Raffles City


Raffles City is a complex which consists of two hotels, a convention centre, a shopping centre and an office tower. Built in the early 1980s, Raffles City was planned and constructed over a period of 17 years, and was the single largest commercial development built in that time. The complex was envisioned as a “city within a city” by its designers and builders.[1] Over the years, these different segments of Raffles City have contributed to the vibrancy of the complex.

Conception
The plans for Raffles City (then known as Raffles International Centre) were announced to the public in 1969 by the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS).[2] A model of the complex was unveiled on 16 April 1979.[3] Shortly after in July, Raffles City Private Limited (RCPL), a subsidiary of DBS Group, was formed and given responsibility for building and managing Raffles City.[4] The S$600-million building project was “the single largest commercial property development” in Singapore at the time.[5]

Construction and design
Raffles City was meant to boost the vibrancy of the Central Business District (CBD) after office hours, with planners also wanting to refocus the centre of development towards the waterfront.[6] The construction of the proposed complex bordered by four major roads (Stamford Road, Beach Road, Bras Basah Road and North Bridge Road) meant that other institutions would have to be moved.[7] As a result, the land occupied by Raffles Institution at the centre of the redevelopment plan was acquired for the construction project.[8]

Raffles City was designed by I. M. Pei, an internationally renowned architect.[9] His company, I. M. Pei & Partners, was engaged as principal project consultant for the construction of Raffles City.[10] However, this appointment, along with that of other foreign firms to oversee various parts of the landmark project, drew some criticism. This alleged favouring of foreign firms was interpreted as being due to distrust of Singaporean professionals.[11] The developers justified the engagement of foreign consultants on the grounds of the scale of the project. They also pointed out that there were local consultants who were working in partnership with their foreign counterparts throughout the building process.[12]

There were varying comments on the design of Raffles City and its component buildings. The complex, in particular its 42-floor office tower and 73-storey hotel, were considered “too modernistic and overpowering”; it did not seem to complement the surrounding buildings from Singapore’s past, with some saying it resembled a Housing Board apartment block.[13] However, Raffles City’s design was intended to complement the eventual development of the Marina Centre and Marina Bay area.[14]

Opening
Raffles City was officially opened on 3 October 1986 by then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Goh Chok Tong.[15] The complex’s 73-storey Westin Stamford hotel was at the time the tallest such structure in the world, and Raffles City Convention Centre was the largest convention centre in Singapore.[16] Raffles City was highly accessible due to its underground link with the City Hall Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) interchange station.[17] In addition to anchor tenants Westin Stamford and Westin Plaza Hotel, Raffles City Shopping Centre had the Japanese department store Sogo to attract visitors.[18]

Raffles City Shopping Centre
MRT opening
The opening of the second phase of the MRT network on 13 December 1987 resulted in an increase in human traffic to Raffles City. The Raffles City Shopping Centre took the chance to survey its shoppers’s profile and gauge the expected traffic by giving out commemorative T-shirts.[19] Sogo department store also gave out goodie packs, commemorative mugs and store discounts to mark this occasion.[20]

Renovation works began for Raffles City’s basement level one in 2009, which was to facilitate the building of a link-way between basement level two of the shopping centre and the new Esplanade MRT station of the Circle Line.[21] This was to improve connectivity to the shopping centre.[22]

Major tenancy and layout changes
Amrita Spa, the largest spa in Asia, opened its doors at Raffles City in August 2000. Spread over three floors, the S$8 million luxury spa came under the management of Raffles International. The spa, which sported top-rate facilities and served spa cuisine, was an effort by the company to stay ahead of its competitors by anticipating customers’s demands.[23]

Sogo closed its store in Raffles City in October 2000[24] due to the company’s financial woes.[25] In its place, Robinsons opened on 15 March 2001 after a S$30 million renovation and stocking of its new store. Robinsons opened along with Marks & Spencer’s expanded outlet, which was more than double its previous size.[26]

The shopping centre changed its layout several times. Its basement parking area, staff canteen and locker facilities were converted into new basement shop space in its 2006 revamp. A new “island podium” was built in the centre of the mall for more retailing space in the following year.[27] [28] In 2010, another significant revamp of its basement had new food outlets and concepts making their debut, targeting executives on weekdays and families on weekends.[29]

Arts and culture
Apart from being a shopping venue, the shopping centre also became a place for showcasing arts and culture over the years. In 1994, the first Spring In The City event was organised by Golden Travel Agency boss Lin Dengli in Raffles City Shopping Centre.[30] This annual event was held in conjunction with Chinese Lunar New Year festivities and featured free daily performances by guest troupes from China alongside arts and crafts stalls for the shoppers.[31]

Outreach events for the Singapore Arts Festival have also been held in the shopping centre, with dancers performing in shop displays before passers-by.[32] In September 2009, a 60-person flash mob treated shoppers to a choreographed dance to advertise for a series of dance performances, called Dans Festival, held towards the end of that year.[33]

