Siem Reap’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club is Now Chic Avani Hotel
Designer Malee Whitcraft shares some insight into the transformation and sustainable design of the new FCC Angkor.
In Siem Reap, which certainly has no shortage of luxury hotels, FCC Angkor by Avani might just be the chicest new place to stay. Opened last summer in the former Foreign Correspondents’ Club, just ten minutes from the main Angkor Wat complex, the hotel trades over-the-top luxury for a sense of intimacy and authenticity. FCC Angkor is the first renovated heritage hotel in the FCC Collection, which is sure to be a brand worth watching for fans of historic hotels and boutique design. (The FCC Phnom Penh is currently under renovation and is expected to open in November 2020.)
Set in a low-slung building by architect Gary Fell, the hotel channels a retro tropical modernist vibe, with 80 rooms that, for the most part, look onto a lush courtyard with a greenery-ringed swimming pool. Most of the public spaces, including the reception, the Mansion restaurant, and Scribe bar, are open to the elements. Avani, which manages the property, tapped Dutch-born, Bangkok-based Malee Whitcraft, in conjunction with Phnom Penh-based Bloom Architecture, for the $7 million redesign, and also sought to work with local Khmer artisans whenever possible.
“Rattan chairs, wooden tree tables, and fabrics of bed runners and cushions were all handwoven by special order. The cushions in the Mansion are all local design, and each design has its own meaning,” Whitcraft explains. She also mixed retro peacock chairs with copper elements and tiles handmade by a family that has been in business for 300 years. In the rooms, rotary phones and typewriters collected at flea markets in Europe nod to the building’s journalistic history. There are seven different room designs, all of which feature an airy, open layout. The spacious top suite in the new building has a large terrace and an outdoor sandstone bathtub carved by Khmer artisans. “We have carefully selected everything to show the skills of the Khmer people,” Whitcraft says.
At the heart of the hotel, the Mansion restaurant is housed in the former French colonial governor’s mansion, which later welcomed foreign correspondents and journalists from around the globe. The Scribe bar was added below the restaurant as a gathering place for hotel guests as well as locals, who come to sip kaffir lime gimlets and other tropical-inflected cocktails. An art gallery hosts rotating exhibits, and participates in events like the Angkor Photo Festival; guests can also enjoy exclusive experiences like a photography tour of Angkor Wat and other Khmer temples with a professional photographer who will share tips and tricks for getting the best shots.
Sustainability was also of the utmost importance when conceiving the design. To wit, the hotel is entirely plastic-free, all the new parts of the building are clad in sandstone and all the furniture was made using natural materials that have been treated with eco-friendly product, to better stand up to the heat and humidity of the jungle setting. Rates for the Governor Suite start at A$360.