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Battersea Power Station has a New Lease of Life and It’s Electrifying

Battersea Power Station. Credit: Brendan Bell

[UPDATE: Lift 109 is now open. Otel Art is due to open on December 12th 2022.]

Battersea Power Station, the distinctive brick building with four white chimneys on the banks of the River Thames in south west London, has lain empty for nearly four decades. But now the vast nine acre property (St Paul’s Cathedral could fit inside its Boiler Room alone) is opening to the public for the first time having been transformed into a retail and leisure destination.

Over 100 shops, restaurants, bars and cafes will be housed in the former power station as well as a cinema, apartments and offices – Apple are moving in in January. Sixty outlets will open on October 14th, a second raft will follow before Christmas and the rest in time for Easter 2023. 

From 1933 to 1983, water from the Thames was heated by coal in the furnaces at Battersea Power Station which in turn supplied electricity to swathes of London. Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament were among them – they were code named in the control room as Carnaby Street Two and Three. But when the station was decommissioned because of concerns over air quality it remained redundant save for the odd fashion show and several film shoots.

Various owners (including a Hong Kong developer) came and went as did ideas, from a theme park to a stadium for Chelsea Football Club. For years the station looked like it was destined to stay idle. Then in 2012 a consortium of Malaysian investors – Sime Darby Property, Setia, The Employees Provident Fund and Permodalan Nasional Berhad – bought the site. 

Uncoincidentally visitors entering through the main South side entrance will do so via Malaysia Square – a newly constructed public piazza with a striking terraced design in homage to Malaysian landscapes. The South entrance is nearest the swish new tube station on the Northern Line. There’s also a North entrance next to the river and where once the coal arrived on the jetty, accessible by water bus or via the bridge from Chelsea.

Turbina Hall A, Battersea Power Station Credit: John Sturrock

As I walk through the former turbine halls a week before opening as fit outs are being finalised I see signage for a mix of recognisable brands from high street to high end, spanning fashion, beauty, sportswear and watches. Pop ups by independent retailers will also be a regular factor. 

Although it looks like a single building, the Power Station was originally built in two parts: the first, Turbine Hall A, is ornately art deco while in contrast Turbine Hall B which was built in the 1950s is strikingly stark. The outlets are not grouped in themes as each was left to choose what part of the site they wanted to be in.

Architects WilkinsonEyre who have offices in London, Hong Kong and Sydney, have retained the Power Station’s sense of scale as well as the industrial feel of the building. The north and south entrance atriums have been left open up to the roof.

There’s polished concrete floor and exposed brick walls; original gantries have been left in place and steel walkway bridges added. Even the mechanisms of the newly installed lifts and escalators are deliberately on display. Black bricks on the floor of both halls outline the positions of the original turbines while salvaged machinery placed in the North atrium looks like an art installation. 

Among the first tranche of openings is a boutique cinema with comfy armchairs and individual tables for your glass of wine or cup of coffee. And what was formerly Control Room B has been turned into a 1950s style bar, run by the popular immersive hospitality group, Inception. Overlooking the turbine hall, the bar retains the original stainless steel control panels arranged in an arc reminiscent of a Fifties Sci Fi film and staff will be dressed in white boiler suits for that added mad scientist feel. 

While a number of eateries will open in October, a 24,000 sq ft food hall will follow early next year run by one of London’s most impressive restaurateurs, JKS. Arcade Food Hall will go into the former Boiler Room and judging by the success of the group’s existing ventures, which cover the cuisines of Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the US, it will be worth the wait.

Set to be an attraction in its own right is Lift 109, located in one of the four chimneys (they have all been painstakingly recreated as the originals could not be saved). A circular glass elevator will ascend 109 metres, protruding above the smokestack, for a panoramic view of London. 

A luxury lifestyle hotel overlooking the Power Station and Malaysia Square is due to open on November 15th. Art’otel will include a roof garden, an infinity pool and a top floor restaurant with food by Henrique Sá Pessoa who has a two Michelin starred place in Portugal. As the name suggests artworks will feature throughout the hotel, inspired by the heritage of Battersea Power Station. 

