The Pan Pacific Singapore Story, Retold
The Development of Marina Bay - 1970s
The idea to develop the Marina Bay area took shape in the 1970s with an envisioned expansion of the existing city centre to accommodate a larger business and financial hub.
What started off as a body of water off Collyer Quay was transformed following several stages of land reclamation work, creating a barren plot that would later give rise to the biggest single development of its time in Singapore – the Marina Centre. This T-shaped development, designed by DP Architects in collaboration with John Portman Associates, was anchored by a four-storey mall, Marina Square, and three hotels including the 38-storey Pan Pacific Singapore.
Contributing to the iconic Marina Bay waterfront skyline today is Marina Centre, Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, and the iconic Singapore Flyer, bringing life to the vicinity 24/7. This future-driven development has provided the backdrop to Singapore’s F1 night race and plays host each year to Singapore’s New Year Countdown, among other iconic events.
1986 - John Portman Jr.
All three hotels that form the Marina Centre complex feature the iconic atrium design that is a signature of the legendary US architect John Portman Jr. The atrium concept has been around since ancient Roman times, where it was featured in entrance spaces and courtyards. It was Mr Portman who brought the concept into public buildings in modern times, his first being the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia in 1967. His strength lies in his ability to create a sense of architectural theatre through the creative use of atriums in the lobby space, using basic geometric forms and by bringing the outdoors into the space through skylit landscaped balconies inside the building. The atrium reveals an understanding of how people move and promotes spaces full of movement and vitality.
In the Pan Pacific Singapore, the enormous atrium space which was the highest atrium in Asia at the time, featured a cloth and brass sculpture suspended from the top of the hotel and cascaded through the atrium space so as to dampen the echoing sound of conversations taking place in the lobby below.
An additional and much-loved feature Portman added were the internal and external glass capsule bullet lifts mounted on the hotel’s internal and external wall. The internal bullet lifts allow guests to take in the spectacular atrium of the hotel whilst the external offer a breath-taking view of Singapore as the capsules scale the building up to the 38th floor.
1986 - The Sculpture and “Spiderman”
When Pan Pacific Singapore opened in 1986, its iconic atrium featured a $700,000 spiralling sculptural creation of fabric, wire and brass suspended from the top of the hotel over a fountain in the lobby below. Named “Spinning the Sky”, this sculptural masterpiece of cascading box kites was created over three years by French sculpture Daniel Graffin. Inspired by Mr Graffin’s love of kites, it was probably the largest sculpture of its kind in Southeast Asia at the time and weighed 2,439kg. The sculpture featured 150 metres of handmade brass rails and rose-coloured, fireproof polyester fabric, specially commissioned for the piece.
American Ben Colli, affectionately known as “Spiderman”, was brought in from Atlanta, US to install the sculpture, ready for the hotel’s soft launch. It was a delicate operation that took two weeks to complete and involved Mr Colli suspended 90 metres above the ground on cables, gliding across the atrium to put Spinning the Sky in place.
While the sculpture commanded a magnificent presence within the atrium space, it proved impossible to upkeep because it could not be reached to be cleaned. Over time, the artwork collected dust as well as coins that guests threw down from the atrium balconies in an attempt to make a wish in the fountain in the lobby below. “Spiderman” was called in once again, this time to dismantle and remove the sculpture. The many coins caught up in the fabric were donated to charity.
1986 - Taking the Hotel Launch International
When Pan Pacific Singapore held its soft launch on 21 November 1986, it started as it intended to go on, by innovating to deliver the ultimate guest experience. General Manager Mr Manfred Haeger recognised that, by harnessing satellite technology, the launch didn’t have to be limited by geographical location. So, with Australia targeted as a key market for the hotel, the launch was beamed live to a venue in Sydney, Australia to an audience of more than 150 Australian travel industry leaders as well as members of the press. Mr Haeger assured his audience that the hotel's location was ideal for Australian travellers, with the shift in focus and traffic already taking place away from the Orchard Road belt and into the newly reclaimed Marina Bay area.
1988 - Taking The Party Home
In 1988, the hotel came up with a wonderful way to integrate with the local community and show that Pan Pacific Singapore was as much a place for locals as its international guests. A celebration was held and every Singaporean who would turn 88 that year was invited to celebrate with the hotel over a lavish Chinese luncheon. While 48 octogenarians were able to join the celebration, one RSVP guest was too weak to make it on the day.
When they heard that Mr Joseph De Souza was too frail to make the party, the hotel’s Public Relations Manager Ruby Khoo and Sales Manager Cheryl Howard decided to visit him at home and personally present him with a birthday cake.
“This is one great surprise I won't ever forget,” said Mr De Souza, who attributed his longevity to an active youth and his loving wife Hilda. “I used to play some sports,and my mother saw to it that I ate good wholesome food like milk and cod liver oil every day. But it's Hilda's caring love and attention that has kept me alive for so long and perhaps for a long time more.”
