Singapore, 23rd October 2013
Back in Singapore I attended a meeting for one of our projects, the renovation of a famous landmark hotel in Singapore. Our port-folio counts many hotels as hospitality lighting design is one of our fortes and quite and renovations are always special as you are dealing with some history and past memories. I remember when I did the Raffles Hotel renovation in Singapore in the 90’s that it was quite a dramatic happening as the hotel icon had seen extensions and part maintenance, repairs and small renovations done but never a full and total renovation. For over 100 years generations had come to visit the hotel and memories were indelibly linked to the old interiors. When the renovation was complete all the old charm was gone. At least that is how it felt to everyone who had known the hotel of old, including the crappy lighting. It was part of the ambience and when you were sipping your sling in the Bar & Billiard Room or the Long Bar you could visualise how Somerset Maugham and other dignitaries of the past would have enjoyed the place. Today’s visitors will hardly know or remember the past if not for the souvenir shop that sells memorabilia from the past and enjoy the far more clinical and modern version of the hotel. I guess in another 50-100 years the cycle starts all over again (assuming the hotel still being there) with the then visitors surmising the “old” Raffles of then.
Renovations are always tricky for a multitude of reasons. The most crucial one is the disturbance to on-going renovations. A far longer time goes into planning the actual work into details as to minimise any interruption. When the renovation work starts it’s like an Olympic race against the clock, generally with deadlines set in stone as operations need to know when they reopen for business in taking orders and bookings. Hence these meetings are crucial and tight coordination is the base for success on completion!
Light Watch 4-181: Some renovations turn out to be quite original… I stumbled on this hotel in Australia, the Prahran in Melbourne designed by the Techne Studio. The original building dated back from the 70’s and needed reinforcement. The architects used concrete pipes to do this. As lighting designers our job is to reinforce the design intent!