The Play’s the Thing – the Love In Between Hotels and Theatre

Secret Theatre at Felix, The Peninsula Hong kong

[UDPATE: The Peninsula Hong Kong is partnering with the Secret Theatre for The Great Gatsby Immersive Dining Experience at its Felix restaurant. Guests will be transported back to 1920s New York with a theatrical performance directed by Richard Crawford and an imaginative four-course dinner inspired by New York’s Roaring Twenties, crafted by Felix’s Chef de Cuisine Juan Gomez. From 21 October to 27 November 2021, every Thursday to Saturday only at 7pm. Bookings: https://gifts.peninsula.com/hongkong/events/all

And Sight Lines Entertainment is offering the chance to win a one night stay in a suite at Shangri-la Singapore, complimentary passes to play its new Murder at Old Changi Hospital, a virtual escape room murder mystery, and a sumptuous breakfast for two. To enter follow two simple steps:
1. Follow both @wahbananasg and @sightlinesco 
2. Share the post in your IGS and tag a friend and @wahbananasg so they can find your post

The giveaway ends Sunday 10 October 2021, 2359hrs Singapore time]

Raffles Hotel Singapore

Last night I went to Raffles again. I didn’t dream it, and thanks to the delayed Hong Kong – Singapore Travel Bubble I wasn’t actually there either, instead, I watched an interactive play set and filmed at the hotel by Singaporean theatre companies, Double Confirm Productions and Sight Lines Entertainment. 

The Curious Case of the Missing Peranakan Treasure, conceived, directed by and featuring Hossan Leong of Double Confirm and written by Jean Tay, was filmed entirely on location at Raffles with 360 degree virtual reality cameras. So I was able to virtually enter the familiar white façade, “check in” in the lobby and revisit the hotel’s bars, suites and courtyards while watching a mystery enfold through a cast of front of house staff and guest characters. 

Leong who has previously filmed one man performances at the Grand Hyatt and W hotels in Singapore says: “From 2020 there was not a lot of work for us in the arts so I decided not to sit around but to create something for actors and crew. I have always wanted to create a production with the beautiful Raffles as a backdrop and they were very supportive of my idea of having a ‘whodunnit’ set in the hotel.“

Hossan Leong (right) with Pavan J Singh on set at Raffles Singapore

Up until June 30th [2021] you can watch this entertaining tale online and attempt to solve the mystery yourself – there’s the prize of a real life stay at Raffles in the offing. Those lucky enough to be in Singapore can book a Daycation or Staycation package, watching the play on a tablet in their suite and then explore the hotel for clues (as well as being treated to Singapore Slings and satays). Alternatively, Virtual Play allows guests to buy a ticket from ticket agency SISTIC and watch from anywhere in the world.

“Raffles Singapore always had a connection with literary luminaries in our storied heritage with playwrights and authors being very much a part of who we are,” says managing director Christian Westbeld. Suites named after the likes of Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham attest to this and the former suite appears in the production. The hotel did have its own theatre, Jubilee Hall which opened in 1991, although this was transformed into a ballroom in the most recent refurbishment. Westbeld adds: “The virtual interactive play arose out of a business need to pivot, given the current pandemic.” 

Also in Singapore at Hotel Soloha in Chinatown surreal comedy meets murder mystery, The Bride Always Knocks Twice, was also born out of a need to adapt in the current climate. “Arts and tourism were some of the key industries impacted by the pandemic and this project really shows how creativity and cross-industry collaboration can lead to new possibilities,” says Kuo Jian Hong, artistic director of The Theatre Practice, behind the production which streamed in the first week of June.

The Theatre Practice’s Bride Always Knocks Twice


The fourth floor of the hotel, set in a converted row of shophouses, stood in as the mysterious house in The Bride Always Knocks Twice where seven women from different eras of Singaporean history co exist. Reflective of the Lion City the women variously spoke Mandarin, Indonesian, English, Cantonese and Malay with the multimedia platform allowing for sub titles in Chinese and English. 