1988, 1995 - Returning Lost Valuables to Guests
In a hotel there will always occasions when an associate finds misplaced or forgotten guest valuables and ensures that they were returned to its rightful owner. However, two notable cases made the newspapers due to the high value of the items found in the Pan Pacific Singapore.
In October 1988, chambermaid Tan Lee Eng was cleaning room 3004 after a Japanese guest had checked out when she came across $120,000-worth of gems simply sitting in an ashtray. Madame Tan, who had only been with the hotel for seven months at this point, recounted that at first she thought the gems to be fake because they were so big. But suspecting they may be valuable, she put the stones into an envelope and immediately took her find to the housekeeper. The guest was subsequently reunited with the jewels.
In January 1995, a similar incident happened at La Patisserie, the hotel’s pastry shop, when a guest left a bag behind containing $50,000 in cash and a cheque for $1 million. A part-time waitress on duty at the time, Ms Jennifer Lim, discovered the forgotten bag and immediately reported it to her supervisor, Mr Alex Lim. By the time the guest had realised his error and rushed back to the shop only five minutes later, Mr Lim had already taken it to security for safe keeping until they could call his room later that day.
1989 - Hotel With a Heart
The Pan Pacific Singapore always has an inclusive culture and took the lead in the industry in 1989 to employ a portion of its staff from Singapore’s disabled community. In an initiative led by General Manager Mr Jean Wasser, who was a firm believer that the handicapped should have a place in society like everyone else, 20 physically challenged people were hired to fill in positions of room attendants, poolside attendants, public cleaners, laundry helpers and dishwashers. “It’s a social responsibility that I advocate to my staff not to treat them any differently and to make them part of the team,” Mr Wasser explained at the time. It is a practice the hotel continues to this day.
1991 – 1999 - Lifting The Bar on Romance
Valentine’s Day each year from 1991 till 1999 was a huge undertaking for the hotel. Each couple would be whisked up to the 37th floor in the hotel’s iconic bullet lift to take in the magnificent Singapore skyline by night as they dined, only to return to the 3rd floor to be served the next course from the hotel’s various restaurants such as Japanese restaurant Keyaki; Cantonese restaurant Hai Tien Lo and the then-Chateaubriand Grill Room.
This innovative $1468+++ package became the talk of the town, and included a night’s stay in the honeymoon suite with breakfast in bed; and this creative dining concept continued until the New Year’s Eve of 1999.
1993 - Theatre by The Pool
Always pushing the envelope on delivering unique experiences for staying guests and locals alike, the Pan Pacific Singapore did not stop at making its iconic outdoor swimming pool venue a popular destination for New Year parties.In September 1993, the poolside area even became a theatre venue to stage a five-act dance drama in the pool to an audience of 400 per night. Costing Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble $35,000 to stage, the non-verbal production was a first attempt by a local theatre group to stage such as show in a pool. The play was accompanied by a soundtrack of instrumental new age music and sounds of nature to give the audience a sense of dancing in water under a starry sky.
1999 - First-of-a-kind Yacht Charter
Another pioneering move for Pan Pacific Singapore was the introduction to its catering service of a first-of-its-kind yacht charter package in 1999, where the hotel’s guests were able to charter Windsong, an 18-metre-long yacht, for trips out to sea. Depending on the duration and time of charter, fees ranged between $550 and $1,100 all inclusive, with catering services optional at an additional fee.
2005 – A Space for Art Lovers
Launched in 2005, the Public Art Space at Pan Pacific Singapore takes residence on the second floor of the hotel, overlooking our spectacular atrium. The 220 sqm art gallery features quarterly exhibitions featuring works of art by local and featured artists, showcasing them to art-loving patrons who may also make a purchase to own the art piece. To date, most notable collaborations include those with Very SpecialArts Singapore, whose mission is to empower people with special needs through art. Till today, the hotel continues to drive this space as part of its commitment to the community.
2007 - Upgrading of Guest Rooms
Multi-million dollar project commissioning boutique interior design firm FBEYE International to upgrade guest rooms.
2012 – Extensive Renovation
The hotel underwent an extensive renovation, the most extensive to-date, which saw a complete transformation of the hotel.
2016 - Swimming Pool Renovation
A multi-million dollar swimming pool renovation served to further enhance the guest experience, complete with water features, lush greenery, private lounging spaces and a children’s wading pool, as well as a brand-new poolside bar.
Fast forward to present day, the Pan Pacific Singapore is now one of the most famous hotels in Singapore, with luxurious accommodation, a notable club lounge in Singapore reputed to be amongst the best hotels’ executive floors, superior event solutions and award-winning restaurants to offer to business and leisure travellers alike.