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Ministry of Design
326 Jalan Penang, 10000 George Town, Malaysia
Project Year
Private Houses
CI&A Photography (Edward Hendricks); courtesy of Ministry of Design


Ministry of Design as Architects

Loke Thye Kee Residences is situated in the heart of Georgetown Penang, one of 5 Malaysian UNESCO world sites rich in heritage. MOD’s design draws inspiration from this heritage and specifically the historic Loke Thye Kee restaurant, its 100-year-old namesake and neighbor. Both the restaurant and the residences re developed by the same owner, 1919 Global Sdn Bhd. Harking back to the romance of the early 1900’s, Loke Thye Kee Residences recalls the spirit of a bygone era but adds its own contemporary twist to modernize the living experience. Colin Seah, Founder-Director explains: “I was very inspired by the romance of Penang in the 1900s, the mood and design of that bygone era was beguiling. We wanted to recall a similar charm in our design for the LTK Residences, but with an added contemporary twist that would modernise the experience and make it relevant for living today.”

Set in 5 pre-war shophouses characteristic of Georgetown, Loke Thye Kee Residences complements the Loke Thye Kee restaurant by providing 5 suites for both long and short-term guests. Designed amidst the footprint of the traditional shophouse courtyard and alleyway, each of the 5 suites is preluded by a lush garden forecourt and an intimate private balcony. The suites are furnished with soaring pitch roofs and all suites are well appointed with living areas and full facility pantry spaces.

The traditional meets the contemporary on several levels, from the materiality to the spatial experience. Traditional timber hardwood floors are contrasted with customized contemporary fixtures that are designed to appear as if levitating. The rough texture of the original brick walls are visually enlivened by hidden LED cove lighting and the typically enclosed vanity and wardrobe spaces are celebrated as transparent glass boxes which seamlessly extend into the rest of the room. Floor rugs, cushion fabrics and furniture pieces were chosen to reflect the central theme of adding a contemporary twist to the traditional. MOD also designed all the branding and in-room collateral in order to provide a holistic experience, ranging from a quirky pillow menu, to a food map navigating the area’s street food, the room service menu, TV menu etc. The artwork was specially commissioned for the project and it reflects the spirit of historic Penang framed in a modern way.

LOKE THYE KEE’S HISTORY The name Loke Thye Kee originated from a purpose built restaurant building during 1919 in George Town, Penang. Founded by brothers Loy Kok Boon and Loy Kok Dai, the restaurant served traditional Hainanese Chinese and Western Cuisine. For 80 years, Loke Thye Kee, which in Hainanese means 'House of Happiness', was the choice venue for birthday dinners and wedding parties. True to its name, it was also the venue for many match-making arrangements, where young potential brides-to-be would catch a first glimpse of their suitors. These notso- subtle arrangements would be sealed with a furtive glance and a sip of tea in a certain pre-arranged drinking style. Hence Loke Thye Kee is also affectionately known as the Love Boat, which also refers to its architecture.

Local businessman and philanthropist Khoo Sian Ewe was the original owner of the Loke Thye Keebuilding. Khoo was the richest land owner in Penang in the early 1900's and also the landlord and friend of the Loy family. So when they needed a new home for their restaurant, he built and rented to them the iconic ship-inspired building that remained its home until 1996. 1919 Global purchased both the Loke Thye Kee restaurant, and a series of 5 shophouses next to it, to convert those shophouses into Loke Thye Kee Residences.

ABOUT LOKE THYE KEE RESIDENCES The Loke Thye Kee Residences is housed in five turn-of-the-century shophouses. These are part of a cluster of pre-war heritage buildings abandoned for nearly 2 decades, after a redevelopment plan was scrapped following the Asian financial crises. The cluster includes the landmark Loke Thye Kee Building, designed by renowned early Straits-Chinese architect Chew Eng Eam and originally owned by Penang Pioneer Khoo Sian Ewe. The new owners have now began the process of restoring the cluster into the Loke Thye Kee Heritage Village, and bringing back life into the once bustling area. “We believe in “Living Heritage”, and as such, we focus on developing projects that are not just frozen in time, but can offer a glimpse into the past and still continue to build on the heritage of today and tomorrow”, said Mr Jonathan Foo, CEO and President of 1919 Global Sdn. Bhd.

To capture this vision, the developers engaged Singapore-based Ministry of Design as Design Architect and Interior Designer for the project. “MOD has a fantastic track record in designing new life into traditional old buildings, yet maintaining it heritage integrity. We believe that the team will help in our vision to revive this section of Georgetown”, said Mr Foo. MOD was also the design team behind Singapore’s The New Majestic Hotel and Penang’s Macalister Mansion projects. Both have won numerous international awards for design excellence. “I was very inspired by the romance of Penang in the 1900s, the mood and design of that bygone era was beguiling. we wanted to recall a similar charm in our design for the LTK Residences, but with an added contemporary twist that would modernise the experience and make it relevant for living today.”, said Colin Seah, Founder-Director of MOD.

To bring an additional local element into the suites, local Penang artist Ch’ng Kiah Kiean was commissioned to produce a series of 9 special pieces that captures the unique faces of some of Penang’s best know heritage buildings. The original art pieces are displayed prominently in each suite. The Loke Thye Kee Residences hopes to attract short to medium-stay visitors who want to have the experience of living in a hundred-year-old shophouse but not miss any modern comforts.

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