Majestic facades with intricate detailing, handsome columns and delicate cornices; hardwood ﬂoors gleaming with a patina acquired over time. There is much about the extravagant buildings constructed by empires that make them perfectly suited for being turned into grand hotels, and Singapore – once the crown jewel in the East for the British Empire – is fertile with options for ambitious hoteliers.
Think The Fullerton Hotel, converted from the former General Post Office, and Capella Singapore, which integrates modern construction with colonial military buildings. Whether it is pre-war conservation shophouses or former military barracks, heritage hotels are often not just stylish retreats, but also a canvas for history when the storied interiors are refurbished to surpass their former glory.
Singapore is seeing yet another wave of openings – starting with The Capitol Kempinski Hotel which opened last October. Two months after, the 138-room Six Senses Maxwell joined the heritage hotel scene. Together with Six Senses Duxton, the brand’s debut property here, the two hotels add a collective touch of whimsy to the eclectic Chinatown community.
As one half of a remarkable conservation project endorsed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Architectural Heritage Awards, Six Senses Maxwell comprises 14 four-storey shophouses originally constructed in the early 19th century. Its thoughtful interiors are guided by the creative hand of French architect and interior designer Jacques Garcia, who has worked on properties such as Nomad in New York and Hotel Costes in Paris. At the Maxwell property, he combines ethically sourced Wenge hardwood ﬂoors with hand-crafted Lefroy Brooks bathroom taps which take after classical bathroom designs of the 1900s, to give the building a sense of place.
By the middle of this year, national icon Raffles Hotel Singapore is expected to welcome guests again, after a restoration closure to enhance its ambience and charm. Originally opened in 1887 by four Armenians – the Sarkies brothers – the long-awaited revival will see the hotel decked out in state-of-the-art amenities while maintaining a colonial ambience.
Commenting on the design of the grand dame’s new Jubilee Ballroom, formerly the Jubilee Hall theatre, interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud shares: “We have included sophisticated Victorian details whispering to the heritage of the space, along with nods to Singapore’s culture. In order to tell the legacy story of the theatre, we added ﬁnely curated motifs and techniques that speak to its history, along with iconic lighting elements to provide an added layer of luxury.”
01 STATELY UNION
Six Senses Maxwell is housed within 14 fourstorey shophouses.
02 EUROPEAN FLAIR
Rooms and suites at the Six Senses Maxwell feature bespoke handmade Italian rugs.
03 HERITAGE REVIVAL
The Capitol Kempinski Hotel sits on the site of the former Stamford House.
WHERE THE WALLS SPEAK
For those with an eye for design – and history – the uniqueness of a heritage hotel lies in the details.
01 THE BARRACKS HOTEL
Behind the tranquillity of this 40-room luxury property by Far East Hospitality on Sentosa is a slice of Singapore military history. It was formerly the Blakang Mati Artillery Barracks, and the exterior was painstakingly conserved to highlight the building’s history. The Parade Lawn – where officers of the First Singapore Regiment Royal Artillery marched and assembled – has been retained.
02 THE CAPITOL KEMPINSKI HOTEL SINGAPORE
Contemporary design meets Victorian and Art Deco influences in this five-star hotel housed within Capitol Building and Stamford House, both of which were built in the early 20th century. While most would be awed by the grandiosity of limestone columns and Italian marble floors juxtaposed against Chengal wood flooring, interior design buffs will note the Art Deco elements – a nod to the style de rigueur of the early 20th century.
03 SIX SENSES MAXWELL
The hotel is housed within a 1929 Art Deco building and boasts a facade with exposed brickwork and lion-head rainspouts. The history of the property is also proudly displayed in the form of framed original property deeds, its provenance detailed in brass plaques mounted along the hotel corridors.
TEXT KOH YUEN LIN PHOTOS OF SIX SENSES MAXWELL SETH POWERS