Most iconic buildings in Bangkok
Sereechai Puttes/Tanisorn Vongsoontorn/Time Out Bangkok

The most iconic buildings in Bangkok

Take advantage of the traffic-free sitch and check out some of the city’s most striking buildings

Written by
Time Out Bangkok editors
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Bangkok’s Old Town boasts a diverse mix of traditional Thai structures and European-inspired heritage buildings. But architectural buffs will tell you that the city’s urban landscape has more to offer than grand temples and converted colonial homes. If you take time to research, walk around the city or even just look up, you’ll realize that Bangkok is home to a number of beautiful buildings bearing a variety of architectural styles, from neoclassical to modernist to postmodernist.

Modernist architecture arrived in Thailand after the Second World War when young Thai architects returned home after years of studying or living in the States. The rapid economic expansion during that time provided these architects with opportunities to create their masterpieces—iconic structures like Indra Hotel, Holiday Inn Hotel, State Tower and the Robot Building were erected during these glory years. Sadly, the Tom Yum Kung crisis in 1997 ended this building boom and it wasn’t until the last decade, when the economy picked up, that the quest to build some of the city’s grandest high-rises resumed. More recently, Bangkok has seen the unveiling of postmodern structures such as Central Embassy, King Power Mahanakhon and the Rosewood Bangkok.   

Now that there are fewer cars and people on the road—and provided you practice social distancing—this is probably the best time to go out with a camera and get your fill of Bangkok’s many modern architectural wonders.

  • Attractions
  • Silom

Though it lost its distinction as Thailand’s tallest building to Magnolias Waterfront Residences (only a four-meter difference!), the 314-meter-tall King Power Mahanakhon is still, unquestionably, one of the most recognizable structures in Bangkok thanks to a distinctive pixelated exterior designed by architect Ole Scheeren. The higher floors of this 77-story high-rise are home to 200 Ritz-Carlton Residences units while the lower floors are set to house Accor's first Orient Express Hotel. Crowning the structure are sky-high eatery Mahanakhon Bangkok SkyBar and Thailand’s highest observation deck.

  • Attractions
  • Huai Khwang

This majestic structure stands on the bustling Rama IX and Ratchadaphisek intersection. Its design takes its cue from the first letter of the name of former proprietor G Land (Central Pattana currently owns the building). Designed by Urban Architects and KSC & Associates, the office complex is known for its unique cantilevered architecture, constructed with high-strength steel at the top, and a south tower that sees an eight-degree tilt. 

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  • Attractions
  • Ari

This building might have folks in Ari thinking they’re in London because of a design that is utterly similar to the famed 30 St Mary Axe (also known as The Gherkin). But owner Pruksa Real Estate rejects the plagiarism and proclaims that the shape of the building is inspired by a pearl, reflecting the owner's vision for Thailand as the Pearl of ASEAN. The 25-story edifice was designed by Palmer and Turner. A smaller structure in front, called Mabe Dome, acts as a multi-functional space that has held a wide range of events.

  • Hotels
  • Phloen Chit

This luxurious 30-story hotel was designed by celebrated New York firm Kohn Pederson Fox Associates (KDF). Inspired by the wai, the Thai gesture of placing both palms together as a greeting or to show respect, this building comprises two connected diagonal structures with a sloping façade. Since it opened in 2019, the hotel has become a recognizable landmark in the commercial district of Ploenchit.

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  • Shopping
  • Department stores
  • Phloen Chit

Situated within the former gardens of the British Embassy on the corner of Ploenchit and Witthayu, Central Embassy is unarguably one of Bangkok’s most striking skyscrapers. Designed by award-winning London-based architecture and design studio Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A), it features a continual looped form that brings together a seven-story retail podium and a high-rise hotel. A gleaming aluminum façade features intricate patterns derived from traditional Thai architecture as well as shining LED tubes, which combine to give the building varied impressions of depth, shape and color.

  • Real estate
  • Bang Sue

In 2013, Siam Cement Group (SCG), one of Thailand’s oldest conglomerates, celebrated its 100th anniversary by unveiling a new futuristic building in Bang Sue. But futuristic for SCG doesn’t mean a gleaming facade or an ultra-sleek structure. Instead, SCG’s take on the future involves applying advanced sustainable technology throughout the 22-story structure, including tiles produced from recycled materials, exterior glass panes with the low-heat transmission, solar panels and energy-saving lamps. The energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly building was designated a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C) certification in 2014, with the highest achievement of LEED Platinum, by the US Green Building Council (USGBC)

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  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Taling Chan

This religious edifice in Taling Chan looks so modern that it could easily be mistaken for a contemporary art gallery. Architect Manode Sookchai drew inspiration from the shape of sacramental bread, using raw concrete, glass and metal to come up with the structure’s curved roof. The sloped pathway leading up to the main entrance was inspired by the Catholic theology that man was formed from dirt and would eventually return to the ground. Its 50-meter-tall cross tower can be seen from afar.

  • Attractions
  • Arcades and amusements
  • Rattanakosin

Once home to a money printing plant, this building in Bang Khun Phrom was recently transformed into a library/co-working space and museum that highlights how money was made and the role of Bank of Thailand in the national economy. Designed by Creative Crews in collaboration with Somdoon Architects, the learning center retains the symmetric grid columns and convex concrete roof of the former structure, and features glazed glass walls that allow natural light to filter into the building and give a stunning view of the Rama VIII bridge and the Chao Phraya River.

