Risky Business: Bangkok’s Tallest Gamble Is Ready to Open

Announce plans for Bangkok’s tallest building in the depths of a financial crisis. Persist through violent street protests and a military coup. Target wealthy foreigners who would pay millions for an apartment. People thought Sorapoj Techakraisri was crazy. That he was only in his 30s added to the skepticism.

But the 77-story MahaNakhon tower is finally nearing completion, and in September its first residents will be moving in. Located in the upmarket Silom/Sathorn district, the tower boasts a pixelated facade that shimmers like a glass curtain and twists like a spiral–effects that are created by virtue of every floor being different. It has already collected a bevy of awards and a spot on maps of the world’s most notable architectural sites. By far the largest skyscraper on the skyline, MahaNakhon will contain 209 Ritz-Carlton Residences, ranging in price from $1.4 million to $10 million; a five-star Edition Hotel by Marriott International; and flashy boutiques and restaurants.

Even bolder than Techakraisri’s $600 million bet on MahaNakhon–a name that comes from the Thai word for Bangkok–is his vision for the city. He believes that Bangkok is on the verge of a metamorphosis, even as the Thai economy continues to struggle. He sees Bangkok as an alternative to Singapore as a hub for the Mekong region of Southeast Asia, drawing a wave of rich expatriates who will require the amenities that MahaNakhon promises. “It’s almost like a new market coming out,” he says. “Wealthier people have more to spend, and they are willing to spend. That’s what we see.”