Stay in enough resorts in Asia, and there’s a high likelihood that you’ll have lounged by the pool, zoned out in the spa and dined under the stars while oohing and aahing at the properties Bill Bensley designed.
One of Asia’s most exciting and prolific designers, Bill Bensley has become something of a spa specialist, bringing his trifecta of expertise in landscape architecture, interior design and environmental stewardship into perfect use. Renowned for pushing the boundaries, he has been especially lauded for the Kirana Day Spa in Bali, a spa created ahead of its time in 2003, and for his more recent nest- like Coqoon Spa at Indigo Pearl Phuket, and will soon be hearing what the world has to say about the brand new InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort and its spa.
His career spans about 50 spas to date, he estimates, although in typically relaxed Bensley fashion he’s never counted. What’s more, he attributes the start of his infamous career to a wrong number. During high school, he was trying to contact a representative of the police force to do a careers talk to his class but dialled the wrong number and ended up talking to Rocco Campanozzi, a landscape architect. “I enrolled and never looked back,” he says. “I knew I loved gardening and plants, and I was good at art, so it seemed like the perfect fit.”
Graduation day at Harvard, and Bensley was invited by none other than Thai classmate Khun Lek Bunnag (today a fellow famous designer), to teach in Singapore. “I enjoyed the heck out of Singapore,” recalls Bensley, who lived in one of the historic black and white houses for a pittance. “It was a little scary though. This was the time when the Singapore government was throwing students into the clink for communism; trying to be big brother in a not very effective way.”
He then moved to Hong Kong, but meanwhile Thailand was developing to be one of the ‘little tigers’ of Asia. “I soon recognised that Thailand was where the talented designers were. And Bangkok was love at first sight – I’ve found my home in Asia, and I’m not going anywhere from here.”