Review: The Barracks Hotel Sentosa

by Katherine Arteche
05 Mar 2020

Once a home ground for drafted soldiers, The Barracks Hotel Sentosa is a new home built on heritage.

Redrawn and reprinted on canvas, the floorplan of the original Blakang Mati Artillery Barracks on Sentosa island is framed up, and hangs on the wall in one of the lounges in The Barracks Hotel. The current hotel suites are easily identified by their square layout sitting neatly in a row, with door openings on the front and back, each opening towards a main corridor and a private balcony with a pool view below.

Various fonts are written in its place, each pertaining to a different time since the original development of the barracks from 1904. One’s eyes would glaze over the labels written in its place: "Naval Training Classrooms", "Tailor’s Shop", and "Shoemaker’s Shop", until "Holding Area for Prisoners-of-War" will hold your gaze for a moment longer.

How contradictory that the now lavish Barracks Hotel was once a confinement area designed for the opposite end of the spectrum?

A patio from one of the suites provides easy pool access.

Before one would throw their arms up in revolt, it is undeniable that The Barracks Hotel is a property that is rich in history. In fact, the hotel prides itself on the preservation of the original building that now houses luxurious rooms, despite its ill-fated participation in the Second World War.

One of 40 Premier rooms.

The rooms are modernly designed, albeit adopting a vintage spirit. Half-walls, headboards, nightstands and the mini bar trunk are clad in leather with distinct stitching; a statement standing lamp gives out warm light that reflects against its brass skeleton; and on the writing desk, pockets of stationery drawers are covered in carefully weaved straw.

The walls are refreshed with a light shade of cream, and the high ceiling exposes the natural timber beams above. The only decorations in the room are retrospective framed photographs on the wall, each depicting either a plane, a letter, or soldiers who were drafted for the army.

All 40 rooms were designed by Kunio Iwata of KKS International, while the exterior was a project undertaken by Laurence Liew, Director of Arc Studio Architecture + Urbanism.

The living room suite.

The hotel is designed in almost-perfect symmetry. Two lap pools flank either side of the central glasshouse named The Living Room, where breakfast, tea, and evening cocktails are hosted.

Six king-sized suites trump the ground floor, where each comprises their own private patio and direct access to the pool. All guests of The Barracks Hotel are entitled to a round-the-clock equerry service and daily heritage tour of the grounds.

One would discover that the fresh lawn that makes up the vast foreground was once a parade square for soldiers of the First Singapore Regiment Royal Artillery in 1947, while an adjacent building with rows of upscale dining restaurants once served as a military mess hall where causing a ruckus was a venue more suited.

Bathroom aesthetics in a suite.

Behind the contemporary façade of quiet respite, it is perhaps here that one would seek not only a rejuvenated stay, but also of mindful enlightenment, upon learning the historic riches of the hotel’s past.

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