In the capital of Thailand, there is a rather famous unfinished skyscraper called Sathorn Unique Tower. The building was only ever 80% completed and has stood abandoned since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. It holds the record for the world’s tallest, unfinished building.
Sathorn Unique Tower was supposed to be a 47-story luxury complex consisting of 600 condominiums, 50 retail units, and two further levels underground. It was also connected to what would become a ten-story parking garage. Like the State Tower, it features plenty of neo-Grecian elements, especially balconies and columns.
A commercial brochure produced at the time boasted how the tower would have the best panoramic view of the Bangkok cityscape and “the charm of the Chaopraya River.” It also informed readers that the building would contain 659 residential premises and 54 retail outlets.
Rangsan Torsuwan was hired to design the building, working as part of Rangsan and Pansit Architecture Co Ltd. This firm was known for many architectural projects during the heyday of Thailand’s economy.
The project began in 1990. Behind the scenes, the project was owned by Sathorn Unique Co. Ltd, with funding from the Thai Mex Finance and Securities Company. Overall supervision of the project was carried out by construction contractor Si Phraya Co. Ltd.
In 1993, Rangsan Torsuwan was arrested on serious charges which, although never proven, seriously hindered his ability to secure finance for his projects. Despite this setback, in 1997, Sathorn Unique Tower was almost complete. The interior decoration was outstanding in addition to some of the walls in the upper levels.
However, at that time, Thailand faced a major economic crisis. The property market in Bangkok collapsed, and the companies that financed the tower project went bankrupt and were liquidated shortly afterward.
Of course, Sathorn Unique Tower was not the only project that ground to a halt. In the Thai capital, more than 300 construction projects were left incomplete during this period. During 1998, the country’s economy contracted by 10%.
As the economy recovered over the next few years, most of the abandoned buildings were either completed or demolished. The State Tower, considered a sister building to the Sathorn Unique Tower as they were both designed by Rangsan Torsuwan, was one of the buildings to be completed.
Sadly, Sathorn remained unfinished and became one of more than a dozen incomplete “ghost towers” in Bangkok. This was despite efforts by Rangsan’s son, Pansit, who joined the firm in 2004. He tried either to secure more financing for the project or to sell the land at a price that would ensure the original buyers could be repaid in full. He was ultimately unsuccessful.
The building quickly became famous among urban explorers who liked to climb to the upper floors. Officially, it was forbidden to visit, and security guards patrolled the area, although several explorers reported that they could be bribed.
Visitors were attracted by Sathorn Unique Tower’s unfinished, post-apocalyptic feel. Reportedly, over a hundred people would visit it in one weekend. Explorers might find curious items in the abandoned rooms, such as mannequins, a picture of the King, or bathtubs that were never installed and merely left to clutter up the hallways.
In 2016, a corrugated tin fence appeared around the tower, as well as signs warning that trespassers would be prosecuted. This was no idle threat since, in 2015, Pansit Torsuwan had brought criminal charges against a group of people who accessed the tower then posted photos and videos on the internet of them freerunning about the site.
Pansit stated that he brought proceedings because he wanted to make an example of these people and to deter others from entering the building, which was deemed unsafe.
However, Pansit has allowed some official events to be carried out at Sathorn Unique Tower. In 2017, the building was used by Museum Siam as part of an exhibition on the financial crisis, while in 2017, the horror film The Promise was filmed there. On occasions, advertising banners can be seen hanging from the tower’s walls.
Today, it’s not impossible to enter the Sathorn Unique Tower, but it is illegal and also much harder than it was previously. Security guards seem immune to bribes now, and some of the stairways have been locked up. It’s also not possible to access via a bridge from the parking garage anymore.
The Sathorn Unique Tower is called a ghost tower not only because it’s unfinished but also because there is a general belief that it is haunted. Many people think that there are ghosts there since the building was constructed on top of a former cemetery. In addition, in December 2014, an early morning photographer found the body of a 30-year-old Swedish backpacker on the 43rd floor.
The amazing photos from in and around the incredible abandoned tower were taken by Ben Perek. Ben is a photographer who travels a lot and shares his captured moments with his followers. See more of his work on his Facebook page and Flickr account.
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