4 Historic Buildings Converted Into Luxury Hotels


In the hospitality industry, the idea of preserving old heritage buildings, and transforming them into luxury hotels has been an ongoing trend. All around the world, many places that once functioned as palaces, offices, banks, warehouses, or stations have been given a new purpose as a luxury hotel. We've chosen four luxury hotels from Asia all the way to Europe that have perfectly preserved their glorious pasts.

Asia: Singapore
The Capital Kempinski Hotel - Transforming Colonial Grandeur

Singapore continues to charm the world with their ability to build and transform their country into becoming one of the front runners within the region. They value the existing establishments with its great architectural design and give them a new life in this present time. The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore that opened on 1 October 2018, is just one of the many great examples. Located at the junction of Stamford Road and North Bridge Road, the new Kempinski establishment took over two historic landmarks: The Capitol Building and The Stamford House.

These two famous landmarks are part of Singapore’s architectural gems from the colonial era that went through a rejuvenation process by Perennial Real Estate and Chesham Properties to restore Stamford House, Capitol Theatre, and Capitol Building into a hotel, shops, residences, and a theatre. These two heritage landmarks have an interesting history.

The Stamford House, for example, was originally known as Oranje building and functioned as a shopping mall. It was designed by Regent Alfred John (RAJ) Bidwell of Swan & Maclaren in 1904 for Armenian firm Stephens, Paul & Company and retail firm Whiteaway Laidlaw & Co. It was done in a variation of the Venetian Renaissance architectural style that was popular in commercial buildings during
the Victorian period.

The other historic landmark was originally known as Capitol Theatre. It was a cinema and theatre adjoined to the four-storey building known as the Capitol Building. Considered as one of Singapore’s finest theatres in the 1930s, this beautiful architectural gem was designed by British architects Keys and Dowdeswell in a neoclassical architecture style. Taking inspiration from the Roxy Theatre in New York City, this theatre was built by Messrs Brossard and Mopin, and it had its grand opening on 22 May 1930.

It took years of meticulous restoration and renovation to turn these two historic landmarks into one great complex. Acclaimed architect and Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Richard Meier was appointed to revive and intertwine the glorious design of the neoclassical style of the Capitol Building and the Venetian Renaissance style of Stamford House. He was responsible for infusing these two landmarks not only with a modern luxury touch but also with Kempinski’s signature bespoke hospitality.

The result is a restoration masterpiece where a contemporary interpretation of Art Deco meets a hint of Singaporean culture, all wrapped in a subtle luxury approach. Precise lines and geometric shapes in the interiors bring visual continuity to the design aesthetic. Elements such as travertine limestone columns, piano rosewood lacquer finishes and Italian marble floors pay homage to the richness and opulence of Venetian design. It is beautifully juxtaposed against muted warm tones, from the embossed wallpaper to the original Chengal wood flooring.

High corniced ceilings, dramatic archways and grand windows offer sweeping views of the city and an abundance of natural light that shifts throughout the day. Singapore’s national icon, the Merlion, inspired the patterns on the lamps and cornices in each of the 157 rooms. To create this overall look, Richard Meier worked with renowned hospitality consultant Larry Van Ooyen who oversaw the design team during the entire process. The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore also showcases the final interior design work of Indonesia’s beloved Jaya Ibrahim.

Aside from its stunning eight room categories that boast architectural details, the hotel is also a place for gastronomic experiences. There are five outlets in this hotel, ranging from 15 Stamford by renowned three-Michelin-star-chef Alvin Leung that brings Asian flavours into a modern setting, to the alluring The Bar at 15 Stamford with a great wine and rum collection. The slightly hidden Lobby Lounge was created to be an intimate setting for afternoon tea or evening cocktails, while Berthold Delikatessen and Frieda, are two of their German-inspired F&B outlets in a cafe style.

It has been a long journey for these famous historical landmarks, but now under The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore. These landmarks have once again gained its glorious state as a quintessential masterpiece that has conserved classic architecture with a modern touch and bespoke hospitality that delivers luxury at its finest.

The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore is a member of The Leading Hotels Of The World.

Europe: Warsaw, Poland
Hotel Warszawa - Revitalising A City Landmark

After World War I ended in 1918, the continent of Europe slowly rebuilt the cities and carefully restored the pre-war urban layout. This included the city of Warsaw in Poland, where renowned Polish architect Marcin Weinfeld decided to build the tallest skyscraper in the country for his client Prudential plc - a British multinational life insurance and financial services company.

