5 Minutes With Hotelier Josh Hu

The founder and developer of four-month-old Hotel Soloha wants people to know that Singapore is more than just about good food and Singlish.

5 Minutes With Hotelier Josh Hu

By partnering with other signature stops in the Keong Saik vicinity like Apiary and Keong Saik Bakery, Josh Hu wants to encourage guests to go beyond staid tourist hotspots and discover what Singapore is really like.

Hu hails from the Aw & Sons Group, the property developer behind projects such as Nassimville, Jervois Mansions and The Offshore. He spearheads its first foray into hospitality. “I wanted to pay tribute to the tastefulness and chic modernism of Keong Saik Road by merging new and old elements of our heritage,” says the 37-year-old.

So in conceiving Hotel Soloha, Hu drew on the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an aesthetic characterised by a sense of asymmetry, roughness and character. Fitting this brave new identity into a conserved shophouse was challenging, to say the least. Rip out original cladding? Replace the original friezes? Forget about it. 

But Hu took it all in his stride. Guests are greeted at the lobby by a staggering wall mural of vibrant tropicana by local artist Ethrisha Liaw, replete with pop gradients and uncanny visual textures.

You can’t miss the sensual undertones: as sunbathers lounge on an azure bed of velvet, leopards eye them through palm trees and neon signs. That it is an incredibly Instagrammable space is purely incidental.

Even our ride up in the lift proves a visual treat. A 13-m high artwork — painted in the elevator shaft by artist Danielle Tay — whisks guests away into a mystical forest, with peacocks perched on pineapples and all.

That ethos extends to the hotel’s exterior. Hotel Soloha is topped with a distinctive tiled jack roof, which has great kerb appeal, but proved to be awkward and unwieldy where building chic hotel rooms was concerned. 

So instead of sectioning off the pitched roof area, Hu incorporated it into a set of lofts, with windows providing a lovely dose of sunlight and viewpoint for guests. It’s all part of his efforts to offer travellers an insight into what Singapore is all about.

“Travellers have become more discerning,” Hu shares. “Rooms might be getting smaller but the hotel remains an important part of their overall experience of a destination.”

This story first appeared in the December 2019 issue of A.