After three years  as a restaurant, cafe, guest house, and gallery at the Bang Niew intersection, on Phuket Road, the new Phuket 346 has moved to the heart of old town of Phuket, to number 15, Soi Romanee, off Talang Road, in December 2010. A single Sino Portuguese shop house in a row that includes private residences, a warehouse, guest house, bar, noodle shop, that was half-completed by a Bohemian Thai-English couple, has been made anew.  In its heyday apparently, number 15 Soi Romanee was an opium den. Next door was a gambling house and further up was a brothel.

Soi Romanee itself has today been painted afresh and adorned with red Chinese lanterns by the local Municipality, in recognition of a locale that captures the essence of old Phuket that once was, and recognizes this area of old Phuket town as an architectural legacy that needs preservation and renewal through activity, commerce, and life. From a broader perspective, the old town is set to become a cultural alternative to the beach and seaside dominated tourism development on Phuket island.

The crumbling building has been given a new lease of life, while respecting the original structure and modifying only aspects of the building that best showcase its singular features, such as the original water well, the mid-building opening to the sky, and the generous depth of up to 25 metres, a common feature of Sino Portuguese building in the town, some of which exceed 50m.  As such, the well has been uncovered and its water brought out to bathe a newly made pond where water lilies and golden carp will jostle gently against each other. The covering structure has been removed, allowing for free-flow of air, that, on contact with the cool pond water, acts as a natural air-conditioning system, such is ancestral wisdom. The road facing windows have also been modified back to it original size, long and tall, following the dimensions of other structures in the Soi which still carry the original full-length windows.

The design approach was that of adequacy. There are no adornments with additions that detract from the simple, yet effective design, and the humble conception of the building.  The new styling is more contemporary, with clean lines, and uncluttered.  The feel is residential, youthful yet cultured, and decidedly non-mainstream. The usage of the ground floor space as a bar, café and contemporary art gallery can also be seen as a nod to acknowledge the bohemian origins of Soi Romanee.  In the new incarnation, there are three components to Phuket 346 @ Soi Romanee in Phuket’s Old Town: a guest house, a café & bar and a Contemporary Art Gallery.

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