BANGKOK — Stepping into the lobby of the Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit these days is a lot like wandering into a très chic artistic experience, more redolent of the City of Light than the City of Angels.
The upper concourse is rimmed with 72 striking images by renowned French photographer Charles Maze. The lounge now features a bar with an ethereal, LED-backlit alabaster stone countertop. The bakery beckons with a covered terrace reminiscent of Paris’ traditional sidewalk cafes.
And there is, in fact, an art gallery, a mod, 100-square-meter space designed to showcase inspirational works by established and emerging international and local artists.
The ambitious transformation began in December 2014 and was completed last month. The result is a creative environment where life meets art.
“People want more from a lobby these days,” said William Haandrikman, Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit’s general manager. “Elegance, of course, but engagement, too. Pretty decor is nice but forgettable. Art, much more than decor, sets the stage for an unforgettable stay experience.”
An immediate attention-getter, Maze’s installation is a collection of circular images — some black-and-white, some color — that takes viewers on a compelling journey through France.
Subject matter ranges from wintry views of the Eiffel Tower to the leaf of a palm tree in Basque Country.
But each piece is a contemporary interpretation of anamorphosis, an optical phenomenon first developed in the 15th century and used by Leonardo da Vinci, Hans Holbein and Albrecht Dürer.
Left of the foyer and at the back of the lounge, a bar was added to accommodate those seeking a stylish spot to take a break from sightseeing, meet casually with a client or indulge in afternoon tea, which is offered from 2 to 5 p.m. daily and includes a decadent champagne option.
Gourmet canapes, Thai street-food favorites, inventive cocktails and an extensive selection of highly rated Old and New World wines are among the other food and beverage choices at Le Bar.
Adjacent to that venue is S Gallery, a new space primed to put Bangkok on the map as an art destination.
Designed in collaboration with accomplished French art advisor Martin Gerlier, the gallery boasts plush booth seating along the sides, a sleek neon chandelier that changes colors — a piece of art in itself — and the potential to house any type of exhibition, whether it be works by a painter, photographer, sculptor and so on.
“The beauty of S Gallery is that it will appeal to everyone from the casual observer to the most sophisticated connoisseur or critic,” said Haandrikman. “It’s as much for someone who just wants to relax and have a drink or bite to eat with a friend as it is for the person who’s all about art and really studying what’s on display.”
S Gallery will also be available for intimate parties, product launches and other elegant events such as wedding receptions and holiday functions.
To complete the ground-floor makeover, the flagship property for Sofitel Luxury Hotels in Southeast Asia commissioned the construction of a canopied, Parisian-style terrace at La Macaron, a gourmet café and pâtisserie facing bustling Sukhumvit Road.
The well-shaded patio includes cooling mechanisms and a Bose sound system to encourage an extended al-fresco experience, no matter the weather.
“What we wanted to do with this project was really tighten that cultural bridge we have between Bangkok and Paris,” said Haandrikman. “I think everyone who walks through these doors will be able to feel that. It’s a magnificent celebration of art de vivre.”
Since opening in April 2012, Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit has become the premier address for travelers seeking award-winning accommodation in Thailand’s capital.
In October 2014, the 32-story, 345-room urban escape was hailed ‘Best New Business Hotel’ by readers of Business Traveller UK and made Conde Nast Traveler USA’s list of the 25 ‘Best Hotels in Southeast Asia.’
Its rooftop restaurant/bar/lounge, L’Appart, is currently ranked No. 8 on TripAdvisor among more than 8,000 restaurants in Bangkok. The hotel is also site of one of Bangkok’s largest ballrooms and Thailand’s only Le SPA with L'Occitane.