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+ Lek Bunnag

Lek Bunnag, the architect behind Krabi’s new Ritz-Carlton Reserve, finds inspiration in ancient Bhaktapur. He tells JENNIFER CHEN why

Published on Oct 21, 2010

Bhaktapur is an ancient city that’s east of Kathmandu. What I like about it is that its center is composed of beautiful forms, and the way it’s composed is unmistakably Eastern—no city square in the world comes close to such beauty. One of the things that makes it beautiful is the way it corresponds to an east–west orientation. When you enter in the morning, the sun is in front of you and the monuments cast beautiful shadows.

Bhaktapur is a UNESCO World Heritage site so it’s kept very well. Its beauty derives from how all these ancient urban elements were built at different times, and how with each element, they recognize the past. It’s very Eastern—the next generation giving the previous one love and respect by extending the past to the present. The way it’s done is beautiful. And it’s not a museum. It’s an urban space that still works every day.

I usually prefer visiting at night or when the sun rises. At that time, you see a lot of people walking to work. When it comes to places, the most important thing is its meaning. In the West, we do not want to go far beyond things. What I mean is that we don’t use the word spiritual anymore. We use the word psychology—it all comes from Freud and Jung.

In the East, we go far—deep into the spirituality of life, through meditation, kindness, compassion. I love architecture that comes from that. I appreciate the beauty of forms, which is something the West has contributed. But in the East, it’s about serenity, tranquility—that which leads us to a meditative mood. In Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, it’s all the same. We might not use the same word, but the meaning is the same. I try to make architecture that leads us to serenity. And serenity itself is the secret to beauty.


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