Architecture supremo Bensley: “I am not alone in the way that I choose a place to stay”

If one name could epitomise Asian hotel design, that name would be Bensley. American architect Bill Bensley has led, among others, the design of the Four Seasons resorts in Thailand, the St. Regis hotel in Bali, the InterContinental Danang and the current talk of the town the JW Marriott Phu Quoc.

Bensley, perhaps most famous for his unorthodox design ethic, is also deeply passionate about the lifetime benefit of the resort, he creates with considerations on community and sustainability. It is those two aspect that feature heavily in the Shinta Mani Hotels project and The Bensley Collection – TD asked him to explain further:

TD: What is The Bensley Collection – how did it come about and how does it relate to Shinta Mani Hotels?

BB: Well it was not my idea to call it the Bensley Collection. Sokoun, my wonderful friend and business partner suggested this, rather smartly, I suppose to ride the wave of notoriety that we receive for design of other unique hotel products.

Bensley Collection is the top shelf product of Shinta Mani and its DNA is based on what we like to do when Jirachai and I go on vacation.

Why has it become so popular so quickly?

I think I am not alone in the way that I choose a place to stay. It matters to me to be able to have very private outdoor space, to feel as though we are contributing somehow to the community and to get value for money – that is, not to be nickelled and dimed!

What makes the Southern Cardamom Park such a special place?

These mountains are the lifeline of Cambodia in more ways than most Cambodians understand. It is the rainiest place in SE Asia and generates the rainfall that sustains the rice crops.

What is the background of the Shinta Mani Foundation and how are you involved?

How does it work for instance at Shinta Mani Wild? Sokoun started the Shinta Mani training school in 2001 out of necessity as there were then not enough skilled people to fill his Hotel de la Paix, of which I was the designer.

Thus, by default, the foundation was born as we found that our hospitality school was way more popular and needed then we thought it might be.

This grew into a myriad of other ways to help the community. Shinta Mani Wild, has only been open two months, with 60% of our staff from the local village we had our first on-site wildlife release of three civet cats… That – it might sound a bit soft – made me teary-eyed.

Are there any more Bensley Collection properties planned and if so when and where?

We are entertaining a couple of prospects at the moment. One might be in a most remote corner of Laos, best accessed by helicopter.

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