Parkroyal on Pickering: Singapore’s Vertical Garden Hotel

Parkroyal on Pickering from Hong Lim Park

Parkroyal on Pickering from Hong Lim Park

When the Parkroyal on Pickering opened its doors in 2013, the new hotel’s unorthodox design lines made an indelible impression on hotel-watchers. Towering over Chinatown’s Hong Lim Park, the 16-storey property looked like a green, towering extension of its verdant neighbor.

Seen from the park, the Parkroyal on Pickering looks like it was grown, not built: a sequence of three glass towers joined together by a series of stepped structural layers, their lines recalling contour maps or Southeast Asian rice terraces.

Profuse greenery pours from the terraces: vertical gardens and hanging plants create lushly textured surfaces that contrast agreeably with the glass gridwork presented by the tower blocks.

As stunning-looking as the Parkroyal is from without, is the inside just as good as the outside? That’s what the rest of this review proposes to answer.

 

Entry to Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore

Entry to Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore

Entering the Parkroyal on Pickering

The taxi ride from Changi Airport to Parkroyal at Pickering takes no more than 15 minutes in medium traffic; pulling into the high-ceilinged driveway, the organic contour terracing immediately grabs your attention; this design element is repeated (in softer, warmer colors and textures) in the lobby area.

The narrow lobby entrance (facing New Bridge Road at the northwest end of the building) creates the illusion of greater space with the ingenious use of high ceilings and a glass curtain wall facing a pocket garden and pond. It’s a special trick of the Parkroyal’s, to pull out space (or the illusion of it) from nowhere.

Mirrors, large windows, disappearing doors – the hotel’s designers pulled every trick in the book.

The glass walls lining the length of the ground floor look out onto Upper Pickering Street and Hong Lim Park across. Venture further around the neighborhood and you’ll see how well-placed the Parkroyal is for business or leisure travelers:

  • From the New Bridge Road exit, you can just cross Upper Pickering Street to enter a passageway leading to the MRT (Clarke Quay station, to be exact).
  • From Lime Restaurant’s South Bridge Road exit, you can walk about 10 minutes to reach the heart of Chinatown, including the Sri Mariamman Temple, the Buddha Tooth Temple, and the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre.

Deluxe Room, Parkroyal on Pickering

Deluxe Room, Parkroyal on Pickering

The Parkroyal on Pickering Deluxe Room

Up at the 11th floor (where I’m checked in) I exit the elevator and find that the corridor leading to my room is out in the open: rooms on one side, a guardrail and a view of the neighborhood HDB (government housing block) beyond. Later, I’m told that the open-air corridors are intended to be an energy-saving measure.

“Most guests go straight from the elevators to their rooms and back – nobody really lingers in the corridors so it doesn’t make sense to keep them air-conditioned 24-7,” a representative of the hotel tells me later. “The open-air corridors cut down massively on energy waste.” (I’d hate to be walking to my room in a stiff wind or monsoon weather, though.)

Thanks to the designers’ bag of tricks, the compact-sized deluxe king room feels larger than it actually is. Warm wood veneer surfaces give the quarters a cozy feel. The room opens up to a large glass curtain window with a bird’s eye view of Hong Lim Park.

The working area on the window side of the room has just enough space for a desk, a designer office chair, and a small couch – but there’s no way to feel cramped working with the Singapore skyline as your backdrop.

The bathroom gets the same great view as the sleeping quarters. A bathtub right next to the window lets you soak while taking in the sights. The bathroom also features a separate shower stall and toilet.

The view from my window confirms the Parkroyal’s charmed location: the Singapore River, the Esplanade, the Parliament Building and the Singapore financial district were clearly visible.

Sustainability: Parkroyal on Pickering’s Strong Suit

The Parkroyal on Pickering’s “hotel in a garden” design is not at all superficial: the hotel is built with some serious green cred from top to bottom.

“The gardens, waterfalls and planter walls constitute more than twice the hotel’s total land area,” the Parkroyal’s marketing communications director later explained to me. The amount of greenery on and around the building, in fact, exceeds the maximum requirement set by the Singapore Building and Construction Authority to achieve the Green Mark Platinum, the highest rating for green buildings in Singapore.

The lush sky gardens connecting the three towers are watered with harvested rainwater and Singapore’s own recycled “Newater” (Wikipedia), and illuminated with lighting powered by solar energy cells. As a result, the gardens are completely sustainable – 161,000 square feet of aerial greenery that operates at zero net cost to the environment.

The open-air corridors were only the most visible energy-saving effort made by the Parkroyal: around the hotel building, LED bulbs and solar panels help reduce lighting power costs by up to 20 percent. My contact at the Parkroyal estimates that the annual energy savings are enough to power about 680 households.

To complete the back-to-nature feel of the complex, he tells me, “Natural materials and textures have been used throughout the design of the hotel, including light and dark wood, pebbles, water, and glass.”