Built between 1931 and 1933 in the Art Deco style, this magnificent building was designed as an office space on the lower floors and luxurious apartments above. Marcin Weinfeld worked with Stefan Bryla and Wenczeslaw Poniz to create an innovative design on the steel framework. With 18 storeys in total, this building that was known as The Prudential Building used over 2 million bricks, 2,000 tonnes of concrete and 1,500 tonnes of steel. Reaching a 66-metre height, this building was the third tallest European skyscraper during that era after the Telefonica Building in Madrid, Spain and Boerentoren in Antwerp, Belgium.

As a notable skyscraper in Warsaw, The Prudential quickly captured the attention of the emerging TV industry and in 1936, a large antenna was constructed on the roof by Januz Groszkowski, who started the first television broadcast in Europe from this building. With this addition, The Prudential became a symbol of modern Warsaw at that time. However, when the second world war happened, this building was one of the main targets of German artillery. On 28 August 1944, it was hit with a 2-tonne Karl-Gerat mortar shell which tilted the building, but the strong steel and concrete construction remained intact, turning the Prudential Building into a symbol of the Warsaw Uprising.

After World War II was over, the building was rebuilt in the 1950s and adopted the socialist realism style. The original designer of the building, Marcin Weinfeld was once again appointed to do this extensive renovation work and give this building a new role as a hotel. The first Hotel Warszawa was opened in 1954 with 375 rooms, a large restaurant, a cafe and a night club. Unfortunately, the hotel failed to bring the glory of the original building and closed its doors in 2003.

The formerly iconic symbol of the city was finally resurrected by Likus Hotels & Restaurants group who decided to give this building another makeover to restore its former glory. As a proud Polish-owned company, Likus Group aims to open a series of top-class hotels in historic properties across Poland. They purchased these great architectural gems and transformed into one of the most memorable hotels in central Europe.

Connecting the past and the future, the new Hotel Warszawa opened in November 2018 took inspiration from the pre-war heyday back in the 1930s. Architect Michal Grzybek and his team were entrusted to do the renovation and bring the contemporary luxury feel into the design equation. Materials such as stone marble, wood, copper, concrete and glass are the main elements that were used all over the lobby, the rooms, the spa and restaurant.

The design journey of Hotel Warszawa starts when we enter the marble-clad hall with a glass-covered ceiling that combines that contemporary feel with a hint of minimalism. During the renovation, the concrete foundations were uncovered and they decided turn it into a design accent. The view of the gigantic concrete can be seen at the hotel restaurant on level two, where a great Polish style breakfast is served daily. In between the lobby and this restaurant lies Warszawa Bar with a gallery overlooking the restaurant. From here, you can see the view of the hotel’s magnificent concrete. On the same level also lies a Cigar Lounge.

The new Hotel Warszawa has 142 uniquely designed rooms and suites divided into seven categories including a penthouse that echo the building’s history. Following the main design concept, in each room we can find the natural elements such as wood, marble stone, copper and glass dominating the space. The original concrete ceilings are also featured in some of the rooms. In addition to the facilities, the hotel also has a spa and wellness area on level one featuring a stunning indoor marbled pool, and a scenic restaurant called Szostka on the sixth floor with a glass roof that features the beautiful Warsaw panorama as the background.

The Likus group has a great understanding of how to combine history and its landmarks into a new luxury playground. The way we see it, the glory of the Prudential building as Hotel Warszawa will last for a very long time as the great testament of Polish courage and determination towards life through design.

Europe: Berlin, Germany
Hotel Adlon Kempinski - Rebuilding A Berlin Legend

Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin is a legendary city landmark that is more than just a hotel. For the country and its people, this hotel is a Berlin institution that has survived the first and second World War. It was sadly burnt down only a couple of days after the end of the war, leaving a ruin. However, the name and memory of this legendary hotel continues to live.

The story of this hotel started when a successful wine merchant and restaurateur named Lorenz Adlon had the vision to create the most opulent hotel in the world with a standard previously unseen in the hotel industry. He convinced Kaiser Wilhelm II and managed to get Palais Redern on Unter den Linden at the corner of Pariser Platz and facing the famous Brandenburg Gate as the location of his future hotel.

