The Colonial Elegance of THE PRESTIGE HOTEL

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The independent bespoke luxury hotel designed by Ministry of Design best portrays the natural urban beauty of Penang’s historic core

A modern-day interpretation of Victorian design, it welcomes the urbane traveler to a contemporized and magical quasi-colonial universe, carefully created and curated by Ministry of Design. The first of its kind in Penang, The Prestige Hotel is a destination in itself offering an authentic travel experience and is part of the prestigious Design HotelsTM portfolio.

The Prestige Hotel is located in Georgetown, set amongst the beautiful and intricate 19th century English colonial buildings found in this UNESCO World Heritage site. The hotel features 162 rooms, an all-day dining restaurant, a rooftop infinity pool, events pavilion and terrace, and a vibrant Victorian dining and retail arcade.

Uniquely one of a kind, the Prestige Hotel draws upon the cultural relevance of its colonial past whilst showcasing the brilliant art of illusion etched in sophisticated architectural and design philosophies to deliver a distinctive hotel stay experience. Located 25 minutes from Penang’s international airport and within walking distance to Penang’s famous cultural landmarks and popular gourmet hotspots, the hotel brings local inspiration to life and is the perfect launching point for intrepid business and leisure travelers seeking to experience local charm at its best.

A Touch of Magic in a Tropical Victorian Eden

Tropical Victorian sounds like a misnomer when you think of England and her weather, but this is what the locals are blessed with in Penang. Located along Church Street Penang, within the core zone of the George Town UNESCO World Heritage site, The Prestige Hotel is a new-build, joining many beautiful and intricate Victorian buildings, which still house banking and commercial facilities, in a tropical climate where lush vegetation abounds.

While the colonial Victorian heritage and tropics are key elements of the design concept, the studio considered a particularly difficult condition of the site, i.e. its long narrow proportions which potentially made navigating the hotel’s retail arcade or its long guestroom corridors a monotonous experience.

To overcome this, the studio introduced elements of visual trickery and surprise, notions of magic and illusions, with the end goal of creating delightful spaces and memorable guest experiences. This element of visual trickery (for example appearing & disappearing, or levitation) is subtly introduced throughout the 162-room hotel; ranging from transformation of familiar heritage floor patterns, furniture design such as the custom reception desk that seems to magically balance on balls, and hidden doors in guestrooms that open to reveal toilets and pantries.

Elements of visual animation and trickery: Smoke & Mirrors

The studio alternated dark and light colour schemes along the guestroom corridors, to break down the potential monotony of the corridor experience. Mechanised light features were placed at regular intervals, to rotate and cast shadows of intricate lattice patterns to animate the guest journey. This visual animation and trickery (smoke and mirrors) was thus borne out of a response to the unusual specificity of the site.

At the Ground Floor drop-off, one subtle intervention to unify the Reception with the Glasshouse Restaurant and retail spaces, is the black-and-white floor pattern, which seems to magically “appear and disappear” before your eyes.

Introducing a buzzy lifestyle arcade at the drop off, the studio planned the ground floor layout such that the Reception, Glasshouse Restaurant and retail spaces (e.g. retail tenants include San Francisco Coffee, a fine dining restaurant, local clothing brand, dessert café, florist and pharmacy and the interior retail spaces are designed by the tenants) are designed as standalone stores, such as the shop-in-shop concept to break down the linear scale, resulting in a delightful check in, eating and shopping area reminiscent of the historical English shopping arcade.

In the reception area, we introduced several tongue-in-cheek references to magical illusion, where guests navigate a custom designed white marble-clad maze with brass trimmings on the floor, to get to the reception. The custom reception desk made of mirrored stainless steel, magically appears to balance on chrome spheres, and a cloud wainscot adorns the curved wall behind the reception desk, showing a modern whimsical take on Victorian interiors.

In the guestrooms, a key feature in the Premier Deluxe Suite is the custom-designed Shower and Wardrobe Enclosure, crafted with champagne bronze tinted metal and glass; a hero piece which takes aesthetic cues from the elaborate magic props used in performances such as Houdini’s escape box.

Another custom-design piece is the vanity mirror frame. Abstracted from Victorian mirrors (usually heavy and elaborate) and modernized with its angular form, polished brass and integrated light, this feature plays on optical illusions and perceptions, appearing as two mirrors but floats as a frame on top of horizontal mirror wall.

Other subtle visual trickery and surprises in the room include beds that seem to levitate and hidden doors that reveal toilet cubicles and hidden pantries. The studio’s modern take on Victorian wainscoting, was to craft angular trapezium-shaped lines, which provide a contemporized backdrop for the room.

There are 4 room types in total: the standard room named the Deluxe, the Premier Deluxe Suite, the Loft Suite (designed for travellers on longer business trips or couples, this suite features a generous lounge on the ground floor and a separate bedroom area on the mezzanine level), and a unique Deluxe Trio room which features a smaller bedroom for a child travelling with parents, for additional privacy. Besides featuring hidden pantries that are revealed behind the wainscot wall, the Loft Suite also features a custom designed clock at the sofa area, which doubles up as a wall feature, making a fractal pattern out of the angular wainscot lines.

Modern Victorian layered with Local Botany

The inspiration for The Glasshouse came from the English Victorian conservatory (a sunroom with glass walls and intricate wrought metal lattice patterns). The studio applied the lattice pattern to the metal framed walls and glazing of the Glasshouse restaurant (seats 110 diners), presenting it as a delightful garden conservatory for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. A mix of real plants and tropical prints were used for the sofa cushions to add to the allure of being in a “Tropical Eden”. The mirror, a ubiquitous tool for the magician, is deliberately used to clad the end walls to create the optical illusion of multiple rooms. Uniquely planned to be experienced in 2 zones, the Glasshouse offers a variety of seating areas, either on forest-green leather banquettes, facing the street for people-watching, or on white wicker chairs facing the lush landscaped alfresco areas at the back.

