Xizhi Wang from Element checks in at 1880 in Singapore to discover a members’ club where work and life come together seamlessly, and both tracks can be pursued simultaneously.
The Gallery: The backbone from which different parts of the club radiate
Picture this : you start the day at 7am with a high intensity training class by the Singapore River, knock back a cold-pressed juice followed by a cold shower and you are at your desk by 9am sharp. You hustle away at your laptop, setting the day’s agenda and clearing emails right before an 11am meeting. At noon, you dig into a delicious superfood salad while nursing a cobbler and squeeze in a quick massage before catching up with two clients.
The Kaleidoscope: the entrance to 1880
Welcome to 1880, the first members’ club in Singapore that combines a co-working space with a social club in one. Located at Robertson Quay, it is the brainchild of founder Marc Nicholson and CEO Luke Jones.
I have been told members looking to experience 1880 as a place where work and life balance perfectly can, for a fee, rent a desk at its co-working space, Bardo. Bardo is the Tibetan word for “an intermediate state”, implying a clean slate and clarity of mind, free of external influence. The idea that one can marry both work and leisure pursuits in the same space, traversing from one to another and back again seamlessly with relative ease, and bidding goodbye to the compartmentalisation of work and living, is seriously a real draw.
Geologic: 1880’s reception desk
Members’ clubs are not new in Singapore but few match 1880 in the style stakes. Designer Timothy Oulton has created a space that is big on design and inspires conversations which, hopefully, will bring positive change to society. Grand entrances don’t get better than this: step into The Kaleidoscope, an ultra-glamorous tunnel enveloping the escalator, and arrive at a set of doors that open counterintuitively – clearly only for those in the know, I realised.
Resting my palms on the reception desk Geologic, I had hoped that this piece of natural crystal, all of 1.5 tonne, from Madagascar will give me that sense of peace. Word has it that there are two other pieces in the world, both residing in Robert Downey Jr’s home.
Craftsmanship, detailing and natural materials are the hallmarks of Timothy Oulton’s designs. Consider how, at the entrance to Bardo, Timothy has placed a pair of well-crafted cylindrical 2.5m-tall phone booths, externally clad with spitfire aluminium and upholstered with Chinese silk on the inside are equal parts ingenuity and beautiful design.
Bardo (Credit: Colossal Photos)
The attention to detail is impressive to say the least. Custom-made for Bardo are sleek desks in aluminium with a strip of black leather down the middle and open to reveal storage space and electric sockets. To ensure that members can work effectively on the 9m-long hot desk, essentially a reclaimed salvaged beam, a leather workstation placemat forms the base so wrists, watches and sleeves are well-rested as one types away on the laptop.
Teapot Bar at Members’ Lounge
Over at the Members’ Lounge, even tables and bars are not spared from accents, I am pleased to report. The Singapore Map Table features a map obtained from the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Concept Plan 2011 of what Singapore will look like in the future, made from brass inlaid onto black marble. Timothy loves collecting curios, antiques and treasured objects with a past life so it’s no surprise that he has left his mark on the side of the Teapot Bar with 360 vintage teapots from his collections.
Leonie’s: all-day dining restaurant
To shape the well-designed club as the perfect place to mesh work together with dialogue and relaxation, 1880 enlisted the help of Executive Chef Colin Buchan and Head Bartender Rusty Cerven to manage the food and cocktail program respectively.
Chef Colin, prior to his stint at Pollen, has worked for culinary greats such as Gordon Ramsay, Jason Atherton, Angela Hartnett, and has had stints at several Michelin-starred establishments. His approach is to create food that members can return regularly for – dishes that are casual, elegant, approachable, affordable and reflective of the club’s global membership mix. 1880 uses quality produce, home-made ingredients and even ones from local urban farms; techniques such as pickling and fermenting produce dishes that are healthy but also delicious. If you love sharing, as we do, you will like the Whole Roasted Fish of the Day at 1880’s all-day dining restaurant Leonie’s.
The Double: cafe by day and bar by night
Head Bartender Rusty parlays his experience at The Connaught Bar in London into creating a broad-based cocktail program that manages to showcase innovation as well as maintain a connection to the kitchen. Cocktails at The Double, cafe by day and bar by night, are inspired by British colonial cocktail culture in the Far East during the 19th century. Over at the Members’ Lounge, cocktails such as the Meadow, a motley combo of Gin Mare, lemongrass, pandan, yuzu and carbonated Ceylon Souchong, express keen appreciation for flavours reserved usually for chefs.
Mei: 1880’s spa and wellness heart
In a club this beautiful, looking good doesn’t take a backseat either. I have my sights set on the sturdy and handsome barber chairs from where I will get a trim or a scalp treatment. It’s no accident that 1880 has an area dedicated in the spa, Mei, dedicated to men – Marc was responsible for bringing the luxury brand Truefitt and Hill to Singapore in 2013. Wellness Director Sophie Fitsall has a lot more planned for this space named after the Chinese word for ‘beautiful’: regular fitness classes, special wellness events and a comprehensive menu of pampering services. It is a refreshing change from too many hours spent on weights.
The Studio (multi-purpose space)
1880 is a space to decompress, a space for inspiration, and a space to regenerate. It is designed to feel like home, but also outperforms home by bringing together the facilities that provide opportunities for dialogue, work and relaxation.
Members get to bring up to 3 guests to the club at any one time so you have the opportunity to entertain clients, particularly potentials you have been courting for a while.
For married couples who join 1880, the spouse gets to have his or her joining fee waived. It is a pleasant surprise that this club has extended the same benefit to same-gender couples – the only condition is that they live together.
1880’s joining fee is S$5000 for a single member and S$7000 for couples; the monthly fee is S$180. For more information, please visit www.1880.com.sg
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