A Grand Hotel for the 21st Century

Following an extensive renovation and restoration, the fabled Raffles Hotel Singapore has reopened its doors to charm the modern traveller

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‘Everything’s new and in some ways nothing’s new,’ says Edmond Bakos of Champalimaud Design as we sit down in Raffles Hotel Singapore’s main building. The hotel feels exactly as Bakos describes: old-world and new at once. On arrival you’re greeted by a liveried doorman, yet check-in is a swift, wireless process done from the comfort of your suite. The grandfather clock, said to be older than the building itself, still tolls in the lobby, yet integrated into each marble-clad, Peranakan-tiled en suite is a state-of-the-art sound system. You’ll be charmed to find that the mechanical flip switches from many eras ago have been retained, but lights can also be controlled via the DigiValet app on an iPad. There’s something strangely comforting about this coupling of old-school hospitality with sleek and discreet 21st-century service. 

The experience of Raffles Hotel Singapore today is the result of a meticulous three-phased restoration and renovation process, led by Champalimaud Design and supported by international architectural firm Aedas and other consultants including Singapore’s National Heritage Board, Urban Redevelopment Authority, and Singapore-based conservation specialist Studio Lapis. The work was in restoring the hotel’s cluster of 19th- and early 20th-century buildings, respecting its history as a national monument while also updating this grand hotel — which first opened in 1887 — for the new millennium.

‘I think the most important aspect of the renovation is the reintroduction of social spaces,’ Bakos shares. ‘Raffles as the Sarkies Brothers built it was the centre of all things, of all the energy in Singapore. The whole ground floor of the main house was a giant dining hall; there were great parties and events. Everyone who came to Singapore came here for that. So, one of the things we’ve done is create new social spaces and reprogrammed this space to feel more relevant.’

So conceptualised as a place for dining and drinks, with Tiffin Room, La Dame de Pic and Writers Bar located here, attention was given to how the lobby would transition from morning to night — a daily orchestration from breakfast to tea service to later in the evening when the two doors to the bar open and the space spills out to energise the lobby. As Bakos explains, ‘It’s a hotel lobby but people still find it a wonderful setting that’s somewhat intimate and social at the same time.’  

Text / Yvonne Xu
Images / Courtesy of Raffles Hotel Singapore

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TravelYvonne XuSingapore