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When a sugar house and clay pipes manufacturing centre became defunct, it wasn’t quite imaginable that almost 300 years later, it could be transformed into a trendy boutique hotel – Hotel du Vin Bristol, City Centre.
The 18th-century row of warehouses, located close to Bristol’s renovated docklands, is now a hot property in urban-industrial retrofits comprising 40 rooms. While it’s easy to get rid of structures that have fallen into disrepair, it is more challenging to update them for contemporary purposes, especially for luxury spaces like hotels.
What made the refurbishment even more challenging that the structure was previously used as a sugar house – the contamination from chemicals had to be addressed before preservation could even begin – and then also made derelict and abandoned for over 12 years, adding time to the reconstruction process.
On the other hand, the group’s Malmaison Oxford property – a prison till 1976, and then a storage facility – was restored between 2004 and 2006, but not without its own set of surprising challenges: Archaeological discoveries! Each find had to be logged and catalogued with the local museums, and careful planning had to be considered to maximise architectural features and incorporate these into the revamped design of the building.
But the restoration and refurbishment of such buildings is not just confined to its walls – any undertaking to preserve such old spaces also has an impact on the surroundings.
For the Bristol property, its building being a redundant space brought about an environmental impact to its neighbouring buildings. But with the hotel, it has helped revive not only the building but also the neighbourhood, providing tourism and jobs to the city.
With the close work between the hotel, authorities and heritage conservation societies, it helped to ensure that the repurposing of both buildings was done in a sympathetic manner while still referencing its previous use and history. For Malmaison Oxford, items such as the original cell doors and prison bars were still maintained though the cells have been combined to form spacious bedrooms.
But with many of such period properties mushrooming worldwide, it is important to maintain a distinctiveness for each hotel brand. For Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, resisting the “theme park-like category” and instead, bringing to the fore the history of each building by incorporating key elements into credible design.
And with an increasing number of discerning travellers choosing boutique heritage properties over chain hotels for its charm, they can be sure that every Malmaison and Hotel du Vin hotel will bring guests a unique stay experience with its great designs, fascinating history and gold-standard service.
Adapted from Fraser Cachet Issue #28 © Frasers Hospitality and SPH Magazines