Digital-Savvy Hostel Coo Opens in Singapore

The humble hostel has seen an overhaul in recent years: newcomers to the genre are sexier, better designed, and with more amenities than ever before. Coo in Singapore channels all three factors, with a fourth for good measure: it lets its guests connect through a digital app, encouraging them to meet IRL and explore the city together—hit a museum, grab drinks, plan a day trip. “To millennials, traveling is no longer a leisure pursuit alone, but an opportunity to gain local insights,” explains Coo owner Silas Lee. “We wanted Coo to embody the convivial spirit of an old-fashioned backpackers community whilst harnessing the power of today’s digital landscape.”

Hunting for the right property, Lee happened upon a four-story building that had serendipitously been a hostel previously: The Plot, designed by Poole Associates and EK Architects. Much on the upper levels would be able to be reused, allowing the project to hit the market quickly. The upstairs guest floors already boasted a host of industrial chic elements, including Poole’s built-in bunk beds in dormitories, and bathrooms that would need little in the way of updating to bring on brand.

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Digitally printed wallpaper depicts modernist architecture, bird cages, and more. Photography by Edward Hendricks.

Ministry of Design was the firm tasked with instituting new design elements (both online and off), with the bulk of the budget spent on the ground level’s entry, reception, and bistro. An angular mesh screen defining the entry takes cues from the metal gates around the area’s housing estates, while the longitude and latitude coordinates of the hostel’s location, in Tiong Bahru, appear behind reception in cursive neon. The bar’s lighting fixture takes the shape of an abstracted map. “We wanted every part of the experience to tell a story of the neighborhood, but in a playful way,” explains MOD founder Colin Seah. The result is a brand with enough edge to entice your average millennial traveler. In fact, it has been such a hit there are plans to open no less than five additional outposts in the region within the next five years. Coo-coo-cool.

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