Singapore is packed with hotels of all rates and styles. However, most good hotels are modern stylish with some Asian-European fusion or minimalistic ones. Vivi and I are more comfortable with those ones which are a bit more authentic and have a story behind, or vintage style. In Singapore, there is a hotel, which we both were dreaming to be staying at. This is the Raffles hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel is under huge renovation. They started just a month before our landing in Singapore with a planned reopening in the second half of 2018. The novelty after reopening will be three new suite categories – Residence, Promenade, and Studio. They will add 12 new rooms and also improve dining experiences at the hotel’s restaurants and bars. The Writers Bar will be expanded and the Jubilee Hall will be converted into a 300-guest ballroom.
Let’s Take a Brief Look at Hotels History
The Raffles is 130 years old and has a long and rich history. In its beginning, there were ten rooms in it, and an old bungalow style building overlooking the beach. It was opened by Armenian Sarkies brothers and it became the most fabled hotel in the Far East. Famous guests were often staying at this hotel. Some of them were legendary literary icons. In 1890, they added twenty-two new suites to the original hotel. The Sarkies brothers even expanded their business, opening Raffles Tiffin Rooms on now Raffles Place. Later, in 1910, they relocated it to the hotel. In 1894, they added the right L shaped extension with the Palm Court and another thirty suites. Two years later, they opened a bar which, in time, became the oldest bar standing in its original location in Singapore. In 1899, the bungalow was replaced with the three-story main building in the late Victorian Italianate Revival style. The novelty was electricity and a dining hall with 500 capacities. They also add 23 more guest rooms and earned the status of “Grand Hotel”.
In 1904, they opened The Bras Basah wing. At that time, this hotel was destined for social events and plays for travelers from all over the world. In 1910 they even opened a post office in their hotel. Three years later, they added a cast-iron verandah with stained glass to the front of the building. This verandah was later replaced by an airy ballroom. In 1915, the Hainanese bartender Ngiam Tong Boon created the iconic Singapore Sling, which really took off and became their signature drink. In 1941, the Japanese occupied Singapore. They renamed the hotel to Syonan Ryokan. Syonan – the Japanese name of occupied Singapore and Ryokan – the name of a traditional Japanese inn. In 1960, the Long Bar begins operation as a counter in the Raffles Ballroom. It remained there until the hotel restoration in 1989. After reopening, the Long bar was moved to the Raffles Arcade. In 1987, the Raffles Hotel was officially declared as a National Monument. Two years later, the hotel was closed for its first complete restoration. In 2000, the Long Bar Steakhouse opened. Now, in 2017, they had their second restoration, targeting a reopening in mid-2018.
But will the hotel be the same after this restoration? Well, the idea of restoration is to make some changes to the place. Honestly, I think it is good to wait sometime after reopening. Not because of the restoration. I am sure they will do their work best, and that they didn’t trust the work of some unknown contractors. I was in this hotel during my first visit to Singapore and I’m very curious how it will look after the restoration.
Those details and iconic items will surely stay as it did before. Their first restoration job was made by a South Korean construction firm, Ssangyong Engineering & Construction. The $ 160-million restoration was undertaken by Architects 61, with interiors by Bent Severin and Associates, based on the original building plans and old photographs. This time the restoration works are being led by Aedas Singapore, while the interior of the project is in the hands of award-winning designer Alexandra Champalimaud, who has worked on many other luxury hotels. For convenience, Raffles is cooperating with local architectural restoration and research consultancy – Studio Lapis. They are acting as heritage consultants for the restoration of over 100 heritage artefacts.
So, the downvote unquestionably won’t be restoration itself. The problem will be its staff. The rumors are they have fired all the staff and, after reopening, there will be new hiring. However, this is a common practice in a situation like this one.
So, right after reopening, there will be fresh staff and some time will be needed to acclimate, no matter how good the team will be. Well, I hope they will also be able to get back some good workers. I’m sure, as an iconic hotel as they are, they will hire only the best, but anyway. With my experience in the restaurant business, I know how hard it is to tune the team-up. Anyway, when the time comes Vivi and I will come back to Singapore and review this pearl of Asia. To stay in this Sarkies brothers’ hotel is our big wish and we are looking forward to our pleasant stay.
SOURCES: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/restored-raffles-hotel-to-reopen-in-mid-2018; http://www.rafflessingapore.com/