The Surin: ASEAN Enigma


Each issue ASEAN Forum will deconstruct a example of classic ASEAN design. for this first issue we visit Pansea beach, Phuket, Thailand.



One of America’s most renowned architects, Seattle-born Ed Tuttle, apprenticed with San Francisco design studio Gump’s, before working with interior designers in Hong Kong and Greece. He spent seven years working on hotel projects across Asia with a client list that included Park Hyatt, Hilton, Sheraton and InterContinental. However, he is best known for his work with the Aman Resorts in Thailand, Indonesia, France and the US.

In 1977, Tuttle set up his own design agency, Designrealization, in Paris. The company takes charge of the entire aesthetic of each project, overseeing the architecture, interior architecture and furniture design. Tuttle’s style reflects the cultural flavour and feel of the cities in which the hotels are constructed. While respecting the environment, he incorporates local materials and techniques true to the contemporary architecture of the country.

Tuttle’s work is noted for its grand sense of perspective and space. With a clear preference for geometric forms, it has been called the perfect fusion between traditional and modern design. His architectural philosophy is that there should be an interesting perspective, wherever you look.


27Originally built as the Pansea 32 years ago, after the name of the beach in which it stands, the Surin has gone through a series of transformations since Tuttle’s original design, while somehow maintaining its original freshness. In 1994, management of the hotel was taken over by the Chedi group, but unfortunately the property was slightly damaged by the 2004 tsunami that devastated the island. This led to a major renovation in 2011 and 2012 with the property re-opening as the Surin.

“Simple Thai design,” is how the resort’s current general manager, Claude Sauter, describes the Surin. Sauter has been involved in the Phuket hotel business for 20 years and feels that the design concept is consistent with an island destination. “In Phuket I expect to see wood, and I want to have open space and a minimalist design.”

For Sauter, the attraction of the resort lies in its relationship with nature. “In this property you have the hills and the sea,” he says. “They could have built the hotel closer to the sea to have more sea views – to have a three-storey, four-storey building – to have more rooms. But the way they integrated all the chalets or cottages into the scenery is quite smart. You have some rooms that have a really nice view.”

The resort shares the white-sand beach with the Amanpuri resort – something unusual on an island where private ownership of beachfront is not permitted. It also nestles in the shade of the surrounding hills, along which some of the rooms are constructed. “Once you are in the hotel, you feel you are in a bit of a cocoon,” says Sauter.

And the influence of nature stretches to the furnishings. “There are lots of natural materials, especially wood,” he says. “Simple wooden furniture that never goes out of fashion.”

Through commissioning Tuttle to carry out the latest refurbishment, the owners have ensured that the resort remains faithful to the designer’s original trademark concept – perspective and space. Public spaces deftly fit into lofty, airy hexagonal pavilions, descending the steep tree-lined hills to the massive pool, also hexagonal in shape. The 103 cottages were likewise reconceived by Tuttle on their original footprints but have been given a significant upgrade – freshly panelled and whitewashed, floored in elegant granite and hung with contemporary-ethnic silks. All-in-all the upgrade appears more a restoration than a mere face-lift. Timeless, contemporary yet traditional, the Surin still reflects the true Asian enigma.


97The Surin Phuket

Pansea Bay, 118 Moo 3, Choengtalay, Talang, Phuket 83110 Thailand

tel: +66 7631 6400, +66 76 621 580‐2 fax: +66 76 621 590

reservation: [email protected]

103 Cottages and Suites, Lomtaly Thai Restaurant, Sunset Café, Beach Restaurant, The Beach and Sunset Bar, spa, fitness centre, boutique, pool, water sports, tennis courts.