Accepted Paper:

Raffles Hotel Singapore: National identity, tourism and 'the large'  
Chris Hudson (RMIT University)

Paper short abstract:

The material elements of the Raffles Hotel Singapore represent a national identity that combines a history of colonial power with a global culture of luxury consumption. Such an aesthetically charged large space allows tourists to imagine modern Asia as an exotic and timeless East.

Paper long abstract:

Just as it would be unthinkable for a tourist to go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower, few people would think a trip to Singapore could be complete without a visit to the Raffles Hotel. While the cocktail known as the Singapore Sling is a drawcard, and the miniature Sikh doormen on sale in the gift shop might retain some popularity as portable souvenirs, by far the most enduring attraction is the large materiality of the hotel itself.

The Singapore Tourism Board encapsulated the spirit of Singapore as a mecca for shopping and eating with the slogan 'Eat Shop Chill'. The 101 hectares of the Gardens by the Bay, the spectacular Marina Bay Sands Hotel (complete with rooftop infinity pool), the shopping malls and food halls, amongst others places of contemporary consumer culture, dominate the tourism landscape. But it is the Raffles Hotel that captures the tourist imagination to offer a different representation of Singapore. While it is primarily a large space for eating, shopping and chilling, the colonial aesthetic recreates the nation's colonial past imagined as a time of leisured tropical luxury. This paper examines the material and aesthetic elements of the Raffles Hotel environment—the gorgeous landscaped gardens, the elegant shopping arcade, the pervasive fragrance of jasmine and frangipani, and the graceful architecture—as representations of a national identity that combines a history of colonial power with a global culture of luxury consumption that still imagines modern Asia as an exotic and timeless East.

Panel P004
Architecture and Anthropology