Adlon demolished this palace and built the first Hotel Adlon for 20 billion gold marks and two years of building process, and was designed by Carl Gause and Robert Leibnitz. When the hotel finally opened on 23 October 1907 and was officialised by Kaiser Wilhelm II, guests were amazed by the sophistication and comfort that feature facilities such as hot and cold running water, gas and electricity and a refrigeration and cooling system linked into a fountain. There was even a power plant which provided electricity to the 110-volt light bulbs produced specially for the hotel. Adlon’s vision to create the most beautiful hotel in the world was achieved through a combination of its architecture, interior design and advanced technology. It gained popularity around the world and has attracted various guests from royal families, world politicians to famous industrialists.

Thanks to Hedda Adlon, the daughter-in-law of the legendary founder of the hotel, the rights to buy the Adlon firms and property was in her will. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Kempinski hotel group remembered Hedda Adlon’s last wish and immediately looked for investors to rebuild this great legend. Together with Anno August Jagdfeld, managing shareholder of Fundus-Fonds-Verwaltungen GmbH, they managed to revive Hotel Adlon’s former glory. Duo Berliner architect twin brothers Rudiger and Jurgen Patschke were appointed to be the designer of this hotel and they chose to go with a traditional architecture approach.

Their vision was to recreate the building in the traditional architectural style that was popular in the late 20th century. They adopted the proportions and formations such as the characteristic arches on the ground floor. The main entrance has been placed in almost the same place and it also has a green copper roof. They used Rackwitz sandstone on the facade that is also used for many historical and prominent Berlin buildings. They also kept the urban planning guideline where the new building height is not higher than the old ones. As a result, the new Hotel Adlon Kempinski was finally opened on 23 August 1997 and was officialised by the former federal president Roman Herzog.

The new hotel with all 307 luxurious guest rooms, 78 exquisite suites, three restaurants, and a magnificent wellness area occupies the site of the original building, along with the adjacent land. Due to its success, the hotel was expanded twice with new wings at the rear on Behrenstrasse and designed by architect Gunter Behnisch. The first wing known as the Adlon Palais opened in 2003, while the second wing, known as the Adlon Residenz, opened in 2004.

The grand design of this luxurious hotel that can be seen from the façade is also translated into its interior design. The lobby area that is a popular place for the Berliner society, as well as a meeting place for globetrotters, is adorned with a stunning remake of the famous elephant fountain that was once given by the Maharaja of Patiala around 1930 to the original hotel as the piece-de-resistance.

In August 2016, this beautiful lobby underwent a six million Euro renovation process by renowned Berlin interior designer and owner of Jagdfeld Design, Anne Maria Jagdfeld. For this renovation, she gave the lobby a new shining star in the form of a 750kg chandelier that is fitted with 390 glass prisms made out of the finest Murano glass by the traditional Venetian manufacturer, Venini. Above the elephant fountain lies the classical glass dome with over 180 individual glass stars emanating warm atmosphere.

The sense of the hotel’s grandeur is also well translated in the 307 rooms and suites through its modern classic approach. High-quality materials such as limestone floors, mahogany furnishings, silk bedspreads and black granite were used to heighten the sense of luxury.

A notable design element in this hotel includes the newly refurbished Adlon Ballroom that showcases the modern opulence inspired by the historic ballrooms. Done by Anne Marie Jagdfeld in 2018, this ballroom was decorated with chandeliers and wall lights by Venini (the glass masters of Murano), soft carpeting in the style of Versailles parquet flooring by House of Tai Ping from Hong Kong and giant mirrors made of Verre Eglomise and were manufactured by the company Verre D’Or.

Hotel Adlon Kempinski is also renowned for its dining outlets such as the two-Michelin-star gastronomic restaurant Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer that features luxurious European elegance combining a classic library set up with a beautiful mural painted on the ceiling. Another notable dining venue with a striking design is the Pan Asian Cuisine restaurant known as Sra Bua by head chef Kai Weigand that serves an eclectic mix of flavours from South East Asia. The ambience shows a subtle luxury of the Oriental world featuring a series of photographs by LUMAS gallery as well as a gold-gilded hand-carved wooden sculpture from China and sliding doors covered with silk in the style of an old Japanese tea house can be seen in this trendy looking restaurant.