Split over several nights, viewers watched the first act of the play then had the chance to interrogate the characters by submitting online questions which they answered live to camera. Originally it was intended that the audiences visit the hotel to hunt for clues in act three though due to the heightened measures this had to be changed into a virtual crime-scene investigation. In the final act the murderer was revealed but not before viewers had an opportunity to submit their theories with a chance to win a stay at Hotel Soloha.

Hotel Soloha

One of the first and still existing theatre and hotel synergies was The Savoy in London. The Savoy theatre actually opened before the legendary hotel which it sits adjacent to. Impressario Richard D’Oyly Carte opened the then state of the art venue in 1881 to stage the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. With the success of the comic operas he segued into hotels eight years later. Famous theatrical actors of the day flocked to stay at The Savoy including Sarah Bernhardt and Lillie Langtry.

While the venue is now owned by The Ambassador Theatre Group which operates several playhouses in London’s West End, there are regularly accommodation or F&B packages in conjunction with the hotel. A themed afternoon tea is currently being planned in homage to the just opened Pretty Woman The Musical, and starring actors often stay at the hotel.

Grand Hotel Timeo in Sicily also has a theatre adjacent, there’s even a secret entrance from the hotel into Teatro Antico. The well preserved amphitheatre was built by the Greeks in the third century for dramatic and musical performances, adapted by the Romans for gladiator games and now once again is used to stage the performing arts. 

La Scala, Milan

Other hotels are embracing opera and ballet as part of their guest offerings. In St Petersburg, Grand Hotel Europe patrons have access to the hotel’s private box at the Mikhailovsky Theatre. And in Milan, Hotel Principe di Savoia will arrange private guided tours of La Scala including behind the scenes access to backstage areas.

Before the pandemic Shangri La The Shard in London held Theatre in the Clouds, partnering with private theatre concept Revels in Hand to stage three actor plays for a small number of guests in one of its suites. Whether this returns remains to be seen but other hotel projects look to continue whatever twist happens next for the arts and hospitality industries. 

“We believe that arts and hospitality is the perfect marriage and with technology, we are able to not only entertain in-house guests but have international reach,” says Derrick Chew, artistic director of Sight Lines who adds the company is looking to collaborate with more hotels following its successful collaboration with Raffles. And Kuo does not rule out The Theatre Practice staging another hotel play saying: “Our works have never been constrained by genre or format, much less specific locations so never say never.”

When Two Glamorous Worlds Collide: Fashion and Hotel Collaborations

The Essentials by Aman

Luxury hotels are collaborating with fashion designers on clothing ranges from one off limited editions to ongoing capsule collections or even creating their own brands.

Aman Resorts

Exclusive hotel brand Aman has launched a fashion collection inspired by its philosophy of creating sanctuaries in stunning locations and connecting guests to the spirit of a place. 

The Essentials by Aman, designed and made in Italy, comprises of active, swim, lounge, resort and knit wear plus accessories for men and women. The clean lines and subtle prints are inspired by Aman destinations while the colour palette is also drawn from Aman’s locations. Think warm terracotta for Amanjena, Marrakech; sea blue and deep green for the azure seas and olive groves of Amanzoe, Greece; and warm yellow for the desert landscapes of Amangiri, USA. 

The Essentials by Aman

“Creating The Essentials has allowed us to work with some exceptional artisans to select the very best materials,” says Kristina Romanova, director fo product development at Aman. “We hope our guests will see the expression of the Aman brand in each and every piece.”

The collection is exclusively available at Aman boutiques with the range slated to expand with the addition of leather accessories and fine jewellery this autumn.

Eden Rock-St Barths

Virgil Abloh’s Off-White x Eden Rock-St Barths

One of the world’s coolest clothing brands has collaborated with one of the most iconic hotels in Virgil Abloh’s Off-White x Eden Rock-St Barths. “Off-White are huge fans of the island and there was a mutual desire to introduce a unique collection for those staying at Eden Rock – St Barths,” says a spokesperson for the hotel. 

The capsule collection features nine products for men and women and only 30 pieces are made of each. The island’s beach atmosphere is the inspiration for the range with fabrics such as raffia and linen and a colour palette of beige and blues. The label is only available at the Eden Being boutique at Eden Rock.