Parkroyal on Pickering's 5th level pool podium

Parkroyal on Pickering’s 5th level pool podium

The Parkroyal on Pickering’s Wellness Floor

The fifth floor is the Parkroyal on Pickering’s designated “Wellness Floor”, featuring the hotel’s infinity-edge pool with the fitness center and St. Gregory Spa clustered around it.

The designers pull out all the stops on this level: bird-cage cabanas perch on the platform rim, accentuating the sinuous lines above and below with bursts of color.

The pool takes up the northern half of the platform, a long, narrow swimming area with an infinity edge. It’s not as high up as the Marina Bay Sands’ skydeck infinity-edge pool, but what it lacks in altitude it makes up for in intimacy – the smaller scale just feels friendlier, and lacks the crowds of the Marina Bay Sands’ pool. A walkway to a cabana separates the main pool from the Jacuzzi.

The hotel’s fitness center faces the pool and shares the view. Guests need to tap in with their key cards to enter the gym, but get free run of the facilities afterward: medicine balls, rowing machines, bench presses, and a smart treadmill with a touchscreen monitor that lets you watch cable TV or even surf the Internet as you run.

The St. Gregory Spa across from the gym serves wellness-seeking guests in a lush, nature-filled space leading off to four treatment rooms offering facial and body treatments for singles and couples alike. Guests can splurge on the Spa’s signature treatment, a 75-minute full body massage using exotic massage oils and Eastern therapeutic techniques, or choose from a number of other treatments on the menu.

Interior, The Orchid Club Lounge, Parkroyal on Pickering

Interior, The Orchid Club Lounge, Parkroyal on Pickering

The Orchid Club Lounge

Your guide was granted access to the Orchid Club Lounge at the top floor: a comfortable, intimate retreat with newspapers, WiFi access, and view decks. Guests with Orchid Club Lounge privileges can enjoy all-day refreshments as well as a champagne breakfast and evening cocktails in a quiet environment limited to a select few.

The Lounge is designed for comfort and easy company. Seats are arranged around large dining tables or lounge clusters by the windows, and the Lounge itself is separated into a number of compartments by large shelf dividers.

Breakfast can be taken here: a light Continental meal with coffee or tea, a less heavy choice compared to the massive breakfast buffet spread downstairs at Lime.

For evening cocktails (served between 6pm and 8pm), the warmly lit Lounge – with easy-on-the-eyes spotlights at the tables for comfortable reading – makes a perfect retreat from the busy city; club guests can bring one guest up for cocktails at no charge. Children under 12 years of age, though, are discouraged from ascending to the Lounge.

Interior, Lime Restaurant, Parkroyal on Pickering

Interior, Lime Restaurant, Parkroyal on Pickering

Lime Restaurant: Parkroyal’s Piece de Resistance

Lime Restaurant takes up a cavernous space at the corner of Upper Pickering Street and South Bridge Road. Passersby can gain access to the restaurant through a separate entrance facing South Bridge Road.

The restaurant’s “friendly neighborhood dining” theme finds expression in both a massive buffet and a wide-ranging a la carte menu. Three open kitchens allow patrons to see their food being made, and to interact with the chefs preparing the spread.

“Each of the three live kitchen stations specializes in Asian, international and seafood respectively,” Lime’s executive chef explains to me. “The Asian and International live kitchens rotate the dishes twice daily, ensuring a variety of dishes for the buffet lunch and dinner spread.”

Even with the dinner rush going on about me, the restaurant feels un-hurried, un-stressed. The diners, mostly young peer groups and families, contribute to Lime’s easygoing atmosphere, framed by thoroughly modern décor and long buffet spreads clustered around the live kitchen stations.

Swimming pool on the 5th level, Parkroyal on Pickering

Swimming pool on the 5th level, Parkroyal on Pickering

Parkroyal on Pickering at a Glance

Location: 3 Upper Pickering Street, Chinatown, Singapore. Location of the Parkroyal on Pickering (Google Maps). Ten-minute walk down South Bridge Road to Sri Mariamman Temple; five minute walk northeast to entrance of Clarke Quay MRT station; fifteen minutes from Changi Airport by taxi.

Rooms: 367 guestrooms and suites, including 154 Superior rooms, 84 Deluxe rooms, 21 Premier rooms, 21 Junior Suites, and 1 Presidential Suite. All rooms offer WiFi, in-room amenities and minibar.

Amenities: Lime Restaurant serves international cuisine through an open-kitchen concept restaurant with three live kitchens. The top-floor Orchid Club Lounge offers private meeting spaces, a library and dedicated Club Concierge. Infinity-edge pool on the fifth floor podium, beside a fitness center and St. Gregory Spa. 300-meter “garden walk” for joggers or casual walkers. Ballroom and six conference rooms can accommodate up to 800 people.

Contact Details: Phone +65 6809 8888 / +1800 2557 795 (Reservation Line), site www.parkroyalhotels.com/Pickering.

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