THE NAKA PHUKET
1/18, 1/20, Moo 6, Kamala, Kathu
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ARCHITECTURE / DESIGN
Architecture & Design: Duangrit Bunnag
Designing The Naka should have been easy. The 1,740-acre plot provided plenty of space, and the valley location – complete with a private beach on Phuket’s west coast – was already postcard pretty. But Duangrit Bunnag, one of the best-known minimalist designers in Thailand, is a man who likes to challenge himself. Instead of opting for traditional Thai bungalows or a blocky concrete high-rise, he created a forest of stone- and glass-built villas. Soaring away from the mountainside, these spacious and simplistic pods give guests 180-degree views of the sand-edged shoreline.
“I wanted to create something different, and nobody has ever dreamt of that in Thailand,” Bunnag said. “Actually nobody has done that in the whole world: a six-meter cantilever of the whole room.”
Rather than uprooting the valley’s trees to make way for his ambitious villas, Bunnag decided to use them as a guide. If his plans overlapped with a mature tree, he would either change the dimensions of the building, or move it to another part of the plot entirely. The result is that the villas appear scattered across the valley, with well-established trees – many of them more than 50 years old – sprouting up from the gaps in between. In order to support the local population of cicadas and butterflies, indigenous plant species were also added during construction.
At the center of The Naka are four wooden pavilions. The pagoda-like lobby is built around a series of upright columns, making the most of natural ventilation, while the onsite wedding chapel, accented by glinting black marble, welcomes couples through its semi-transparent façade. Both the sweet-smelling spa and The Meka (a rooftop café 40 meters above sea level) offer views as far as Patong. This notion of being close to town yet sheltered from its day-to-day bustle is key to Bunnag’s concept. He wants guests to know that they are cocooned in a secret valley, with total privacy guaranteed until they choose to go out in search of excitement.
The low-profile villas (available with one, two and three bedrooms) also make privacy a priority. Their wide glass façades are hidden among the trees, with simple stone walls adding to the sense of seclusion. From the private pools outside, guests can admire Bunnag’s bold cantilever design, which leaves bedrooms and lounging areas floating in midair. Inside, plain cuboid forms synchronize with the villas’ straight edges. Amber-colored floorboards run parallel to the hillside, and pure-white corner sofas invite guests to kick off their shoes and admire the view. Even the beds, scattered with cherry-scented petals, are aligned so that guests can watch the waves, listen to the rustle of the trees, and find their inner equilibrium.