Ou Baholyodhin talks about his recent move to Sansiri and how they are reshaping the real estate industry in Thailand
As the creative director for Jim Thompson furniture, designer Ou Baholyodhin transformed the classic Thai silk company's image. Now, Ou is stepping into the real estate world as the first Chief Creative Officer of Sansiri. Here, Ou discusses his vision for the future of condo development and how he thinks the real estate industry should be.
You seem to pay a lot of attention to finding innovative living solutions. How do you think that will change how people live in the modern world?
It shouldn't change the way people live. Everybody has their own way of living, and innovative technology should support that. It should make your life easier, better and more enjoyable, rather than change it dramatically. That is what we intend to do: use innovation to support people’s lives.
You travel a lot. What have you learned from other cities that could be adapted in Thailand?
City planning and building control is what we're really lagging behind here in Bangkok. In other cities, old heritage buildings are preserved by laws, but here, many are being destroyed. Also, we do not allow good international-level architects to build here, so our skyline is never going to be beautiful like New York, Taipei or Tokyo where they have best-in-class architects across the world lend a hand in design. Here, we don't recognize and don't allow foreign architects to build. I think once these bans are lifted, Bangkok will have a much more dynamic landscape and become much more of a complete city.
What is your favorite interior designs in Bangkok?
Recently, I would say it’s Nana Coffee Roasters and Oneday Wallflowers in Nana, Yaowarat.
What’s one thing you would like to see changed in Thailand’s real estate industry?
The condominiums in Thailand aren’t very lively. You go to the lobby and it's always empty. Especially older condominiums, there is no interaction, no life and no community at all. A lot of our recent projects aim to build a sense of community with common areas like community libraries or co-working spaces where people can spend time doing their work and activities. That's what we envision for the future of residential buildings in Bangkok.
As the first-ever Chief Creative Officer of Sansiri, how do you view this role and why will it be a game changer for the company?
It’s a natural progression. Property development deals with design and creativity all the time, and I think it’s about time Sansiri appointed a Chief Creative Officer to look after their designs and identity. The brand already was—before I joined—an international player with a vision to go global. They've already invested in several international companies like Standard Hotels, Monocle magazine, JustCo, Hostmaker and etc. The partnerships are in line with Sansiri’s vision to focus on next-generation living and how we synergize living, working and discovery. My appointment is really more of a continuation, rather than a change, to become a global player and head towards a mutual vision.
Any plans on re-branding the company's visual identity?
Yes, that naturally comes with a change like this. I think the brand has the personality. If that changes, then I think we need to change the identity to reflex whatever changes that happen.
How has the brand’s identity changed?
We changed from a straightforward property developer to—I would say—property development with an eye on culture, arts, designs, culinary and travel. We paid attention to every aspect of lifestyle development. I think that's where the future is for property development. This is why we took part in the Hotel Art Fair, to reflect our belief in the importance of art, culture and design in property and in general living, to complete the everyday living experience.
Can you clarify more about the Hotel Art Fair?
Art is very underrated in Thailand. We have a lot of talented Thai artists that work for years and still don't get any recognition. They can't make a living, so they give up and that's the real shame. They go into agencies, do things that they were not born to do to just make a living and throw away their talent. That's what we like to support, the young blood artists who have talent that should be recognized.
Could you describe your introduction at Art Basel Hong Kong? What was that like?
As you know, Art Basel Hong Kong is the world’s biggest art fair outside of the one that happens in Miami. It’s several fantastic days where some of the world’s brightest artists and most prominent collectors come together. Sansiri hosted its first ever international Talk Series, where I was one of the expert panelists discussing “New Designs for Living in Asia” alongside world renowned architects Dara Huang and Eric Chen, the lead curator from M+ Museum Hong Kong, and moderated by Tyler Brule, the Editor in Chief of Monocle magazine. It was a really big event with all the top names in art. It was also a showing of Sansiri’s commitment to the arts. The talk series aims to position Sansiri beyond the traditional real estate landscape and build the company’s network within Hong Kong’s creative community, which is Sansiri’s largest sales market outside of Thailand. These are pioneering efforts, firsts in the region for a property developer, and also an innovative response to changing demands and tastes for a new generation of clients.
What is the number one thing you believe will revolutionize Thailand's condominium and real estate industry?
I think it will be content and programming. It's what revolutionized the hotel industry and I think property is next.
How different will Sansiri be in the next 10 years?
Over the next decade you are going to start seeing Sansiri become more lifestyle oriented. As I say, content and programs are very important here. We already introduced a concierge service at our top luxury property, 98 Wireless, and at the soon-to-launch Baan Sansiri in Pattanakarn. At the mid-level, we introduced services like playgrounds, cafes, grab-and-go convenience stores. We will continue to be in the forefront of tech innovation, transforming ourselves for the future and creating a synergetic environment for our business to grow and complete your everyday living experience.