Retail in Asia


92-year-old building revived as boutique hotel in KL

In partnership with the hotel’s Singapore-based founders Javier Perez and Justin Chen, local design firm Studio Bikin developed an adaptive reuse plan for Else Kuala Lumpur.

In 1930, the Lee Rubber Building reached the height of 45 stories, making it the tallest structure in Kuala Lumpur. Thousands of skyscrapers have risen around it since then, dwarfing the building. The grey-facade building was designed by British architect Arthur Oakley Coltman of Booty Edwards & Partners (now BEP Akitek).

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On the first floor, guests will find a coffee table filled with antiques and cultural curiosities. There are more unique pieces found on the hotel’s shelves, nooks, and corners as well.

Source: Else Kuala Lumpur

Perez, co-founder of Else Kuala Lumpur, says the hotel’s interior design concept is eclectic and organic, which is why it stands out. “So it’s about what resonates with us, what we like from a design, art or collection standpoint.”

According to Perez, the overall goal is to provide guests with a totally different experience.

“KL is very interesting because when we look at hotels, the majority of travellers that you actually cater to are business travellers, and that’s already a segment on its own.”

“So we have to kind of tap into that business segment traveller as well and who is that business traveller that then wants a different experience, and who does not necessarily need to stay in the bigger chain hotels.”

Source: Else Kuala Lumpur

“We look at this as a huge guesthouse, rather than a boutique hotel, that caters to someone who is looking for a place to disconnect from work, a place which is very functional but quite experiential” he shared.

“That’s quite an important architectural move that we did and a lot of other design decisions revolved around that, basically” says Adela Askandar from Studio Bikin, the design company entrusted with the conversion of the Lee Rubber Building.

“In the ways we have approached our projects, we have always been mindful about the few key things we consider in our design that make a project sustainable.”

“One is natural light and trying to bring in as much of it as possible. Two is natural ventilation.”

Source: Else Kuala Lumpur

By using as many locally made materials and products as possible, they helped reduce their carbon footprint. Furthermore, the ladies tried their best to find locally woven items for the interior despite the pandemic. For example, terracotta bricks on the ground floor and fourth floor came from a local brickmaker in Johor.

“For example, the bedheads in the rooms on the first three floors are woven by Bidayuh and Penan weavers from Sarawak,” said Adela. They emphasized that the preservation of the old building and revitalising it for a new lease of life in itself is yet another act of sustainability.

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“We also hope that with this hotel, and the rejuvenation of an old cinema with REXKL for example, that other stakeholders would be interested to look into their properties and see what potential they have” Adela added.