Search form

Login - Register | FOLLOW US ON

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Meet the king of exotic luxury resorts

Meet the king of exotic luxury resorts

121130_sr03c

Long, tall Bill Bensley – his architecture has helped define the modern Siem Reap hotel landscape. Photograph Miranda Glasser

He has been named one of Architectural Digest’s top 100 designers. Time Magazine called him the king of exotic luxury resorts. And now Bill Bensley is leaving his mark in Temple Town once again. With the original Hotel de la Paix under his belt – now being re-designed by him as Park Hyatt Siem Reap – his latest project is the monochromatically chic Shinta Mani hotel.

Harvard-educated, Bangkok-based Bensley cuts an imposing figure, lounging his well-over six foot frame among the black and orange sofa cushions of the poolside bar at the hotel. The fact that he is wearing tangerine trousers merely helps him blend in with the surroundings, all angular, slate grey furniture punctuated by flashes of orange.

He says the concept behind Shinta Mani’s design is that, “You can see all the horizontal lines – that very much is direct inspiration from Angkor. And what’s so beautiful about it is you have a building which is very much monochromatic, which buildings aren’t any more. It’s all dark grey and you’ve got spots where monks are walking through. That’s what we have here:  95 per cent is monochromatic and andesite – the stone Angkor Wat is made of – and these little accents of monks walking through.”

Bensley is now working on “Shinta Mani part two”, the 64-room extension to the hotel set to open in August 2013. Although it will bear many similarities to the original Shinta Mani, he says it will have a richer, more decadent feel.

“It’s going to be gorgeous. In the rooms, on the wall behind the bed I’ll have seven different panels of Cambodian silk, all different colours. Then we’re making these beautiful, wrought iron beds with big, padded backs to them, really old-fashioned. I’ve got this giant Aladdin’s lamp which is swag, and it’s hanging right over the centre of the bed. It’s really very cool, very different.”

“In the lobby we’re going to use some rich material. Lots of marble but in a way that you haven’t seen it used before. With mirrors in half of the rooms and then silk panels in half the rooms, and the mirrors have been scarified on the back – scratched in an artistic manner – to represent things Cambodian and things Angkor.”

Bensley says it’s very experimental for him, something of a departure from his usual style, partly because the guests want and expect to see new things.

Shinta Mani was conceived as the ‘little sister’ to Hotel de la Paix in that both used what Bensley describes as “a simplistic architectural language of line.” Now that Hotel de la Paix is being re-born as Park Hyatt Siem Reap, Bensley says the look will be luxe to the extreme.

121130_sr03b

The former Arts Lounge will be turned into a porch that wraps around the room, a kind of “indoor outdoor space.”

The sunken middle section of the room will be air-conditioned, while the outside bit will be, “A big breezeway with ‘punkah wallah’ fans – old-fashioned fans that used to be pulled by men. We’ve got huge Cambodian fans made out of gold and silver. Very posh.”

As for the colour scheme, Bensley is using a personal inspiration. “I have this very old, very beautiful piece of Cambodian lacquerware, one of my favourite pieces. It’s black with a very interesting, almost pinky, watermelon purple stripe, and the entire lounge is based on this one 200 year old piece of enamel.

“I’ve got giant white elephant cabinets – 3.5 metres high – and we’re going to fill them full of books,” he continues animatedly. “I’ve got eight of them that march along this procession in the sunken area.

These big elephants will form nine different individual spaces, like individual living-rooms. They’ve got mother-of-pearl trunks, and lights hanging from them.”

Bensley, who has designed over 100 properties in 26 countries, is excited about his newest Cambodian project: a luxury tented camp near Kirirom National Park, two hours from Phnom Penh.

Having created the Botswanan safari-inspired, world-renowned Four Seasons Tented Camp in Chiang Rai, this camp will feature fifteen tents amongst the abundant wildlife of Kirirom.

Park Hyatt Siem Reap will open in April 2013, and the tented camp is set to open in autumn 2013.

0

Comments

Please, login or register to post a comment

Latest Video

Google Angkor

Google's 3D Angkor online

Drawing on over one million photos, Google has taken the Angkor Wat temple complex into the digital realm, allowing anyone with internet access to enjoy 360-degree panoramic views of 100 of the ancient temples.

97' grenade attack commemoration

Back in the streets

Thousands of CNRP supporters march through Phnom Penh

This month 20 years ago...

1994-03-25 07:00
Ministers muddy press law waters
1994-04-08 07:00
RAC head hopes to hit target
1994-03-25 07:00
Expert explains changes needed
1994-04-08 07:00
Images of war on the trail to Pailin
1994-04-08 07:00
KR free 14 'renegades'
1994-04-08 07:00
Final MiA mission fails to find remains