Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 24, 2022
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The art of reinvention

From fire stations to silos, five old buildings that are now stunning new hotels

The Warehouse Hotel, Singapore

If only The Warehouse Hotel had walls that could talk. The trio of gabled buildings on the bank of the Singapore River once sheltered aromatic spices on a street where palm and rice wines were being illegally distilled in alleyways and dark corners. The neighbourhood was run by Chinese and Fujianese secret societies: gambling and prostitution and opium were rampant. The three peaked-roof buildings were privy to it all; today, 100-plus years later, they guard the secrets of travellers as a chic 37-room hotel in Robertson Quay. Its industrial design consists of exposed brick walls, sleek black metal and custom lights modelled after pulleys. Rooms are refined in taupe and grey accented with copper and green forest marble. There’s a rooftop infinity pool; the on-site restaurant called Pó features nine original, spice-infused cocktails inspired by the area’s naughty past. From about $235 a night, double occupancy.

The Detroit Foundation Hotel

The fire engines are gone — and, sadly, so are the firemen — but some of the architectural details of Motor City’s former Fire Department Headquarters remain in what’s now the “industrial-chic” Foundation Hotel. Located in downtown Detroit across from the Cobo (Convention) Center, the five-storey Neoclassical goliath still boasts its iconic red firehouse doors. The storey-and-a half space that used to house fire trucks and equipment, now the lobby and The Apparatus Room restaurant, features the original white-glazed brick walls. The building’s former life is celebrated in new ways too. A smoke-inspired chandelier by artist Kim Harty hangs over a banquette table where fire hoses once hung to dry. The hotel’s 100 rooms are decorated in deep browns with pastel metallic, a nod to the colours of 1960-era automobiles. There are even cushy channel-tufted velvet sofas so guests can pretend they’re cruising in an old luxury Cadi. From US$219 a night, double occupancy.

The Ned, London

If The Ned gives off an air of all business from the outside, it’s because the colossal, 252-room hotel and members’ club used to be the headquarters of London’s Midland Bank. Located across the street from the Bank of England in the city’s financial heartland, the building’s nine floors of high finance are now charming Edwardian-feel rooms that feature brass bed frames, oak dressers, velvet club chairs, and textures and patterns inspired by the 1920s. There are seven public restaurants, a woman’s hair salon, a barbershop that serves beer, and a nail bar called Cheeky. Private spaces for members and/or overnight guests include a rooftop pool with views to the Gherkin and St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the very lavish Vault bar. Its original metre-thick metal door opens up to walls lined with 3600 safety deposit boxes, a chic new walnut bar and jewel-toned velvet furniture. From about $300 a night, double occupancy.

Le Monastère des Augustines, Quebec City

The airy rooms at Le Monastère des Augustines are all white and glass and steel, which makes sense because the wellness hotel is housed in a wing of what was once the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec. Established in 1639 by three sisters from the Augustinian Order, it was the continent’s first hospital north of Mexico. But that’s not to say that the hotel is sterile and uninspiring. Rooms also feature aged wooden beams and pretty windows with shutters; centuries-old furniture and lovely quilts. TVs and telephones are missing; Wi-Fi is available. The 33 “authentic” rooms (from $84 per person, a night) share six bathrooms; the 32 “contemporary” rooms (from $104 per person) have new ensuites. There’s an onsite museum (admission $10) with 40,000 artifacts drawn from the 12 former monastery hospitals in Quebec. Breakfast is included and served in silence to honour the tradition of the nuns. .

The Silo, Cape Town

When Cape Town’s historic silo complex was built in 1924, it consisted of the tallest structure in Sub-Saharan Africa: a 54-metre grain elevator. It still towers over the city’s waterfront today, but, in March, it opened as the striking Silo Hotel. Its remarkable domed windows consist of hand-cut, multi-faceted glass that lets guests see what’s up, down and on each side. At night, the hotel resembles a modern-day lighthouse in the Table Bay harbour. The 28 rooms are eclectic with colourful furniture: hot pink bedroom rugs, huge teal headboards, yellow and green sofas and armchairs. The Granary Café is open to the public as are the spa and rooftop pool. You’ll also want to visit the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. It opens directly below the hotel in September. Admission is $20, which is way, way less than a hotel stay: about $1160 a night, double occupancy, including breakfast and museum entrance.

Note: all prices throughout are based on web searches.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


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