CapitaLand’s wholly owned serviced residence business unit, The Ascott Group Limited (Ascott) has been conferred the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Architectural Heritage Award for carefully preserving unique features of a 1950s heritage icon while transforming it into its flagship premier serviced residence, Ascott Singapore Raffles Place.
Formerly known as Asia Insurance Building, it used to be the tallest building in Southeast Asia in the 1950s, a symbol of Singapore’s aspiration to be a key financial and commercial hub. After acquiring Asia Insurance Building in 2006, Ascott decided to preserve the building’s heritage and charm while creating a serviced residence with modern comforts. Ascott undertook intensive planning and a S$60 million restoration effort to preserve the office tower which was gazetted by the URA in April 2007 as a conservation building.
Mr Wong Hooe Wai, Ascott’s Chief Development Officer shared how the architectural gem has been preserved: “We worked closely with the URA to earmark several key aspects of the building for conservation. A lot of care was taken to preserve the historic fabric of the building. The original Art Deco architecture and distinctive interior features are retained to recapture the former glory of the building. All modern additions pay close attention to the complementary nature of the materials used and the quality of detailing to ensure an artful blend of heritage with modernity. Ascott Raffles Place is today a mark of prestige and class, a distinctive serviced residence that offers travellers a unique experience in a heritage building.”
As the original window glass was thin and provided little thermal and sound insulation, Ascott brought in acoustic consultants and window specialists to replace the existing over 1,000 glass panes with laminated glass to sound proof the apartments from the bustling street and insulate against the sun. More than 300 steel window frames with brass handles have been retained to maintain the exterior integrity of the building.
With the original Travertine marble loosening from the building and losing its shine over the years, Ascott lovingly hand secured every 20,000 piece of the original premium Travertine marble cladding and polished them to restore their luminosity.
An original James Cutler designed brass mail chute has been conserved and is now a unique feature located at the lift lobby of Ascott Singapore Raffles Place. James Cutler was an American designer and architect who invented the mail chute in the 1880s where mail could be dropped from a high point and collected at a central depository.
Ascott has also conserved the five-footway, made of Nero Portaro Italian marble, around the perimeter of the building, and two Nero Portaro pillars at the front of the property, where two inlaid plaques were set in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of the Queen of England and in 1955 for the official opening of Asia Insurance Building. The Nero Portaro marble panels have been polished to bring back their former richness and gloss.
The stainless steel crown on top of the building has also been retained. The Asia Insurance Building was decked out with a crown to commemorate the coronation of the Queen of England in 1953. Today, the crown has been polished and it still stands on the roof top of the property.
The intricate retro motif design on the stair railings from before has been adapted and replicated. The motif now features as a decorative air-conditioner grille in every apartment, encapsulating the inherent spirit of the original building and acts as a subtle reminder to guests of its history.
Besides preserving the building’s heritage features, Ascott also took effort to ensure that Ascott Singapore Raffles Place is environmentally friendly. The serviced residence has been awarded the Green Mark Award by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority in 2007, highlighting the building’s excellent green standards and Ascott’s dedication towards environmental awareness and long-term sustainability.
Ascott Singapore Raffles Place provides global travellers the comforts of a home at the heart of the new Marina Bay Business and Lifestyle district – the next wave of commercial development transforming Singapore’s skyline. The serviced residence offers 146 exquisite apartments units with an impressive range of facilities including meeting rooms, WiFi connectivity, an infinity pool, jacuzzis, a fully equipped gymnasium, a residents’ lounge, a lounge bar and a fine dining restaurant by award-winning chef, Julien Bompard.
About the Urban Redevelopment Authority Architectural Heritage Awards
Introduced in 1995, the annual URA Architectural Heritage Awards promotes quality restoration of monuments and buildings with preservation and conservation status in Singapore. The awards recognise owners, professionals and contractors who have gone the extra mile to thoughtfully and sensitively restore heritage buildings to their former glory.
The awards are judged by an Assessment Committee appointed by URA, comprising representatives from URA, other government departments, professional institutions, National University of Singapore, Singapore Heritage Society and the Conservation Advisory Panel.
With the eight winners this year, a total of 84 restoration projects had received the URA Architectural Heritage Award since 1995. For more information on the awards, please visit http://www.ura.gov.sg/conservation/mod5.htm