World leading design provocateur Robbyn Carter and the Lion City’s DP Architects tap Singapore’s rich past, trade routes, green lungs and a sculptural approach to space to create a unique statement in design.
SINGAPORE: Studio Carter, headquartered in LA, has teamed with DP Architects in Singapore to break bold new ground with a ‘deconstructed shophouse’ as the overarching design inspiration for the Mondrian Singapore Duxton. Rooted in Singaporean culture, the property rises above Chinatown’s colourful historical shophouses and looks to the future with its sweeping views of the CBD skyline.
Principal and founder Robbyn Carter, who spent six years in Singapore living in a shophouse before returning to her native Los Angeles three years ago, has captured the soul of the Duxton Hill experience and transformed it into a new statement in design.
“Duxton Hill is like nowhere else, it’s Singapore’s most happening district, it feels like a village with its preserved shophouses and eclectic mix of cocktail bars, restaurants and nightlife,” says Carter.
Suneeth Changaroth of DPA explains, “As a nod to the rich history of Duxton, the façade design echoes the datum of scale and proportion of the adjacent shophouses, while common decorative elements are abstracted as architectural features. Mondrian Singapore Duxton’s overall façade is an attempt to imbue a minimalist and modern design adaptation that is true to its time, yet still responding and reflecting the traditional shophouse typology.”
The seamless connectivity, built into the design of the development, extends the vibrancy of this precinct during the day and into the night. Significantly, the Mondrian public linkway running through the property for the first time connects the Duxton Hill neighbourhood with the surrounding bar and restaurant-filled streets of Keong Saik, Craig and Neil Roads. With some of Singapore’s hottest operators opening new F&B concepts over the coming months, it will create a new culinary epicentre for food and drink lovers across the region.
Carter’s approach to design began with a stint as an apprentice to sculptor Albert Guibara in San Francisco. A degree in environmental design followed at the Arts Centre College of Design in Pasadena, where she honed her ideas on bringing art into space. Further engagements with furniture luminaries Bernhardt and Dutch design guru Marcel Wanders followed, before Carter launched out on her own.
“For me, it’s always about form, it’s always about space,” she explains. “It’s not just about putting a beautiful object there, there and there, sometimes it’s about the negative space. A lot of my design is very sculptural, and takes more of a compositional approach.”
At Mondrian Singapore Duxton, this manifests throughout the hotel. Carter was taken with the big idea of the deconstructed shophouse.
“Rather than a direct translation, we took its parts and deconstructed it into contemporary forms. We wanted to recognise it but also reinvent it, that Singapore silhouette. To rediscover old details in contemporary and unexpected touches.”
This approach comes to life in the distinctive Shophouse Suites, where the traditional features have a modern twist with vaulted ceilings and arched wooden shutters. With Murphy-style beds, the suites have been designed to transform from bedroom to meeting or entertaining space.
In the hotel rooms, inspiration abounds. “We love the idea of a slick glass box of the shower protruding through the rough plaster walls. The minibar we call the cloud bar, I was inspired by flying in and out of Singapore. We brought in some warm timber accents, some beautiful lighting options, arches coated in copper or steel, and contemporary custom furniture which is very iconic to Mondrian.”
She also mined Singapore’s rich melting pot of cultures and trade route neighbours for inspiration for art, furniture and materials. “We engaged an artist to create a beautiful graphic artwork on Bottega di Carna’s ceiling and that also carries through into the rooms, inspired by the things we love about the country. This graphic incorporates things that are distinctly Singaporean, the flora and fauna, the architecture, the new with the historical and the melting pot of cultures.”
Inspired by the neighbourhood’s sense of community, Carter eschewed a stuffy conventional hotel lobby for a living, breathing restaurant and bar vibe.
The designers didn’t want the lifts and reception to be the main thing when you walk in, it’s more like walking into a vibrant, happening hotspot. All of this looks out onto the lush and beautiful greenery of the garden. The furniture is all custom made, very Mondrian. We play with reflections in large wavy metal mirrors, to echo the fact that there is a lot of water around Singapore, which distort and challenge perceptions.
At Bottega di Carna, the show kitchen is filled with bustling chefs, flames from the Josper grill and cuts of meat displayed in a jewel box showcase. Overlooking the Mondrian garden, this is the heart of the hotel, and the space guests first experience on arrival.
Jungle Ballroom enhances the feeling of stepping into a hidden sanctuary. The “secret tunnel” arched entrance is covered in greenery that lights up at night, evoking the feeling of discovering a hidden gem within the hotel. Helping provide sparkle to the space are psychedelic, kaleidoscopic artworks, visual cocktails composed of photos of exotic blooms.
With a 360-degree backdrop of the glittering Singapore skyline and the terracotta rooftops of the surrounding Chinatown shophouses, the jewel on Mondrian’s crown is the 1970s Hollywood-inspired Canyon Club Rooftop Bar and Poolside Cabanas. Retro-vibed low velvet pink-hued seating sets the scene at the bar, leading to vibrant striped cabanas by the water.
Robert C.Hauck, General Manager says that “Mondrian Singapore Duxton’s design has a considered simplicity and an inspired approach to celebrating our unique location and culture. Mondrian is not exclusive, it’s very inclusive, it’s all about inviting the community in and providing a space where possibilities are endless.”
Mondrian Singapore Duxton is the new addition to the Mondrian family of hotels, joining the brand’s properties in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, London, Cannes, Doha and Seoul. Since its launch in LA in 1996 by Ian Schrager, Mondrian Hotels have been brought to life by the quality of their people and a commitment to creativity, art and the unexpected.
Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.