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Cubes Magazine
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The Warehouse Hotel

A warehouse with a 122-year history finds new life as a boutique hotel.

BY Janice Seow

18 January, 2017

The heritage building that is now The Warehouse Hotel has a dark and illicit history going back more than a century. It was built as a godown on the bank of the Singapore River in 1895, at the height of the spice trade, and rumour has it that along with spices, opium was sold in many warehouses just like this one. Later on, many of these locations were used as illegal distilleries and became a hotbed for secret societies. Then in the mid ‘80s to the ‘90s, the building became a discotheque and a gathering ground for some very wild parties.

Thus intrigued to see the space in its new life as a boutique hotel – and the first such project at that by well-known Singaporean hospitality firm The Lo & Behold Group – we made a visit down last week, and were not disappointed.

The lobby that we stepped into was spacious and comfortable, but also cosy and intimate thanks to a warm, earthy and muted colour and material palette. The beautiful bones of the building have been retained and a custom pulley light installation alluding to the ‘old days’ hangs down from the pitched ceiling. The Warehouse Hotel balances all these rich historical touches with a clean and contemporary design language and the end result is a quiet and sophisticated space with an industrial edge.

The lead architect for the project was Zarch Collaboratives, while homegrown agency Asylum was responsible for designing the space. Chris Lee, Asylum’s founder and creative director, recalled the moment he stepped into the space, which had been left disused for more than 20 years. “The roof was caving in, there were holes everywhere, and I realised that there was a lot of work to be done.”

The original bones of the building were kept, including columns and trusses, though new structural supports were also added. With its signature triple-pitched roof, and original masonry walls, the rooms were designed to complement the building’s existing layout, making each one different. “That is the unique part of this project,” says Lee, “There are 37 rooms and we had to design 34 different room formats.”

Some of Lee’s other design considerations were to bring natural light into the rooms, and to ensure that they were of good size. “We wanted the hotel to be really comfortable,” he says.

One of the hotel’s main goals is to serve as a “portal for local culture”. To that end, the hotel has collaborated with local partners where possible. These include, among others, Matter Prints (bed throws), Mud Rock (in-room coffee and tea mugs), and local designer Gabriel Tan and Edwin Low of Supermama (‘Objects of Vice’ retail installation of old objects at the front desk).

Read more about The Warehouse Hotel in the Apr/May issue of Cubes Indesign magazine (#85)

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