Street performances were held at Raffles City and City Hall MRT station during a 10-day Great Singapore Sale (GSS) promotion to bring the arts to shoppers in 2010.[34] In August 2010, a dance put together by 60 dancers from multiple nationalities was held in the shopping centre as an initiative to promote Singapore’s culture and heritage. This was part of the National Heritage Board (NHB) HeritageFest 2010’s festival finale programme.[35]

Raffles City’s hotels and convention centre
Name and management changes
Westin Stamford and Westin Plaza Hotel remained under the Westin Hotels chain for 15 years[36] before Raffles International Group assumed management of both hotels on 1 January 2002.[37] Accompanying this change in ownership, the hotels were rechristened Swissotel The Stamford and Raffles The Plaza respectively.[38] On 31 December 2007, Raffles The Plaza underwent another name change to become Fairmont Singapore as it came under the management of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts (FHR).[39]

Major events hosted
On 3 May 1987, the 73-storey Westin Stamford hosted Singapore’s first vertical marathon. This was a fund-raising event for the Community Chest of Singapore with participants having to raise S$73 to sign up – S$1 for each floor climbed.[40]

The hotels and the Raffles City Convention Centre have hosted a number of high-profile international events over the years. The 117th International Olympic Committee (IOC) sessions from 6 to 9 July 2005 were held in the Convention Centre,[41] with a line-up of distinguished figures from the sporting scene, political leaders and royalty from around the world being hosted in the hotels.[42]

The Convention Centre was awarded the Best Event Venue Excellence award in 2008 by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). This was in recognition of its achievements in terms of “unique venue appeal, facilities and versatility in settings and excellence in service”.[43]

Swissotel The Stamford was home to the Games Village of the inaugural Asian Youth Games from 29 June to 7 July 2009.[44] During this period, there were concerns over the H1N1 influenza outbreak in Singapore. The hotel had in place emergency measures: the ninth floor of the hotel was converted into a medical centre and precautions and guidelines issued by the authorities were followed.[45] Despite such precautions, five athletes had to be quarantined for having contracted the H1N1 influenza during their stay.[46]

In June 2009, Fairmont Singapore signed a sponsorship agreement with the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee to be the official hotel partner for the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympic Games.[47]

Timeline
1969: Proposed plans for Raffles City (then Raffles International Centre) were announced by DBS.
Jul 1979: Raffles City Private Limited is formed to oversee building project.
3 Oct 1986: Raffles City officially opened by then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Goh Chok Tong.
3 May 1987: Singapore’s first vertical marathon held at Westin Stamford.
13 Dec 1987:
Phase Two of MRT network opened, marked by huge influx of visitors into Raffles City.

1994: Spring In The City’s debut in the shopping centre.
Aug 2000: Amrita Spa, the largest luxury spa in Asia, opened in Raffles City.
Oct 2000: Sogo flagship store in Raffles City Shopping Centre closed.
15 Mar 2001: Robinsons opens new store at Sogo’s vacated premises. Marks & Spencer follows by opening expanded outlet.
1 Jan 2002: Raffles International Group assumes management of hotels from Westin Hotels. Westin The Stamford and Westin Plaza are renamed Swissotel The Stamford and Raffles The Plaza respectively.
6–9 Jul 2005: Raffles City Convention Centre hosted 117th IOC session.
2006:
Shopping centre revamp introduced new basement retail space.

2007: “Island podium” added for new shop space.
31 Dec 2007: FHR assumed management of the hotels, and Raffles The Plaza is renamed Fairmont Singapore.
2008: Raffles City Convention Centre honoured with Best Event Venue Excellence award by STB.
Jun 2009:
Swissotel The Stamford signed agreement with SYOGOC to be official hotel sponsor for the YOG in 2010.
29 Jun–7 Jul 2009:
Swissotel The Stamford hosted the inaugural AYG Games Village.
Sep 2009:
60 dancers staged a flash mob in the shopping centre as advertising for Dans Festival.

2010: Revamp of basement to introduce new food and retail stores.
Jun 2010: Dancers entertained shopping centre patrons as part of 10-day GSS activities.
Aug 2010: HeritageFest 2010’s festival finale programme previewed in Raffles City Shopping Centre, with 60 dancers putting up an international dance showcase. Fairmont Singapore also managed accommodation of officials for inaugural YOG in August and September.