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  • Theater
  • Public and national theaters

Mahidol University College of Music is home to the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, which takes residency at Prince Mahidol Hall. The 2,000-seat theater is a multi-functional space that hosts a wide range of performances and events, from symphony orchestras to operas to graduation ceremonies. Conceived through the vision of Architects 49, the building features a sound-proof roof that, in reflection of the university’s expertise in medicine, takes on a repetitive pattern inspired by “the beauty of the human skeleton” as well as the sloping roofs of traditional Thai houses. The structure also resembles the Kan Phai Mahidol, the symbolic plant of the university.

  • Attractions
  • Sathorn

Shaped like a sleepy robot, this building—now the headquarters of United Overseas Bank in Bangkok—brings a childish fun to Silom’s urban landscape. Originally the site of Bank of Asia, the Robot Building was designed by Sumet Jumsai, a National Artist in Architecture, to represent computerization in the world of banking. The 20-story building narrows on certain floors to create the robot’s body. Circular windows on the top floors depict lidded eyeballs while the sides of the building are decorated with robot-like components such as nuts and bolts. An antenna atop the building is used for communication purposes and for lighting.  Special thanks to W Bangkok for providing a location to photograph the building.

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  • Attractions
  • Chatuchak

The best views of this iconic building can be seen from many areas in Chatuchak. The vision of real estate mogul Arun Chaisaree and architect Ong-ard Satraphandhu, the edifice pays homage to the animal held in respect by Thais. Three towers act as the elephant’s trunk and legs, bridging seven floors of residential suites. The building also features elements depicting ears and tusks. It has been recognized as one of the most unique buildings in the world by CNN and named one of the world’s ugliest buildings by Architectural Digest. 

  • Things to do
  • Schools and universities

Commuters traveling north can see this visually-striking architectural structure from Vibhawadee-Rangsit highway. This one-of-a-kind building, which takes the shape of an uncrystallized diamond, graces the entrance of Bangkok University and acts as a symbol of the school’s progressive vision. Designed by Architects 49, BU Diamond comprises three buildings and is home to a theme park-inspired student lounge with facilities such as a library, a music rehearsal studio and a theater. The structure also features a software development incubation center that offers courses related to cybersecurity, computer programming and video game development. 

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  • Hotels
  • Phaya Thai

In the 1970s, Pratunam was one of Bangkok’s most bustling trading quarters. People from all walks of life flocked into the area for the latest fashion finds. Though its glamour has long vanished, Pratunam’s vibrance has never faded. Standing the test of time at its heart is Indra Regent Hotel, recognized by the repetitive pointy pattern on its facade. The hotel was designed by noted architect Chira Silpkanok who is also responsible for the striking aesthetic of Scala Theater in Siam Square.

  • Attractions
  • Charoenkrung

Gourmands and globetrotters know State Tower as the home of award-winning eateries Mezzaluna and Sirocco. To lovers of architecture, however, the high-rise is a unique beauty. The 68-story building was designed by noted architect Rangsan Torsuwan, who built it in the neoclassical style. Some of its more distinguishable features are identical curved balconies jutting out from each room and a golden dome on the roof. Rangsan is also the mastermind behind the unfinished Sathorn Unique Tower, better known as Bangkok’s famed Ghost Tower.

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  • Hotels
  • Silom

This long-standing hotel has probably one of the most interesting windows in the city—hundreds of identical sail-style windows form the facade, creating edgy corners and a mesmerizing repetitive pattern. First opened its doors as Rama Tower Hotel in 1970s, the hotel's modernist edifice was designed by architect Dan Wongprasat.

  • Shopping
  • Department stores
  • Rattanakosin

The Brutalist façade of Nightingale Olympic, Thailand’s oldest operational department store, is a testament to its storied past. The retail institution is now run by Arun Niyomwanich, the nonagenarian sister of founder Nat Niyomwanich. The multi-level, non-air conditione store retains the retro charms of the original structure, and is teeming with dusty sports equipment, musicalinstruments, rare cosmetics and mysterious-looking mannequins.

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  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Siam

This cylindrical building, home to pieces by local and international artists, is in itself a work of art. Thai motifs are harmoniously incorporated into a modern structure envisioned by Robert G. Boughey and Associates. Its curved roof takes cues from elements dominant in the costumes of traditional Thai dancers. Slanted walls and narrow windows, which are common in Thai architecture, are also featured in the structure. 

  • Real estate
  • Bang Rak

Passersby tend to disregard this building, probably because it’s rather overshadowed by its more modern next-door neighbor SO Bangkok. But for architecture buffs, Srifuengfung Building is a Brutalist architectural marvel. A spiky pattern on its facade earned the structure the unofficial nickname “durian building.” Designed by Intrarent Architect Office and completed in 1971, Srifuengfung Building was the former headquarters of petrol company Esso before it became an office rental space. 

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  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Rattanakosin

Poh Chang Academy of Arts, founded by King Rama VI in 1913, is one of Thailand’s longest-running and most prestigious multi-disciplinary art schools. Its main building, reconstructed after the Second World War, is hailed as one of the country’s very first “modern Thai” structures. Designed by celebrated artist and architect Professor Prakit Buabut, it blends deconstructed elements of classic Western and Thai architecture. People recognize the structure by the six neoclassical pillars that guard its entrance and its light green wash.

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