* DESIGN OF
THE YEAR 2006

New Majestic Hotel


DP Architects

Since it opened in March 2006, The New Majestic Hotel has collected international accolades for its unique design. Its owner Loh Lik Peng commissioned Colin Seah and Ministry of Design (MOD), "who breathed life into the old building with intelligence and fun" and the result: "a stimulating brew of local culture, design and the arts that pries apart the moulds of convention."

"I wanted it to be a reflection of our times – at least from a particular point of view, that of the contemporary global nomad. I guess I was designing for people like myself."

"Another factor was the historic site, both physical and cultural", says Colin Seah.

"What was interesting is that the client never resorted to tear sheets (or what some people call 'mood boards') to discuss the essence of the project. It was never so much an issue of aesthetics but more a commentary or reflection of what I saw around me."

"I love working on hospitality projects. It's the strange 'no man's land' between the permanence of a homestead and a moment of fleeting entertainment like a play or a restaurant experience. This hybrid quality can be dominated neither by functional or banal requirements nor pure decoration or aesthetics – instead, both play a role. This is what I exploited in the New Majestic Hotel, making functional things, entertaining, and rendering something banal, spectacular".

Dr Erwin Viray of the Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore says, "All the works of Colin Seah and MOD define Colin Seah and MOD: it is the attitude of exploration that defines the body of work and that sets it apart from many others." Intimations of this attitude were revealed from an early age when, at the age of 3, Colin would arrange the family's array of slippers in descending order of size, or colour-sort his Lego bricks, with which he spent hours on end. Significantly, he also designed space ships and space bases, ultimate symbols of exploration and every year, he would request for another Lego set for Christmas or his birthday.

The spirit of exploration is the essence in MOD's mission statement and mantra: To Question, Disturb and Redefine. Colin says, "This keeps me going. Curious and courageous clients keep me going!"

"We must be careful not to merely pander to the demands of the clients but to raise the level of inquiry and discourse. The design community needs to be more critical of itself, not just with standards of output, but also with the genesis of ideas. Sophisticated ideas stand a better chance of being developed into sophisticated products or experiences."

In addition to maintaining a busy practice, Colin finds time to teach at the Department of Architecture at the National University of Singapore. This keen desire to impart knowledge to others stems from his own love for learning, instilled by his teachers at University of Arizona. He continues to maintain a balance in the different areas of his life.

"One of my first few memories was during an internship at Rem Koolhaas' practice, Office of Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam. We were designing places, which were about Life, Density, Multilayered Activity. Ironically, we had no life outside the office. It was work, work, work, At the end, I was parched and drained. I vowed that if I were to continue being an architect, I would constantly expose myself to Life’s many experiences and live! These days, I love observing the things around me, especially people and how they behave and interact with others and the spaces around them. Travel is also a high priority for my wife and myself."

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INTERIOR DESIGNER
Ministry of Design
Colin Seah

ARCHITECT
DP Architects
Tai Lee Siang

BRANDING PRINT DESIGNER
Mind Wasabi Pte Ltd
Shaun Martin

ART CONSULTANT
Asian Art Options
Claudia Cellini

CLIENT
KMC Holdings Pte Ltd
Loh Lik Peng

‘‘QUESTION. DISTURB. RE-DEFINE THE STATUS QUO.’’

Insights from the Recipient

What was your main objective for the design?

Colin Seah: At that time, Singapore's hotel scene was dominated by global hotel brands creating mostly generic experiences. We wanted to create something authentic yet contemporary; so we strived to redefine conventional hotel typology, both at the level of spatial planning, as well as cultural identity.

Citation

‘‘QUESTION. DISTURB. RE-DEFINE THE STATUS QUO.’’

Jury Citation

The New Majestic Hotel is an imaginative change-ofuse of the traditional Singapore shophouse and provides a welcome alternative to the standard international hotel experience. The project is an excellent example of design collaboration involving the client, consultants and other artists. The design solution displays creativity and fun, with the integration of art and the clever use of small spaces to provide a memorable experience. Light is skillfully used to bring new life to historically dark spaces. The Jury enjoyed the sense of theatre the designer has brought to this project. Always provocative, the hotel is a talking point for both visitors and Singapore residents alike, and is an icon among boutique hotels.

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Nominator Citation

DR ERWIN VIRAY
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
DEPARTMENT OF ARCHITECTURE, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE

The New Majestic hotel is a new world that has not been seen before - a room made; a space that excites, shelters, comforts. Each space is unique, each an individual configuration giving rise to distinctive experience.

These words are attempts to describe the beauty of the experience of the New Majestic Hotel. The words are means to recognize the qualities of the space and experience. The words also trigger the curiosity on the process that give rise to the atmosphere of the place and the quality of experience.

The process of evolution of the hotel is not readily apparent most of the time, yet in this case, it is an intrinsic component of the place. The work and the process show how the impetus of the existing could act as the transforming element in giving a new life to an unfilled form. The Majestic Hotel shows the process of dancing with its context, reacting to it, and responding to the power of the site and situation to inspire certain specific actions.

The project also shows a search, the act of defining a zeitgeist or the spirit of the times. In this instance, the new hotel consumer; perhaps single, or a group of young people who value their individuality, whilst wishing to connect. This understanding is materialized in the arrangements of the rooms, how they can be individual and at the same, easily connected.

The New Majestic Hotel address issues of the site, typology, and perception. In addressing these, the occupant of the space is the visual and performative focus. The person is staged. The space shows the theatrical aspects of crafting spaces, of being aware of the perceptual manner of the person moving in the space and the means to respond to that. Light is skillfully used to induce and invoke certain atmospheres that frame the senses of the inhabitant enjoying the space.

This building shows the process of how working relationships, how the strengths of different people can come together to craft a space: how a client can pose a question, how he can lay down conditions for the designer, the artist, the engineer, et al, so all may perform like an orchestra to enchant and to house the occupant of the space. It is a performance that allows for serendipitous encounters, that makes possible the encounter to feel the space: be enveloped by space and initiate some time for being - a self.

This performance is possible with a brilliant conductor, as in a wonderful symphony, In the New Majestic Hotel, the designer, Colin Seah of the Ministry of Design, managed to orchestrate the deft performance of all the players to play in harmony. It is the attitude, discipline, and constant questioning that Colin pursues, which makes this space and place a possibility.

OTHER RECIPIENTS

Hans Tan

DESIGNER OF THE YEAR 2018

Founder, Hans Tan Studio; and Assistant Professor, Division of Industrial Design,
National University of Singapore
Hans Tan Studio

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