Author
Kenneth Goh



References

[1] Lau, C. S. (1988). Raffles City: We built a city. In Tan-Yeoh, C. K. (Ed.), Let us be distinctly DBS: 20 years. 1968-1988. Singapore: Development Bank of Singapore, p. 36.
(Call no.: RCLOS 332.12095957 DEV)
[2] 20 years in stride. (1988). In Tan-Yeoh, C. K. (Ed.), Let us be distinctly DBS: 20 years. 1968-1988. Singapore: Development Bank of Singapore, p. 4.
(Call no.: RCLOS 332.12095957 DEV)
[3] The $600m Raffles City. (1979, April 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[4] Lau, C. S. (1988). Raffles City: We built a city. In Tan-Yeoh, C. K. (Ed.), Let us be distinctly DBS: 20 years. 1968-1988. Singapore: Development Bank of Singapore, p. 36.
[5] The $600m Raffles City. (1979, April 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[6] Tye, K. K. (1986, September 7). Raffles City: A shining example of controversy. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[7] International Conference on Tall Buildings. (1984). International conference on tall buildings (Singapore) ICTBS-84, 22-26 October 1984, Shangri-La Hotel. [Services volume: Supplement to the proceedings of the conference]. Singapore: Author, p. 127.
(Call no.: RSING 721.042 INT)
[8] New $200 million ‘heart’ for the city. (1969, October 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[9] The $600m Raffles City. (1979, April 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[10] International Conference on Tall Buildings. (1984). International conference on tall buildings (Singapore) ICTBS-84, 22-26 October 1984, Shangri-La Hotel. [Services volume: Supplement to the proceedings of the conference]. Singapore: Author, p. 127.
(Call no.: RSING 721.042 INT)
[11] SKC. (1979, September 28). How can Singapore become a ‘brain centre’ this way? The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[12] Chua, K. Y. (1979, October 4.) Raffles City project a different concept. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[13] Tye, K. K. (1986, September 7). Raffles City: A shining example of controversy. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[14] Tye, K. K. (1986, September 7). Raffles City: A shining example of controversy. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[15] A grand opening for Raffles City. (1986, October 3). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[16] A grand opening for Raffles City. (1986, October 3). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[17] International Conference on Tall Buildings. (1984). International conference on tall buildings (Singapore) ICTBS-84, 22-26 October 1984, Shangri-La Hotel. [Services volume: Supplement to the proceedings of the conference]. Singapore: Author, p. 127.
(Call no.: RSING 721.042 INT)
[18] City of the future attracts the best. (1984, November 9). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[19] Retailers lay out the red carpet to tap the Great Orchard Rush. (1987, December 12). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[20] Lim, Y. F. (1987, December 14). Brisk sales at shops near MRT stations. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[21] Jethnani, H. (2010, January 23). New Jurong leisure centre gets go-ahead. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
[22] Tay, S. C. (2010, February 5). Round trip travel. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
[23] Koh, B. P. (2000, May 16). Asia’s largest spa to open here. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[24] Ong, C. (2001, March 15). It’s worth waiting for. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[25] Batacan, F. (2000, August 19). Sogo to wind down operations in S’pore. The Straits Times, p. 85. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[26] Ong, C. (2001, March 15). It’s worth waiting for. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[27] Tay, S. C. (2009, November 7). Malls get bigger. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[28] Lim, W. C. (2006, December 28). Explosion in retail space with more, larger malls. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[29] Quek, E. (2010, November 14). Fresh nosh at Raffles City. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
[30] Leong, W. K. (2011, February 6). 18 years on, Spring still shines In The City. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
[31] Leong, W. K. (2011, February 6). 18 years on, Spring still shines In The City. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
[32] Yong, S. H. (2009, December 10). Art attack in malls. The Straits Times, p. 65. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[33] Sudderuddin, S. (2009, October 18). Flash mob: The latest publicity tool in town. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[34] Lee, A. (2010, June 7). ‘Circus on the go’ adds to shopping buzz. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
[35] Experience Singapore’s heritage and culture with HeritageFest. (2010, August 19). Today. Retrieved from Factiva.
[36] International Conference on Tall Buildings. (1984). International conference on tall buildings (Singapore) ICTBS-84, 22-26 October 1984, Shangri-La Hotel. [Services volume: Supplement to the proceedings of the conference]. Singapore: Author, p. 129.
(Call no.: RSING 721.042 INT)
[37] Randhawa, J. (2002, January 7). Longest ribbon-cutting event scores Guinness record. Today–Afternoon Edition, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[38] Randhawa, J. (2002, January 7). Longest ribbon-cutting event scores Guinness record. Today–Afternoon Edition, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[39] Lee, P. (2007, December 31). Ready for business. The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[40] A race up 73 storeys to raise funds for Chest. (1987, April 7). The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[41] Leong, W. K. (2005, June 29). Leaving nothing to chance. Today–Afternoon Edition, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[42] Quek to ensure smooth run. (2005, June 25). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[43] Lee, U.-W. (2008, September 3). Not your conventional venue. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[44] Tan, Y.-H. (2009, April 25). Housing issue put to rest. Today, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[45] Lin, X. (2009, June 19). Youth Games on guard against the bug. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[46] Wong, J. (2009, June 23). Still upbeat. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
[47] Lee, U.-W. (2009, October 12). Fairmont looks to big boost from YOG as official hotel partner. The Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Further resources
Chua, G. (2009, August 7). Other ways to celebrate the nation’s birthday. The Straits Times, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tan, A. (2009, June 29). The road to AYG. The Straits Times, p. 72. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Zaknic, I., Smith, M. & Rice, D. (Eds.). (1998). 100 of the world’s tallest buildings. Victoria: Images Publishing.
(Call no.: RART q720.483 ONE)



The information in this article is valid as at 28 January 2014 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places

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