The Head Chef, Shafiq Rizhar Rozali, formerly from Sheraton Hotel and China House (Penang), specializes in modernising local favourites with international flavours. His recommended must-haves are: Nyonya Ulam Rice, featuring roasted chicken with local spices, salted egg, poppadum, cucumber, eggplant, anchovy crumb and chili shrimp paste on the side, and Crispy Chicken Gochujang, crispy deep-fried chicken with honey Gochujang paste, mashed potato, butter broccoli and scallions.

Taking the lift to the room levels on L2-3, and to the Event spaces on L4, is a confluence of modern Victorian layered with local botany. The lift lobby surprises with a champagne bronze tinted feature wall with etched patterning inspired by Victorian grilles and a window portal which frames the lush plants outside.

In the lift car, the studio custom-designed a floor-to-ceiling polished tinted metal wall, graphically presenting the unique features of Penang in an aesthetic that is reminiscent of Victorian-like wallpaper. The graphic pattern comprises etched outlines of heritage buildings, famous landmarks such as clock tower and statues and the local botany of Penang that includes coconut trees, birds of paradise, hibiscus and Pinang palm trees.

The top floor, Level 4, houses a fully equipped gym, amidst chandeliers and mirrored ceiling panels to create the optical illusion of infinite space, and a generous events area. Named after the lead characters in The Prestige movie, the Angier & Borden Function Rooms can host indoor events for 110 guests, and the Olivia & Julia outdoor gazebos feature lounge settings. The Angier & Borden Function Rooms feature mullions with fluted glass, providing privacy while maintaining light and porosity.

The infinity-edge roof top pool, is an excellent place to watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand, as it fronts Church Street Pier and overlooks the water. The studio not only designed the boundary walls and raised them, for greater privacy, it also designed landscaping to shield sunbathers from those having drinks at the gazebo lounge.

Ministry of Design director Colin Seah: Questioning Convention

Ministry of Design is an integrated architectural, interior design and branding firm that has won Singapore’s President Design Award twice, New York’s Gold Key Award thrice, and named “Designer of the Year” by International Design Awards (USA), and been featured in Wallpaper, Frame and Surface.

Created by Colin Seah to question convention and redefine the spaces, forms and experiences that surround us, MOD’s explorations are created amidst a democratic studio-like’ atmosphere and progress seamlessly between form, site, object and space. At MOD, we provide our clients services that transcend mere design skill sets or technical prowess. We prefer to start far upstream and instead of merely designing solutions, we design holistic experiences. The resultant design thinking then translates into a wide variety of possible downstream design applications and media: be it architecture, product design, interior architecture, branding, graphics, landscape or even the weaving of diverse disciplines into a single project.

“We love to question where the inherent potential in contemporary design lies, and then to disturb the ways they are created or perceived, redefining the world around us in relevant and innovative ways, project by project. This, we declare, is real change, not change for the sake of novelty. Fortified with these aspirations, we begin each distinct project anew by seeking to do 2 things: to draw deeply from the context surrounding each project, but also to dream freely so that we might transcend mere reality and convention. Each MOD project endeavours to be delightfully surprising but yet relevant, distinctly local but still globally appealing.”

Headquartered in Singapore, with offices in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur, MOD was declared a “Rising Star of Architecture” by the Monocle Singapore Survey 2010 and “Designer of the Year” by the International Design Awards, USA 2010. Our recent portfolio includes VUE Hotel Houhai Beijing (Winner of 13 international awards including Best Emerging Concept, Gold Key NYC 2018), Race Robotics Laboratory (Winner of 12 international awards including IIDA USA Design of the Year 2018), COO Sociatel, Loke Thye Kee Residences, 100PP Office Building, Durasafe Gallery (Red Dot 2014 Winner) and Eco Layer Gallery.

The Prestige Hotel Owner, PPH

Tommy Koay, Executive Director

The Prestige Hotel family is made up of a complex concoction of personalities and talents, most of them being highly progressive in their mindset with one common attribute: youthful enthusiasm and out-of-the-box thinking.

Since the 1970s, founding company Public Packages Holdings Berhad has been established as a packaging supplier in Penang. After four decades, the company has grown to become a recognized market leader in Malaysia and has since then diversified into other industries, including property investments.

Though with its long-standing history deeply rooted in the manufacturing sector, the founders have always been passionate about Penang and its strong local customs and heritage. In 2005, they conceived the idea of opening a hotel and originally eyed a century-old godown used during the maritime trading era in the late 1900s.

Fast forward a few years later, the historical core of Georgetown was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 and in its wake, gave rise to a huge mass of specialty home-stay offerings in the city. As such, our founders were reinvigorated to forge ahead to craft a unique offering: a homegrown hospitality label within this enclave that best portrays the natural urban beauty of the city’s historic core that is unlike other bigger established hotel brands in the city. Navigating through thick and thin, the Prestige Hotel was born with the assembly of a magical quasi-colonial interior unseen in Penang and opens in 2019.

 A holistic experience

The entire Hotel experience was carefully created and curated by Ministry of Design. The studio is responsible for the holistic brand strategy, interior design, landscape design, signage design, installation art, and graphic design throughout the entire Prestige Hotel. The hotel logo takes its reference from Victorian crests to recreate a modern family crest, in this case, also playing with optical illusion by using lines to suggest the presence of negative spaces.

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