This essay is about the influence caused by globalisation towards hotel designs and hotels. It will focus on how Europeans have influenced hotels in Singapore in the 19th century and the impact it had made in the 21st century. This will lead to the conclusion on what makes each hotel special. Is it the history? Or, is it the experience?
2. Emergence of boutique hotels and luxury hotels.
Since the emergence of the first hotel in Fourth of July 1793, The Union Public Hotel (fig.1.0) in Washington D.C., America, it has influenced businessmen to establish more hotels to cater to the increasing amount of travellers’. One of the causes of the influences was the feedbacks received from guests whom experienced their stays in hotels. The feedbacks and competitions between hotel developers have lead to better and more comfortable hotels. Demand for hotels has caused hotel developers just to create a comfortable and convenient environment within the hotel interior space. Since the emergence of the first luxury hotel till the 21st century all the hotels have no uniqueness since there were no importance given to create a unique feel, ambience and experience within the hotels.
While the herd of sheep continue moving towards one directions competing among themselves with no other competitions, two other sheep in the herd decided to leave the herd to venture out to explore and discover.
Two businessmen, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, started The Hotel Morgans (fig.2.0) on Madison Avenue, Manhattan, America. It looked fairly strange and unique, and was nothing like Oriental or Hilton hotels, which had a domineering presence in the hotel industry. The boutique style was invented in 1984 by Steve Rubell and Ian Scharager, It was Rubell who came up with the word “boutique hotel”. He described the new business venture as being similar to a boutique, rather than a department store. The idea of boutique hotel ventured out of America to Europe. The first European boutique hotel was ’42 The Calls’ (fig.3.0, 3.1) situated in Leeds, London, England. It was made from an old corn mill. The hotel still retains the old machines which were used, and still has some features of its history, such as the handmade beds, which gives this hotel its uniqueness.
In 1827 John Francis a tavern keeper was the first to cater to wayfarers in need of temporary accommodations in Singapore. This was eight years after Sir Stamford Raffles founded Singapore. Other entrepreneurs soon followed to compete with him as business was good due to its strategically placed geographical location; Singapore was a convenient port of call for travellers, merchants, missionaries, sailors, adventurers and explorers. By the early 1840s Singapore had 6 hotels, The Ship Hotel, London Hotel, British Hotel, Commercial Hotel, Hotel de Paris and Hamburg Hotel, all looking the same and differing only in services offered. Improvements in transportation were beginning to shrink distances and enable more people to circumnavigate the globe. As demand increased for more supply and better services it resulted in more luxury hotels.
In 1887, Raffles Hotel (fig.4.0 and fig.4.1) opened its doors targeting the travellers venturing east as well as expatriates living and working in the Straits Settlements. The Raffles Hotel design was influenced by European and American hotels and design. It wanted to set a standard in creating a first class hotel (fig.4.2 and fig.4.3) as was said by the Sarkies Brothers, owners themselves, in their own words, “A Really First Class Hotel”. The hotel was designed with architectural embellishment, stupendous Carrara Marble-paved dining room, culinary creativity and it offered attentive service. Raffles offered unparallel luxury. “The Armenian Sarkies Brothers, founders and proprietors, were still evolving the alluring blend of European comforts and tropical concessions that we now think of distinctively Raffles.” The Raffles Hotel was a symbol of colonialism for the Europeans during the colonial era.
The Raffles Hotel went through a refurbishment process for 2 years and was reopened in 1991 to the public with an updated style still retaining the former elegance of the hotel in the 19th century. The Raffles Hotel being influenced by the European design and offering attentive services, could be the stepping stone for the emergence of boutique hotels in Singapore, such as The New Majestic Hotel (fig.5), The Scarlet Hotel (fig.6) and The Gallery Hotel (fig.7).
The first luxury boutique hotel in Singapore was built in December 2004: The Scarlet Hotel, located in Chinatown’s, Ann Siang Road. The Scarlet is an 80 room establishment which was built from a row of conserved shop houses, now designed with stylish contemporary design. The Scarlet has five well designed themed suites, whose names are Splendour, Passion, Opulent, Lavish and Swank. Each of these five suites was designed with a user in mind. The interiors of the five rooms were treated and finished differently based on the theme of each room. They also have different amenities. Taking The Passion Suite has an example; The Passion Suit was specially designed for honeymooners. It has a seductive interior finishing. The seductive environment in the suite was achieved by lowering the height of the ceiling to create an air of intimacy and finishing the interior with “burgundy, fuchsia, silver and black”. The Passion Suite has its own private Jacuzzi too. To enhance the experience of staying in The Scarlet, special services such as the ordering of replicas of suites and rooms furnishings are offered. The Flair, a gift shop located in The Scarlet has gifts from all over the world which are rare to be found in Singapore itself.
The New Majestic Hotel was built in 1928, also in Chinatown, and it is the first collaboratively designed hotel by various emerging Singaporean artists. It has a total of 30 rooms individually designed by various artists and designers. The hotels in the ceiling of the New Majestic hotel give a unique experience while the guests are dining, allowing them to look up the ceiling into the swimming or at the swimmers who swim by. New Majestic has a vast collection of vintage chairs in the gleaming terrazzo lobby.
