Although this groundbreaking 367-room hotel, designed by WOHA, a leading Singaporean and Australian-run architectural firm, is some five years old, the resurgent interest in sustainability has seen it enjoy a renewed and deserved relevance. Portrayed as the world's first "hotel in a garden", Parkroyal on Pickering was doubtless one of the first urban hotels to fully embrace and maintain environmentally friendly practices before so-called "green-washing" diminished travellers' faith in vaunted eco-tourism.
This 16-storey hotel, borrowing part of its name from Pickering Street, a main thoroughfare in Singapore's downtown, is conveniently located between Chinatown, the Central Business District and the Singapore River entertainment areas.
The 15,000 square metres of cooling greenery, constituting twice the total land area of Parkroyal on Pickering, encompasses 50 varieties of plants that swathe the hotel's concrete facade. They form the building's lush "skygardens", with the lavish vegetation complemented by reflecting pools and ornamental waterfalls. Level five of the hotel is dominated by an outdoor infinity pool overlooking the city skyline, cosy birdcage-like statement cabanas and a "garden walk".
My modern timber and stone-clad room, belonging to the deluxe category of up 32 square metres, is on the compact side but it's cleverly designed and laid-out, and well-appointed. In keeping with the hotel's eco-credentials, there are no plastic water bottles. Water is bottled in-house using a special purification system and there are separate bins for recyclable waste, an all-too-rare feature in hotels. Nor is there any plastic wrapping for items such as in-room slippers or even laundry deliveries. The room's floor-to-ceiling windows allow guests to enjoy the tropical foliage directly outside. But be sure to close your blinds if you want privacy as all of the greenery has to be watered regularly and tended to by the hotel's team of green thumbs (in case you forget, there's a prominent "gardeners spotted" warning sign in the room).
Half of the Parkroyal on Pickering's long and narrow lobby, with its towering ceilings, is dominated by Lime, the hotel's casual in-house restaurant that features Asian and Western dishes cooked and served from a trio of open kitchens. The restaurant operates on a fixed-price, all you can eat, buffet-style basis. It's a particularly good option if you've just flown in from a long-haul destination and fancy a no-fuss meal in the company of ravenous Singaporeans. Shark fin and shark-based products have been removed from Lime's menus in a partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Several of Singapore's leading attractions are nearby, including Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, as well as the popular waterfront restaurant and bar districts of Clarke Quay and Boat Quay along the Singapore River. Ann Siang Hill is home to more upscale bars and cafes, many of which operate from historic colonial-era shophouse-style buildings.
Despite its small size and large population, Singapore has successfully positioned itself as a true garden city – horizontally and vertically. Parkroyal on Pickering, a striking urban landmark in its own right, is one of the best exemplars of this city state's flower power, proof of how concrete and vegetation can spectacularly co-exist. The hotel is a fine model of sustainability that manages to remain a wholly enjoyable and inspiring hotel experience.
Doubles from $SGD350. Parkroyal on Pickering, 3 Upper Pickering Street, Singapore. See www.parkroyalhotels.com/pickering
The hotel's stylish, top-floor lounge, available to Orchid Club level guests, affords not only views of the city but also glimpses of the spectacular cascading greenery that envelopes the building.
Both the shower and toilet in deluxe rooms are behind peek-a-boo clear glass. Couples may wish to discover the sliding wood door separating the bathroom and bedroom.
Anthony Dennis stayed as a guest of Parkroyal on Pickering.