Name of Project: Central Festival Chiang Rai
Client: Central Pattana Public Company Limited
Location: Chiang Rai, Thailand
Completion Year: 2011
Site Area: 70,000 sqm.
Collaborators: ARCHITECTS 49 LIMITED
Photographer: Wison Tungthhunya
Awards: Asia Pacific Property Award 2015; Best Commercial Landscape Catagory TALA Awards 2015; Honor Award in Commercial Catagory WAF 2013; Shortlist in Urban Catagory
The shopping mall is becoming a norm for the upcoming town around Thailand. It is undeniable that the mall is one of an important urban space, but often time, the outdoor space is full of a parking area and has a practical look that would alienate the user. For this project, Landscape Architect plays a vital role to deliver a space that satisfies the mall’s functional requirement and at the same time create a memorable urban experience under a limited budget. For Chiang Rai, the scale of this mega-mall seems majestic and can be too overwhelming. Therefore, the front landscape serves as transitional space for the visitor at ground level and helps to mitigate the visual impact to the surrounding when view from afar.
The landscape design encapsulates the mountainous scene of Chiang Rai into an illustrious sculptural space. The unique characteristic of the contour line pattern representing the local mountainous territory is our inspiration for the formation of not only the spaces but also every landscape detailing. At the centre of the landscape, the area is the ‘Event Plaza’ which has a requirement of 1,500 sqm. To offset the hardness of this massive paving area, we introduce the stark pavement pattern that reflects the contour line. The long seats, as an integral part of the contour, wave around the plaza and even crawl down the step to provide maximum rest area sufficient for the big crowd at peak time. More individual planter seats in irregular oval shape are arranged at the ‘Lower Promenade’ to allow smaller group gathering. Strip lighting is integrated under all the seats to reveal the curvy line of light at night.
Interplaying of level from upper to lower promenade is employed to express the undulating terrain concept further and provide better access to the mall’s interior at multiple levels ensuring maximum exposure for all shops. At times, the level is split from the upper plaza to allow fresh air to the parking area below.
Intertwining flower mound and contouring water cascade compliment hardscape detailing and help soften the atmosphere of this eventful ‘Cultural Plaza’. During the off-peak time, the plaza becomes a quiet park providing a place for respite.
To deal with the limited budget and naturalistic shape of the concept, simple environmentally friendly materials like sand wash and terrazzo are used to construct pavement pattern and the fluid seat respectively. Their flexible nature makes assembling natural form possible.
Planting Palette and Ecology
Selection of native plants further enhances the northern atmosphere as well as corresponding to the regional dry ecology. Unlike lower region of Thailand, seasonal flowering plant here blooms furiously and is one of the tourist attractions during winter months. ‘Red Silk Cotton Tree’ – locally known as ‘Ngiew Tree’ – is the main feature. It is majestic in form with unique thorny husk and famous for its flower as an ingredient in traditional delicacy. The columnar and layering form of the tree also allows the viewer to the shop front which is a major requirement for the commercial property. During January to March, Ngiew’s bright orange flower blooms in profusion and is accompanied by orange flowers of Trumpet Vine which covering the wall on the façade and also other flowering shrubs on the ground.
Collaboration with Local Artist
Shma’s collaboration with world-renowned local earth artist, Master Somluk Pantiboon, is resulting in a series of 5-piece sculpture floating over cascading water feature. The focal point of the landscape, the ceramic sculpture is depicting the life cycle of ‘Ngiew flower’ from budding to blooming to withering.
Despite its private entity, the shopping mall will increasingly become an essential public domain for many countries. It is a challenge to define an appropriate space that would do justice to both contradicting interests of private/public, shopping/resting, and loud/quiet. Central Plaza Chiang Rai’s ‘Cultural Plaza’ is an artistic celebration of local identity that welcomes local residents to use as commercial leisure or as a park.