Exhibit Wall Panel
The Siam Inter-Continental, in Bangkok, Thailand, and the Tahara’a Inter-Continental, in Pape’éte, Tahiti, were two hotels built by Pan Am, in 1966 and 1968 respectively, that signaled the rise of the luxury resort hotel in exotic, far-flung locales serviced by Pan Am’s global fleet.
Even though tourism was in its infancy in Thailand, the Pan Am round-the-world service stopped in Bangkok every day in both directions, and Inter-Continental recognized an opportunity. The hotel built by architect Joseph Salerno, a pyramidal-shaped building flanked by two wings, was informed by the exoticism of Bangkok’s Grand Palace complex. Thailand was known the world over for its fabrics, particularly silks. Its cottage industry of handwoven silk had been revitalized by the American architect and designer Jim Thompson, who founded the Thai Silk Company in 1948. Thompson’s fabrics were featured in Vogue and Time, and were used to make royal Thai costumes in the classic 1951 musical The King and I. Even before coming to Bangkok, Prince had admired Thompson’s designs, and had seen images of Thompson’s “House on the Klong,” a complex of six traditional Thai-style houses that were purchased from several owners and brought to Bangkok from various parts of Thailand.
While silks were impractical for the heavily trafficked spaces of a hotel, Prince’s color palette for the Siam Inter-Continental was inspired by the bright jewel tones and dramatic color combinations that Thompson had invented for Thai silk. Equally important were Prince’s “walk-arounds” through Bangkok, where he picked up “the local color and feelings,” and the luxuriant setting of the hotel on the site of the Royal Gardens. Prince also looked to the beauty of the temples and their fine craftsmanship to design the richly carved and painted surfaces of the Siam’s interior.
For the hotel bar, the design team worked with local artisans to produce intricately carved wooden screens that acted as room dividers, with dragon-headed nagas (snakes) taken from temple architecture. Wall fabrics were chosen in rich jewel tones threaded with gold. Together with carpets patterned after the ornate exteriors of ceremonial Thai buildings, the sum total of the interiors was evocative of the wealthy and exotic kingdom of Siam.