Lights, cameras and Singaporean heritage came back to life when Capitol Theatre re-opened in May 2015. The rejuvenation and construction of this iconic area of conservation buildings – including Capitol Building and Stamford House – took S$750 million and over three years to complete, marking a massive step towards Singapore’s preservation and sustainability efforts. It also offered a burgeoning of lifestyle options in the heart of the city.
Capitol Theatre itself was built in 1929. The Grand Dame, as it was fondly known, was swiftly followed by Capitol Building in 1933. When the theatre first opened, it was one of the few air-conditioned theatres in operation in Singapore.
Stamford House was built much earlier in 1904, and clear differences can be seen when you compare the buildings’ architectural styles: Stamford House was built Venetian Renaissance style with keystone arches and ornate detailing, while Capitol Theatre has more neo-Classical influences, with its sculptures of winged horses and mosaic of zodiac signs.
Formerly home to a selection of offices and small boutiques, both buildings were closed for the extensive renovation work to take place.
The new development opened late last year, designed by architect, Richard Meier (who also designed the Getty Centre in Los Angeles). Re-launched as Capitol Piazza, the development is now home to not just the theatre but a wide selection of local and international brands and designers, backed up by bars and international dining establishments.
The blend of the modern and the historical is seamless – Capitol Piazza’s three main spaces (Galleria, Arcade and Neue) act as a link between past and present, allowing visitors to experience the best of both worlds in a boutique mall surrounding. As a one-stop lifestyle destination, it is unique and should be included on any exploratory shopping itinerary.
HIT THE CARTS AND SHOPS
Among Capitol Piazza’s 53 retail stores, there are some notable flagships including Finnish clothing label Marimekko and iconic British shoe label Dr Marten. Apart from stocking the widest selection of Dr Martens in Singapore, this store also hosts live music gigs, a tribute to the long relationship between the brand and emerging music trends in the UK. Also worth a visit is Manifesto, which carries over 60 brands of fashion, street wear and accessories. Most labels here are new to Singapore, with the team regularly refreshing the selection to keep things fresh. Accessories, gadgets and lifestyle items include a selection of Briston watches and Swim-Ology swimwear, sunglasses from Etnia Barcelona and shoes by Mus & Roew.
Other stores include fashion labels like G Star Raw (Holland) and local brands SabrinaGoh and Max.Tan. As you’d expect, there is a choice of luxury item brands like Cortina Watch, and Malaysian jeweller La Putri as well as lifestyle brands like Moleskine (Italy) and Villeroy and Boch (Germany).
Depending on the season, fairs are held at the development’s common spaces, like December 2015’s ‘A Glittering Christmas Fair’ held on the Outdoor Lawn — an affair replete with carolers, photo walls and stocking stuffers.
FROM CHOPSTICKS TO CRAFT BEERS
Established overseas restaurants like London’s Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant (known for their roast duck), French tearoom Angelina, and Taiwan’s Dazzling Café (known for their thick honey toast) have all opened their first Singapore locations at the Piazza. Of the 16 restaurants and cafes at Capitol Piazza, we’re most impressed by Ryu’s Dining and Bar and Tap Craft Beer Bar, both located on the ground floor. Order Ryu’s lunch-only okamochi chirashi (a beautiful bento served in a wooden carrier box), and then knock back a few pints opposite at Tap’s 20 draught craft beers.
It’s not just dining and retail therapy that’s available at Capitol Piazza, shoppers can get a beauty fix too. Begin at Simply Aesthetics, move on to Japanese salon, Branché Hair and Nail, and end with purchases at shops like Lancôme, Aesop, Aveda or Korean luxury skincare brand, Sulwhasoo. Men can stop for a shave or grooming session at London-founded Truefitt and Hill.
In the 1930s, Capitol Theatre was fitted with the latest theatre and cinema technology and sat 1,686 people in its auditorium. Today, it’s Southeast Asia’s biggest single-screen cinema with 977 seats, and can be transformed to host arts and film events too. The Golden Village-backed theatre opened with ‘Singapura: The Musical’ in May 2015, and screened ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and ‘Ip Man 3’ in January 2016. There have also been occasional free movie screenings on the outdoor terrace by the fountain, so keep your eyes peeled and you might get lucky.
One of the most anticipated openings of 2016 will be The Patina, a 157-room ‘six-star’ hotel located across both buildings. The beautifully designed guestrooms offer refined luxury in distinguished surrounds, with Aesop bath amenities, Nespresso machines, and books from luxury book craftsmen Assouline.
If you love the Capitol compound and its location so much, you can also own a piece of the residences via Eden Residences Capitol. There are only 39 apartment units available, so be prepared to dig fast and deep.
Compared to the mega malls at Orchard Road or Marina Bay Sands, Capitol Piazza offers a more manageable boutique lifestyle experience. With its well-curated choice of shops, bars and restaurants, set in beautifully renovated heritage buildings, it’s the ideal accompaniment to a visit to the new National Gallery nearby.
Who doesn’t love sizzling meat on a charcoal barbeque? The