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The Prestige Hotel: Ministry Of Design’s Sleight Of Hand In Penang

Ministry of Design transposes heritage in the new quasi-colonial Prestige Hotel in Penang, with a contemporary interpretation of Victorian design – visual trickery included.

The Prestige Hotel: Ministry Of Design’s Sleight Of Hand In Penang

In places like UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site Georgetown in Penang, it is expected that the narratives of hospitality projects would draw deeply from the history and heritage of place. But how can new and original experiences be offered in such already storied places? Can culture and heritage not merely be co-opted, but suitably reimagined and augmented in fresh, new ways? 

Prestige hotel penang

With The Prestige Hotel, a new build set among Georgetown’s nineteenth-century English colonial buildings, Ministry of Design (MOD) explored the idea of “transposing heritage”.

Prestige hotel penang

Lobby and reception

MOD’s Founder and Director Colin Seah explains: “Penang has an increasing number of design-oriented hotels, and there have been two common approaches taken by other hotels – either to mimic heritage or to contrast it. We sought to transpose heritage – not to be ruled by it, but to run with it in order to create something fresh yet familiar.”

Prestige hotel penang

Lobby and reception

For MOD, who has worked on several projects in Penang, including Macalister Mansion, Loke Thye Kee Residences and the Majestic Theatre, the primary objective for this new 162-room establishment was to differentiate and repackage the typical colonial-esque hotel.

Prestige hotel penang


Old English elements such as Victorian wainscoting, the shopping arcade, and the sunroom therefore became starting points (to be transposed). Through a scheme encompassing brand strategy, interior design, landscape design, signage design, installation art and graphic design, MOD explored the meshing of Victorian England with a verdant, tropical Malaysia.


This resulted in spaces and concepts such as The Glasshouse restaurant (taking after a garden conservatory), gazebo lounges and graphic treatment in the lift cars that abstracts graphics of local botany and landmarks in a Victorian aesthetic.


The studio also had to address a particularly difficult condition of the site – its long and narrow proportions – which potentially made navigating the hotel’s long guest room corridors and retail arcade a monotonous experience. To overcome this, MOD planned the ground floor such that the lobby, the restaurant and the retail and F&B spaces became standalone units.


“This typology breaks down the linear scale of the 143-metre-long building, and recalls a ‘shop-in-shop’ concept reminiscent of the historical English shopping arcade,” Seah shares.

Alternating colour schemes and rotating light features are used to animate the long guest room corridors. A layer of visual animation and illusion was therefore introduced to the design narrative.


This was further developed into a playful scheme of magic and visual illusions, where elements including levitation (floating beds), disappearing acts (an illusion in floor patterns), and Houdini’s escape boxes (showers and wardrobes) come together to create what MOD describes as a “magical quasi-colonial universe” – an augmented experience that stands out, no doubt, from Penang’s less imaginative offerings.

The Prestige Hotel is part of the Design Hotels portfolio.

Photography by Edward Hendricks (CI&A Photography)


The Prestige Hotel

Designer: Ministry of Design (MOD)
Designer’s Scope: Holistic brand strategy, interior design, landscape design, signage design, installation art, graphic design.
Project Team: Colin Seah, Joyce Low, Sarah Conceicao, Richard Herman, Kevin Leong, Ruth Chong, Tasminah Ali, Maggie Lek, Syazwani Wagiman, Rais Rahman, Norberto Olegario, Don Castenada, Arnel Anonuevo, Sandra Goh, Lara Loi, Tiang Yuping, Angie Ng, Wong Ruen Qing, Rasyid Razak.
Architect: KL Wong architect Sdn Bhd
C&S Engineer: L.o.t Consultant
M&E Engineer: GH Consultants Sdn Bhd
Main Contractor: Goodwood Builders Sdn Bhd
ID Contractor: Pena Builders Sdn Bhd
Land Area: 3,725 sqm
Built-in GFA: 8,570 sqm

Flooring: Niro Ceramic Group, China EC Stone Art Sdn Bhd, Equipe Ceramicas SL, Royal Thai Carpets, Lam Ah Marble, Kimgres Marketing Sdn Bhd, Boon Seng Timber Flooring Sdn Bhd, GNG Distributors Sdn Bhd, Greenscape Sdn Bhd, Goodwood Builders
Metal elements & finishes: WT Aluminium Sdn Bhd, Golden Steel Global Sdn Bhd, KIJ Excellence Titanium Sdn Bhd, Pena Builders, Kimgres Marketing Sdn Bhd, Goodwood Builders
Ceiling fans: Khind Electrical/Rapid Ceiling
Paint: Nippon Paint
Laminate: Tak Products & Services Sdn Bhd
Custom furniture: Samson Hospitality, Pena Builders
Furniture: Qbrid Dsignhaus, Kian Interiors
Fabrics: Innovasia, Duralee, Tatum Malaysia, Sunbrella, Acacia, Hunter Douglas
Upholstered panels: Hufcor Maroshumi Sdn Bhd
Custom printed wallcovering: PPAsia Sdn Bhd
Sanitary fixtures & fittings from Kohler
Appliances: Samsung TVs, Nespresso coffee machines, Wellway mini fridges, Swissman safes & kettles, Homtime clocks.
Lighting: Light Craft, Pena Builders

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