Architectural design Graham Lamb
Photos Courtesy Iniala Beach House
Text Laura Ragazzola
Unconventional, eclectic, sustainable: these words sum up the latest project by Humberto & Fernando Campana, two of the most highly acclaimed (and creative) people in the world of contemporary design. In an uncontaminated landscape, on a beach of rare beauty several kilometers from the airport of Phuket, in Thailand, the Brazilian duo has taken part in the creation of the Iniala Beach House, an exclusive residence for high-level tourism, involving a pool of renowned international designers.
The Campana brothers decided to work on the Iniala Beach House because of its dual DNA: on the one hand it is a special place, offering a unique and above all ‘personalized’ experience of comfort, relaxation and hospitality; on the other, there is the need to create a strong, socially useful link with the place and the local community, still suffering from the consequences of the devastating tsunami of 2004. Environmental concerns and cultural sensitivity, as well as careful observation of local materials, climate and landscape, have always been key factors in the life and work of the Campanas, ready to venture into the Amazon jungle or the favelas of Brazil to create furnishings, objects and spaces that subversively undermine the rules of traditional design. On Nati Beach, the Brazilian brothers have done the interior decorating of one of the three villas – the Collector’s Villa – of the resort (the interiors of the other two, the Thai Villa and the European Villa, are respectively by the Thai designer Eggarat Wongcharit and the Spanish studio A-Cero); but they have also focused on the spa, the cinema and the garden, completing the exclusive range of offerings of each residence. Their project establishes a continuous, positive relationship with the landscape, which is of rare beauty: light and air enter through the large windows of the living areas and bedrooms, while shadows and gilded reflections fill the more intimate spaces of the spa and cinema. The local artisan tradition comes to life in the abundant use of wood, the squared, tactful volumes of the spaces, but also in the beautiful ceramic facings of the walls, shifting from the kaleidoscopic colors of the mosaics inhabited by fantastic animal figures to the mother-of-pearl reflections that enhance the spaces, alternating with lively chromatic aplomb. Iconic (and ironic) furnishings have been chosen by the Brazilian designers from their own vast oeuvre: from upholstered pieces in eco-fur to create the unusual seating area of the ‘private’ cinema, to the armchairs with their covers left intentionally ‘oversized’ in the micro-lounges with marine shadings. Opened in December, the resort is an initiative of the British entrepreneur (and philanthropist) Mark Weingard (miraculously still alive after the tsunami in 2004): it includes three villas and an exclusive penthouse suite, created in collaboration between Weingard himself and Graham Lamb, chief design director of Iniala Beach, and also the designer of the overall complex. The buildings are arranged around a central volume built during the last century, in keeping with the typical canons of the local architecture: the result is a successful mixtures of tradition and the contemporary, also seen in the interiors created by the international team of designers. There is also a refined gourmet restaurant run by the young Spanish chef Eneko Atxa, rated with three Michelin stars. Children also have a space of their own, with furnishings made to measure and designer playthings (making this the first kids-hotel in Asia). An art gallery open to the public promotes the local culture and crafts creativity of Phuket, opening its spaces to emerging Thai artists. But the social benefits of the resort (much appreciated by the Campana brothers) focus above all on the idea of setting aside 15% of its income for education, health care and sustainability, in both Thailand and Indonesia.