Completed in August 2011, Basil Thai Cuisine is a 2-story newly constructed building in Seaside Farms commercial area in Mt.Pleasant, South Carolina, just outside of Charleston. The building is 7500 square feet with another 2400 square feet of outdoor courtyard dining and deck areas, and has a total 270 seats.
The building is uniquely located at the corner of a busy commercial area, facing a main thoroughfare where residents of several large neighborhoods pass through on a daily basis, a small public park on the southeast side, and a picturesque lagoon at the rear with a public walking path along the edge of the water. The building is designed to respond to these contextual influences as well as the southwesterly prevailing summer breezes for natural cooling, the midday south sun for natural lighting and the sunset views over the lagoon towards the west.
The front of the building faces the commercial area and is designed with an urban feel, reflecting the height, scale, mass and rhythm of storefront windows of the surrounding retail buildings, while having a distinctive more modern look unto itself. Features such as a canted storefront wall covered in a combination of charcoal-colored shiny and matte tile, concrete planters filled with bamboo set into recessed storefront window wells, and an entry area featuring a custom-designed lantern hanging from two cantilevered beams over the sidewalk and a large stunning Buddha statue in the entry window set this building apart from others. The pale yellow brick and charcoal-colored trim details fit into the context while being reminiscent of the building that the original Basil Thai Cuisine resides in, in downtown Charleston.
The southwest side and rear of the building face the park and lagoon and are designed to open up to the best views the site has to offer while taking advantage of the prevailing southwest summer breezes. Strong interior and exterior connections are reflected in all aspects of the design at these sides of the building. On the first floor, two dining “pagoda” structures are surrounded by a wraparound side and rear courtyard which starts at the front sidewalk to engage passersby, and extends down along the park, and around to the full lagoon views at the rear. Each of these pagodas has a large open glass corner window, the rear one sliding open for full engagement with the courtyard. Large canopies and overhangs provide shelter from the summer midday sun and rain. The main dining room at the center rear of the building overlooks both the courtyard and the lagoon via another large open glass corner. Finally, a 2nd floor bar, which has a loft-type feeling with exposed ceilings and ductwork, fully opens to the exterior by way of three large glass garage doors which extend the space out to a wraparound deck creating an indoor/outdoor bar with stunning views of the lagoon over the treetops. These strong connections to the exterior are focused on the southwest side and rear elevations, resulting in a building design which fully maximizes the potential of the site, strongly connects patrons to the best features of the surroundings, and provides for maximum natural daylighting of the space.
The entrance of the building is marked by a custom designed lantern hanging over the sidewalk, which draws patrons in and under a canopy where they are faced with the view of a stunning Buddha statue surrounded by a water feature. This marks the start of one of two axes through the building. The first axis begins with this lantern at the sidewalk and visually extends through the building and out to the rear courtyard and lagoon, ending with a feature of six “moonlight” globes floating in the lagoon. A second longitudinal axis serves as the main corridor through the building and features a decorative curved translucent screen wall lined with bamboo harvested by the owner, and a continuous wood soffit that dramatically extends through the building connecting all patron areas and outdoor areas while serving the employees with a functional spine through the building. The two axes intersect at the Buddha statue, which can be seen from various parts of the building, and reinforce the strong connection to the outdoors.
Other special features of the building include an undulating wood ceiling in the main dining room, a dramatic gesture and pattern inspired by a request from a well-traveled owner; a large open glass cooking line in the main dining room, a feature which is carried through from the original downtown Basil, and an exposed wine room at the entry tucked under the main stair.
The building also has many architectural features custom-designed by the project’s architectural designer. A functional and aesthetic centerpiece of the main dining room are the adjustable booths, which are a unique invention that allows the owner to create combinations of seating table sizes based on the location of a movable divider. The booth fabric also has a custom stitching pattern, created to emulate the reed grasses in the lagoon just outside the windows. Another custom-designed feature is two large bamboo fixtures that hang from the large skylight of each pagoda, faced with black bamboo that the owner harvested and cut himself. These two fixtures create a dramatic ceiling effect and provide acoustical softening of the space. The front entry lantern is a fixture containing a pendant globe surrounded by a custom designed decorative wrought iron surround, designed by the project architect and created and crafted by a local artist metalworker. Finally, the building signage was also custom-designed to be reminiscent of the original Basil location, which had a historic green neon sign. In order to decrease the energy use, the designer came up with a custom style sign which combines the long lasting LED technology, but gives a look that emulates a neon style sign at night.