The way we see it, the legend and history of Hotel Adlon Kempinski will continue for as long as the future can see.

Hotel Adlon Kempinski Hotel is a member of The Leading Hotels Of The World.

Europe: Berlin, Germany
Hotel de Rome Berlin, A Rocco Forte Hotel - Converting History Into Luxury

Nestled in the historic Bebelplatz area in the trendy east part of Berlin called “Mitte” lies a great architectural landmark that was once known as one the four headquarters of Dresdner Bank. Completed in 1889, this landmark was designed by Berliner-based architect Ludwig Heim and features a richly decorated building in the neoclassical style featuring two beautiful iron staircases, stuccos, and marble columns. This building suffered during World War II but was later repaired. The bank then changed into the State Bank of the GDR after 1945 when the area became a part of the soviet sector. During this time, all the decorative elements were hidden and covered by coats of plaster. However, this beautiful building managed to survive the situation and kept its beauty. When the bank was dissolved after the Wall fell in 1989, the building was abandoned and stayed unused.

It was not until 2003 when Sir Rocco Forte decided to reinstate this building and convinced the city to revive it. The renovation project made great effort to preserve traces of its past as authentically as possible under the supervision of designer Tommaso Ziffer and Olga Polizzi, deputy chairman and director of design at Rocco Forte Hotels. Together, they combined the ornate classical style of the original building with a new contemporary flair and converted this landmark into a five-star superior hotel. In the process, they did not only restore the architectural features but also reinterpreted the existing parts to fit its new function.

They created historical suites, which are located in the former director of the bank’s offices with original built-in wardrobe, doors, wood panelling and the occasional splendid wooden coffered ceiling. In some of the other suites, shrapnel debris in the wall and the wood panelling can also be found as the historical mark from the bombing attack on St. Hedwigs Cathedral in the 18th century. They also transformed the below-ground vault area into a serene wellness area featuring a sauna, steam bath, gym and rooms for health and beauty treatment. The area where 400 safe-deposit boxes once a home to many precious jewels was transformed into a 20-metre long heated swimming pool surrounded by marble pillars and gold mosaics.

The cashier’s room, where customers once made deposits and took withdrawals beneath a barrel-vaulted glazed roof two-stories-high, hung with ephemeral chandeliers was transformed into a sophisticated ballroom. During the renovation process, they also added two additional floors to the building as more rooms were needed in order for the property to qualify as a five-star hotel. This addition was recessed, allowing the lines of the original edifice to be undisturbed and making space for a rooftop that overlooks Berlin’s scenic skyline. The Rooftop Terrace Bar that features Dedon furniture is a popular hangout place in the summertime.

Exquisite design can be seen once we step into the lobby where oversized black velvet sofas surrounding the towering red-lacquer vases can be seen, and dangling sphere-shaped lights with a bright pink neon birdcage is the piece-de-resistance. In this area you can also find La Banca Restaurant & Bar that was renovated in 2014 and surrounded by a local gallery exhibit on the walls. This all-day-dining restaurant that serves Italian food by Chef Davide Mazzarella also has an intimate inner courtyard and connected to the chic bar that offers an amazing view of the historic Bebelplatz.

All 109 rooms and 36 suites are spacious and are dominated by subtle neutral tones with custom-made modern furniture and matching artworks. The room highlights include the Banker Suite that was the bank conference room with parquet floors and oak-panelled walls, and the 600 sqm Bebel Suite that was also renovated in 2014. This suite is known for its high ceilings, a stunning big terrace overlooking Bebelplatz, St. Hedwigs Cathedral, and the State Opera House; and a large bathroom featuring mosaic tiles, heated floors, and a separate bathtub.

It is not a surprise that the Hotel de Rome Berlin is one of the top luxury hotels in the city and is without a doubt one of the best conversion projects of a historical landmark into a luxury hotel that we have seen so far.

Hotel de Rome Berlin, A Rocco Forte Hotel is a member of The Leading Hotels of The World.

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Erza S.T.
Erza has pursued his great passion for opera and classical music for over a decade. His brainchild, the Indonesia Opera Society, has produced many classical music concerts and operas, and recently marked its 10th anniversary with a gala production. He is also a journalism lover focusing on luxury, lifestyle and travel stories, which he files from datelines around the globe.