Singapura in Sanskrit means Lion City, as it is believed that, in the 14th century, a prince of the Malay dynasty landed his ship there while seeking shelter from a storm and saw a lion. There are no lions in Singapore and it is more likely that the prince from the legend actually saw a Malayan tiger, however the good omen was fulfilled – today this city state is the fourth largest economic center in the world.
The Outram district, in the heart of Singapore, includes the Chinatown neighborhood which is home to two Six Senses structures, the collection’s first urban destinations. In April 2018 Duxton Street opened, and in December the Maxwell. The two hotels articulate themselves within the neighborhood, offering guests a communal ambience, distinct in terms of taste and architecture, but designed to encourage dialogue. Both are heritage buildings: in Singapore great care is taken to preserve historic structures, in contrast with the skyscrapers which are constantly being erected.
Six Senses Duxton Street is the smaller of the two establishments, with 49 rooms. Originally a complex of shops that had been left unused, the interiors and the décor were designed by Anouska Hempel – former actress of Russian descent, who grew up in New Zealand. References to Asia and to Europe coexist in a single design. Inside the Chinese restaurant are vases of yellow terracotta, gathered from the various districts. Hempel wanted to paint the facade completely black, but the City of Singapore would not allow it: two shades of dark grey were chosen instead.
On a parallel street we find the Six Senses Maxwell, designed by French architect Jacques Garcia. The ground floor houses a library featuring wood paneling, table lamps, and velvet sofas and arm chairs – natural light is provided by a large window that overlooks the portico of the street. This is the heart of the hotel – a place to enjoy breakfast or afternoon tea. The choice of books represents the locations of the Six Senses collection, organized according to topic as in the home of an aristocratic family: from a section dedicated to the local area, to international artisan craftsmanship, fashion, and photography – the culture of drinking, history, and a room dedicated to fiction. On the second floor is a terrace that is a corner of sunlight which features a swimming pool with iridescent tiles (as long as a single lane of an Olympic-size pool) overlooking the internal facades of the surrounding homes, whose spiral service stairways look like a graphic for an architectural utopia.
The neighborhood around Six Senses calls to mind a small, Asian Montmartre: clean and well-groomed. Exiting the Duxton and turning left, a slope begins which recalls the terraces of San Francisco. Continuing upwards, one comes upon a pedestrian street and a bar lounge. We could be in St. Tropez or Sardinia, or a small, Asian Montmartre. This is definitely the melting pot of a city that was once a maritime port, a crucible of oceans, from business meetings to silk. On the corner is the sushi bar Mitsu – a simple locale of the highest quality where the item to try is the flame-seared fish. On the opposite corner is the cocktail bar Kilo with its cement walls and wooden tables and chairs beneath a portico, immersing guests in a Mediterranean dimension in which every detail is curated: the round bottle of sparkling water is a work of art.
Neil Jacobs, the CEO of Six Senses, has been dedicated to environmental sustainability for the past fourteen years. His structures – now with a workforce of 4,600 employees – have been awarded the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Architectural Heritage award and actualize their efforts towards sustainability by recovering unused soap and collaborating with the Clean the World Asia project.
As of this year Six Senses has become a part of IHG, the InterContinental Hotels Group, the largest hotel group in the world. This acquisition will nevertheless allow the company to continue pursuing its mission of sustainability as it has been doing since 1995.
The first resort was opened in the Maldives on the Laamu Atoll, with a hotel project that offers guests a comfortable stay which respects the surrounding natural landscape, thus pre-dating its competitors by almost a decade and proposing a concept of barefoot luxury. It was custom for guests, upon arrival, to participate in a sort of purification ritual: guests would stand barefoot in the center of a metal vase with their eyes closed; the metal would then be made to vibrate with three strikes of a mallet, like a drum; these vibrations would spread throughout the body, stimulating every part and releasing it from tension.
Duxton Road, 83