You’ve got … old mail

Ascott Raffles Place retains the old world charm of the former Asia Insurance Building, including its letters

Lovingly preserved in the Ascott Group’s new serviced apartments in the former Asia Insurance Building at Finlayson Green, is a link with the age before email.

It is the original mail chute from the 53-year-old building, which when the renovations were being carried out was found stuffed with undelivered mail – ranging from lengthy personal letters, to company invoices, to pictures and Chinese New Year greeting cards – all from an era long gone and addressed to people who are still waiting for that elusive “cheque in the post”.

Some of the letters showed their age, but others looked as if they were written – and lost – yesterday. They were found stuck in the building’s brass mail chute by workers tasked to transform what was once the tallest building in South-east Asia (at 20 storeys high) into what is now known as The Ascott Singapore Raffles Place.

The posh serviced apartments are intended to serve jetsetting expatriates on an extended stopover.

The chute is being preserved, along with many other original features of the building originally designed by the late architect Ng Keng Siang.

Large parts of the building’s facade were clad in Italian Travertine marble. Its stone panels at street level were made of Nero Portaro, a black marble from Sicily that comes with gold and whitish veins.

For the lobby and the rooms, Ascott commissioned artwork from local artists like Han Sai Por, Goh Beng Kwan and Tan Kian Por. Sepia-toned pictures of old Singapore now line the lift lobbies.

All in, Ascott spent about $60 million to refurbish the building, which had its soft launch in July and will be officially opened in November.

And just as these old letters bring back memories of the era of rickshaws and samsui women, much of the rooms’ interior design – including the flower motifs on the bathroom tiles and air-con grilles – remind guests of the optimistic 1950s.

The building’s 146 serviced apartments come equipped with avant garde furniture and an impressive selection of appliances.

Rental prices, however, will not be similar to those of the 1950s. Daily rates will range from $780 for a studio unit, to between $2,000 and $2,300 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Apart from enjoying gym facilities, guests can also swim in a “fish tank” on the 18th floor overlooking the Central Business District.

In such pleasant surroundings, guests might even be tempted to send a postcard to their friends back home by dropping it into the chute. To be found in another50 years perhaps.

Source : Today – 11 Sep 2008

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