Women Now

How one woman transformed a 5-star hotel into an indoor garden paradise

The design manager Winnie Ip is breathing fresh life into the spanking new spaces at the hotel's new Tower Wing

Guests lounging in Shangri-la Hotel’s Tower Wing can be forgiven for thinking they hear birds chirping or the rustling of leaves – the revamped space is designed to bring the outdoors, indoors. From the 9m-high rock and vegetation feature wall, to the potted trees and black reflective pool, every element in the lobby is intended to elicit calm. The art, whimsical and nature-inspired, only enhances this effect.

The woman who commissioned the works is Winnie Ip, design manager of artwork for Shangri-la International Hotel Management. The Hong Kong based 29-year-old has had a hand in shaping the art at many Shangri-la properties, including at The Shard in London.

For the Singapore property, she travelled to Nagoya, Japan, to meet sculptor Hirotoshi Sawada, whose nature-inspired works can be found in ritzy digs such as Four Seasons, The Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental. His Tree Canopy, featuring thousands of fluttering leaves, each arranged to strategically reflect the light, today takes the place of the hotel’s grand chandeliers.

Of her journey to Sawada Studios in Japan to look at the local materials and study the craftsmanship, Ip says: “Artists appreciate that you do this before developing the artwork. I’ve learnt that if artists feel good, they will put in more effort, and deliver above your expectations.”.)

She describes her role as a bridge between artists and project teams. “Artists hate working with project managers, who just want to see results. They feel more comfortable communicating with someone who tries to understand their thoughts and inspirations.”

Her satisfaction comes from seeing guests take selfies with the art. “It’s hard to come up with something that everybody likes, but with the sharing culture now, I can get immediate feedback on Instagram on what guests have posted and whether they like it.”

Guests will no doubt snap photos of South Korean sculptor Yi Hwan Kwon’s Children Dabbling In The Water. Where Botero’s sculptures are bulbous and Giacometti’s emaciated, Yi’s are vertically crushed. The figures, one of which is shown emerging from the reflective pool, inject the space with playful elan.

Of the outdoor concept in the indoor lobby, Ip says: “It’s not something super contemporary that will get dated in five years. Nature is something that will not get dated.”

PHOTOGRAPHY Frenchescar Lim
ART DIRECTION Jean Yap

This article was first published in The Peak Singapore July 2017

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