Turtle Bay weaves Thailand’s lush landscape with a quite literally green design, creating a cluster of cozy turtle shell-shaped structures. Inspired by the existing natural context of jungle trees, expansive lotus ponds and wild peacocks, a mixed-use ecotourism destination was formed.

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The turtle shell-shaped structure lit inside with light as the evening sky paints the background

Architect Sarawoot Jansaeng-Aram from Dersyn Studio Co., Ltd. designed Turtle Bay to become a unique tourist destination. The architecture echoes the familiar Thai overwater bungalow but innovates with an original design. Completed this year, it sits in Hua Hin, one of Thailand’s most famous seaside areas. 

Related: Off-grid bamboo bungalow embraces nature in Thailand

A view of five turtle shell-shaped structures facing the rural area of Hua Hin

Considered to be a main tourist attraction, the site is located near the Khao Tao Reservoir, which serves as inspiration for the unique shape. “Khao” is Thai for mountain, while “Tao” translates to turtle. Thus, the design resembles the sacred animal that symbolizes good fortune, longevity and prosperity in Thai folklore.

A single structure that looks like a turtle's shell

Dersyn Studio carefully selected the materials for Turtle Bay to have a balanced harmony with its natural surroundings. Shingle roofs give the surface a gravel and stone chip texture and create a turtle shell-like appearance.

A photo taken at night with the structures lit up by light within them

The designers also accounted for air movement and incorporated sustainable architectural design by extending the roof to create shade for guests. The roof also has solar cell equipment, which generates electric energy from the sun to power lights at night.  

Overhead view of the structures sitting in a large pond

The “turtles” dot the surface of a lavish lotus pond, which has been preserved to “maintain the sense of place.” Installed in it is a Chaipattana Low Speed Surface Aerator, a device to improve the water quality of lakes and ponds that may not have a natural source of oxygen to sustain the inhabitants in its freshwater ecosystem. Meanwhile, a sewage water treatment system prevents untreated water from draining into natural soil or the pond.

Interior restaurant area with accents of bamboo designs in the chairs, tables and ceiling decor

Naturally flexible, locally-sourced bamboo was selected for the main roof, wall surfaces and furnishings throughout Turtle Bay. Additionally, bamboo is easy enough for experienced local artisans to construct without requiring heavy machinery. The material adds personality to the otherwise minimalist and open interiors, bringing the outdoor jungle within. 

Interior design with sofas placed against open windows

Turtle Bay implemented locally sustainable “poon-tum” construction material for its natural ability to keep the walls, and therefore guests, cool even in intense heat and humidity. Poon-tum can be found in ancient temple architecture. Working with local artisans, Jansaeng-Aram designed large open spaces with high roofs and deliberate placement of windows for optimal natural ventilation for all the rooms — which includes an eco café, organic eatery, workshop area, local artisans’ souvenir shop and homestay-style lodging.

Outside patio area with tables, chairs and umbrellas

Thailand’s Hua Hin is famous as a summer hotspot with its clear beaches and balmy weather. Turtle Bay, with its cluster of turtle shell-shaped structures, is one of many special ecotourism destinations to visit.  

+ Dersyn Studio Co., Ltd.

Photography by TonPixelPro