Ming Court Hotel

Text by Eugene Tan

In anticipation of a tourist boom that would be brought about by the opening of the "Bali runway", the proliferation of jumbo jets, and the growing prosperity of Singapore's neighbours, hotels such as the 'Ming Court' were planned and expedited.

Ming Court Hotel in the 1970s (Photo source: Singapore Institute of Architects)

At international conferences such as the 39th congress of the American Society of Travel Agents in 1969, representatives from around the globe were exposed to the developments in Singapore that would transform it into a significant tourist destination. One such development, the Ming Court Hotel, was intended to provide first-class hotel rooms. The belief in the success of Ming Court was perhaps evinced in the government's unprecedented S$7.5 million joint investment with Town and City Properties Ltd. To ensure a measure of quality, experienced hotel staff from Goodwood Park Hotel and Hotel Malaysia were brought on board to assist and advise on the planning and running of Ming Court, which was completed in 1970 at a cost of S$15 million.

Despite the uncertain economic climate and stifling building regulations which subjected the project to many changes at both the design and construction stages, the consultants and builders were still able to develop special concrete floor planks that sped up the rate of construction. Significantly, it was the first time pre-cast units were incorporated into a local construction project.

Ming Court Hotel rooftop swimming pool

Though not visibly obvious, the building straddles across a 40 ft monsoon drain running through the middle of the site. Together with road improvement requirements and building lines, very little of the original site was left to build on. A complete deck on top of the 4-storey podium was therefore created to provide residents relief from the hard paved areas surrounding the building and the incessant traffic along the trunk road that fronts it. The deck is complete with a swimming pool, sauna and health club facilities.

A glass domed court piercing the centre of the podium provides a window to the sky for the function rooms and restaurants that surround it. There were special sections featuring several countries in Asia, including Japanese tea-gardens with genuine geisha girls and a Polynesian restaurant.

Ming Court Hotel internal courtyard

This medium-sized 18-storey hotel contained 340 air-conditioned rooms with special rooms for meetings, conferences, banquets and other social functions. There was a sidewalk cafe as well as a mini-arcade of shops on the ground floor.

Ming Court Hotel main lobby

The building is a reinforced concrete structure capped with a metal-clad roof supported by steel trusses. External finishes in shades of brown and ochre combined with the tinted glass windows and outstanding roof form give the hotel a distinctive 'Oriental' character.

David Bowie at Ming Court Hotel Singapore

It was this distinctive character that David Bowie noted during his famous visit to Singapore in 1983 while filming Ricochet. He stated: When I move into my suite at the Ming Court Hotel, the little Malay porter indicates the three-tone carpet, the ten-channel T.V. He is bursting with pride about the bathrooms but is visually awed by the three hundred square feet of personal freedom. He paces the room from wall to wall. “So much space,” he sighs.

In 1987, the hotel was acquired by the Far East Organization and in 1991, it was renamed Orchard Parade Hotel.