The Gallery Hotel is situated in Robertson Quay along Singapore River. It has a total of 223 art themed rooms. Each room has its own characteristics and ambience. The design for this rooms were chosen from the Creative Youth Xchange Competiton held in Singapore by Gallery Hotel and Creative Industries Singapore.There are total of 19 Creative Youth Xchange rooms in this hotels and they were based on the theme ‘Five walls, Defying Definitions’. Every CYX Boutique room and suite expresses its designer’s unique interpretation of space. One of its uniqueness is the one of a kind glass sided cantilevered swimming pool (fig7.1).
The three boutique hotels, The Scarlet Hotel, New Majestic Hotel and The Gallery Hotel are different in terms of the experience, theme and design. The Scarlet is designed targeting a certain group of people, considering the user of the space in mind. New Majestic is designed to create a totally different environment with different design language and experience derived from the designers own theme and concept. While the Gallery hotel is designed with a common theme for its rooms but by different designers with different ideas and interpretation of space. Facilities such as swimming pool or wading pool are also designed to deliver different experiences while using them. The Holes in the ceiling of New Majestic creating view into the pool from dining area, the cantilevered pool of Gallery Hotel and the private Jacuzzis of The Scarlet gives a total different experience from one another. The only similarity is all three hotels are designed to create an experience of their own.
Redesigning and transforming a conserved Victorian style Bungalow house (fig.8.0) at Chinatown’s Club Street, founded in 1891 by a Peranakan millionaire into a Boutique Hotel is influenced by the three case studies and The Raffles Hotel.
Taking the context of the site into consideration, the name and the design of the site were derived from the historic significant of the site. In the 19th century the Chinese immigrants from China came to Singapore in search for jobs to support their family, who are back in China. When they arrived in Singapore from China they brought along opium to smoke. Opium was consumed for relaxation purposes after a day of hard work. They settled down in Chinatown which is near to their working place located at the Singapore River. Chinatown was well known for opium smoking.
After a long thought process and research done, I derived to my concept ‘Intensity’. My objective is to create intense spaces in my hotel. The Hotel has a total of nine rooms including singles and doubles, and a dormitory, which can accommodate six individuals. The rooms of The Den Hotel are known as ‘The Private Dens’ while the Dormitory is known as ‘The Casual Den’. The bar in the hotel is known as ‘The Heart of The Den’.
Upon arrival to The Den Hotel, the guests will be warmly welcomed by the interior form of the hotel. The interior walls are all angled in various directions creating spaces which are narrow and open. The lowering of the ceiling and the increasing of height of the floorings plays an important role in making the space intense. As the guests walk through the spaces to the rooms, they can feel that they are in a intimate and private space as the warm lighting of the spaces are continued throughout the interior, not putting them under the spot light. As for the rooms, they are pure in terms of finishing and intensity in the room are subtle, so as to create a comfortable and relaxed environment. The rooms have various experiences, the placement of windows in unconventional knee level and the experience of sleeping on a suspended bed from the ceiling. The bar has an extension to the back with two private lounges for guests, which is cantilevered off the building. To balance up the level of intensity in The Den Hotel, there is a triple volume space with sky light shining all the way down to the lobby.
The use of ceiling height to design, creating experiences in spaces and having cantilevered elements were ideas influenced by the case studies.
In conclusion, since the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles to Singapore, the globalisation of European style and culture has influenced Singapore. The Hotel de L’Europe established in 1857 as reincarnation of one of the six hotels mentioned earlier, The London Hotel, was designed by George Drumgoole Coleman, an architect who was also responsible for many of Singapore’s finest early building, was the only rival of The Raffles Hotel. Being influenced by the European design and looking similar to the design of Hotel de L’Europe, The Raffles Hotel went one step ahead to offer highly attentive service and greater comfort. This gave the edge to The Raffles Hotels to last till now, and becoming one of the best hotels in the world.
The owners of The Scarlet taking another step to offer special services and unique experiences could be inspired or influenced by The Raffles Hotel akin to the way The Raffles Hotel was influenced by the Europeans.
The globalisation of opium smoking brought in by the Chinese immigrants in the 19th century has influenced the concept of The Den Hotel. What makes The Den Hotel special is that the identity of opium is not literally translated into visuals, but through rationalisations and a long thinking process the concept of ‘Intensity’ has concealed the identity of opium. The intensity when smoking opium can be experienced in the spaces but not seen.
Each hotel has its own strength, the strength of The Raffles Hotel could be its rich history or its highly rated attentive services, and for The Den Hotel is the beautifully concealed identity of opium being experienced in the spaces while walking through it, and dining out at the cantilevered bar with a void in the centre.
The Raffles Hotel, its influence can be visually seen and beautifully experienced with luxury, The Den Hotel, silently influenced and beautifully experienced.
Liu, Gretchen, Raffles Hotel, , Editions Didier Miller Pte Ltd, Singapore.
Strausz, Sandaval, .K.A., Hotel: An American History, L.E.G.O.SpA, Italy
Tan, Adrianna, Singaporechic, Hotels, Restaurants, Shops, Bars, , Editions Didier Miller Pte Ltd, Singapore.
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