A Classic Grand Hotel


Photo by Antonius Widjaya

It is difficult to find a well-designed hotel from the 1990s that still has all its glory today. The grand style - with high ceilings, pillars, a classic colour palette in off-white or beige and black and neutral Japanese-inspired spaces that ooze a spirit of minimalism - are some of the hallmarks of the period.

Open for over 20 years, the JW Marriott Surabaya was designed by the renowned late Jackson Wong, from Wong and Ouyang LTD in Hong Kong. Famous for projects such as the Pacific Place complex; malls; offices; hotels such at the Conrad, Shangri-La, and JW Marriott Hong Kong; Times Square Hong Kong in Causeway Bay; the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and Elements at Kowloon Station; the firm is without a doubt one of the most notable in Hong Kong.

For the JW Marriott Surabaya, Wong devised a modern tower design that was inspired by two intertwined hands. Unfortunately, Wong died in 1993, just after completing the schematic designs, and so did not get to see the finished product he envisioned.

The grandeur of the JW Marriott Surabaya can be seen in its classic approach, which is based on order, symmetry and balance. A primary element of classical style is the use of a focal point around which visual balance is achieved. In the lobby, a wall fountain features a metal sculpture of a traditional phinisi boat on the beach of a tropical island as its focus. A high ceiling with colossal columns reflects the Greek and Roman influences that show the classical style en vogue at the time.

In the spacious lobby entrance, the layout is divided into a lounge and bar; all-day dining; a common area with gift shops, the reception area, a deli shop, a mezzanine featuring the Tang Palace Chinese restaurant, the Imari Japanese restaurant and the Vis A Vis French restaurant, and access to the ballroom.

The all-day dining restaurant, known as The Pavilion, has an interesting concept, recreating indoors an outdoor European- style pavilion. With the sculptures of European goddesses as the focal point, this beautiful area has garden seating indulging in the saturated hunter-green hues that were a popular colour in the 1990s.

Renowned interior designers Bent Severin & Associates, who also did the Raffles Singapore and the Peninsula in Hong Kong, were the behind the initial ambience of the JW Marriott Surabaya. The interior the firm developed reflected on classic American style, with bold red, blue and yellow tones combined with with wooden material with black tiles accentuated by subtle gold touches from hanging brass lamps. After 20 years, the hotel had its first refurbishment when Singapore-based designer Mink Tan of Minkke Architects was appointed to give a new contemporary approach. New colours, such as purple and white in floral patterns, were added to the lounge and bar area, making it more appealing and up to date.

The renovation extended to all the hotel's 400+ rooms, which have been divided into deluxe premium rooms, executive deluxe rooms, studios, executive studios and to one-bedroom suites. Following the trend in the 1990s, the rooms were spacious and elegantly furnished. Ranging from 42 sqm to 128 sqm, the rooms had their design renovated with a clean-cut contemporary European classic theme, featuring hues of light gray and purple with a white background to give an elegant nuance. The white scheme continues to the bathroom, where the dominance of marble as its main material is apparent. It is interesting to see how Mink Tan managed to give a new design breath to the rooms that was still cohesive with the existing overall design.

The continuation of Mink Tan's colour scheme in white, light grey, black and purple can be seen as well at the hotel's Executive Lounge on the 21st floor. This new combination not only gives the right contrast, but also a sophisticated feel that is adorned by a beautiful city view of Surabaya.

Following the trend of grand hotels in the 1990s, the pool area was also one of the important areas that received its own design planning. At the JW Marriott Surabaya, the pool layout and landscape design adopted a Balinese style, complete with coconut trees, sand and a spacious manicured lawn. Decorated with an irregularly shaped swimming pool as its centrepiece, the area can also be used as a function venue for an alfresco event.

In the world where many grand hotel designs from the 1990s have been disappearing and replaced, the JW Marriott Surabaya remains, maintaining this classic design as its forte. It is a bold yet refreshing move, as it is quite exceptional to find exemplars of such beautiful classic design as this hotel.

Project Data

Company Name
Pt. Ramasari Surya Persada

Number of Rooms
412 rooms, suites and apartments

Room sizes
Deluxe room (42 sqm)
Studio (48 sqm)
One-bedroom Suites (86 sqm)
Two-bedroom Suites (128 sqm), Chairman Suite (341 sqm)
Presidential Suite (390 sqm)

Site Area
9,980 sqm

Total Floors

Architecture Consultant
Wong & Ouyang Ltd

Principal Designer
Jackson Wong

Interior Design Consultant
Bent Severin & Associates Pte Ltd

Civil & Structural Consultant
Benjamin Gideon Associates

Interior Design Consultant for refurbishment of
Lobby Lounge, Executive Lounge and Guest Rooms
Minkke Architects Pte Ltd

Principal Designer
Mink Tan

Landscape Consultant
Belt Collins International

Main Contractor

Interior Contractor (for refurbishment)
Pt Ghena Abadi

June 1996
JW Marriott Hotel Surabaya
Jalan Embong Malang No. 85-89
Surabaya 60261, Indonesia
T +62 31 545 8888

Like this story, share to your friends
Erza S.T.
Erza has pursued his great passion for opera and classical music for over a decade. His brainchild, the Indonesia Opera Society, has produced many classical music concerts and operas, and recently marked its 10th anniversary with a gala production. He is also a journalism lover focusing on luxury, lifestyle and travel stories, which he files from datelines around the globe.

Related Stories