, high-rise including residential, hospitality and retail
Total Floor Area:
$625 million USD
Last updated: November 14, 2016