W Hotels

“Fashion is a fundamental part of W Hotels’ DNA,” says Jacob de Boer Dorrego, director of brand management for W Hotels. “Whenever possible, our hotels continue to support local designers and also sustainable practices.” 

Currently W Suzhou is partnering with fashion label Juma on a capsule collection of jumpsuits and separates which uses fabrics made from the hotel’s recycled water bottles and is available for sale at the hotel’s store. And W Maldives is collaborating with Hong Kong menswear label Mazu Resortwear to create two exclusive swim shorts with each pair made out of 12 salvaged plastic bottles. 

Le Sirenuse  

Emporia Sirens

The exclusive Positano hotel has its own eponymous clothing line, rebranding as Emporio Sirenuse this year, designed by Carla Sersale (who runs Le Sirenuse with her husband) and her niece Viola Parrocchetti. The idea behind the resort brand is to pay homage to the artists and writers who’ve been drawn to the Amalfi Coast since the 19th century. As Viola says, “There’s more depth to the setting than the Vespa and a basket of lemons”. Instead classical cultures and romantic visions are depicted in the prints and embroideries of the sophisticated men’s and women’s wear. 

Three collections – resort, spring/summer and high summer – are designed a year and is sold in the boutique at Le Sirenuse Hotel as well as online and at high end retailers worldwide.

One & Only 

Jay Ahr’s bespoke Louis Vuitton designs for One & Only

One & Only Heritage by Jay Ahr is a limited edition collection of bespoke, vintage Louis Vuitton travel bags. Jay Ahr designer Jonathan Riss mastered the art of embroidery in Mumbai and specialises in customising pre owned, exclusive designer bags. His approach of incorporating local inspiration in the designs seems a perfect fit for a hotel company with worldwide locations. 

Riss embroiders each LV Keepall duffle bag with motifs inspired by the particular location and culture of each of the group’s ten resorts. Just two bags are designed for each hotel and as such they are only available for purchase from One & Only. 

Mandarin Oriental 

Orlebar Brown for Mandarin Oriental

Orlebar Brown, known for its tailored swim shorts, is no stranger to collaborations most recently for the Mandarin Oriental. The London label has designed versions of its mid length Bulldog style for the MO featuring striking photography of the Mandarin Orientals outdoor, coastal pool sides in Dubai, Miami, Canouan, Bodrum, Sanya and Lake Como. An additional style features the hotel group’s famous Fan logo in a geometric jacquard design and is available from the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok.

Cheval Blanc Randheli 

Deluxe resort wear designer Nadine Arton has an on-going collaboration with Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives.

The designer specialises in glamorous kaftans and floaty dresses which are perfect for wafting around the exclusive LVMH owned island resort. Arton creates exclusive pieces for the hotel three to four times a year which are available at the resort’s chic Concept Store. The boutique also carries LVMH labels such as Fendi sunglasses and Hublot watches.

Inside Kamala Harris’ Singapore Hotel Suite

Shangri La Suite Singapore

Visiting dignitaries to Singapore tend to plump for the Shangri-La hotel and its exclusive Valley Wing. And it’s likely Vice President Kamala Harris is staying in the hotel’s best, eponymously named, suite.

Guests arrive at the Valley Wing entrance – more private than the main hotel lobby – where the Shangri-La suite has its own entrance in the form of a private elevator.

Two dressing rooms, a gym and sauna await in the vast suite as well as personalized bathrobes, pillow cases and stationery. Butler service is available around the clock. Want gourmet cuisine or hawker street food served on fine china at the walnut dining table? No problem. As well as the primary bedroom, there’s an ensuite twin – usually utilized by guest’s security detail.


From SG$8,800 plus taxes

https://www.shangri-la.com/en/singapore/shangrila/

Self Isolate in Style

Timothy Oulton spaceship capsule

Timothy Oulton Studio

In Timothy Oulton’s spaceship capsule – based on the dimensions of real life Apollo 11 one. You’re welcome.

http://www.timothyoulton.com

 

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