You either love or hate it – being jailed might be one of the most escapist experiences in your life – if the ‘jail’ happens to be a converted five-star hotel.

Malmaison Hotel in Oxford, United Kingdom, touts itself jokingly as ‘Better than your average prison’. Formerly a prison before it was closed for redevelopment in 1996, the luxurious hotel is part of a shopping and heritage complex located in the heart of Oxford city centre. It is within a few minutes’ walk from the most happening area in town where live performances, museums, bars and restaurants can be found aplenty.

Three jail cells complete with barred windows and iron doors are converted into one richly appointed room while the areas used for corporal or capital punishment are converted into offices. The 95-room hotel is a popular birthday and wedding venue.

We caught up with property consultant Dato’ Sri Gavin Tee who checked in at Malmaison Hotel during his 2016 Christmas break.[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”show” ihc_mb_who=”1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8″ ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]

APR: What motivated you to stay in a former prison cell? Did you have any reservations initially?

GT: Asians tend to feel a bit reserved staying in such places. In Asia, most of such buildings are demolished and rebuilt. But I feel any part of life is part of history or art and when we preserve it, we or future generations can appreciate it. The hotel has been renovated yet it doesn’t lose its character, thus preserving its heritage.

APR: So, you are very much in favour of converting prisons into hotels?

GT: Yes. In the past, due to slower transportation, many buildings including prisons were located in the town centre. As towns expand, some of these buildings are abandoned or neglected. It’s such a waste, so it’s better to repurpose it while retaining its character. It’s a challenge but it would be a good architectural achievement if this can be done.

Converting a prison to a hotel is very challenging because you are trying to change a building with extreme restrictive movement to one that has a lot of freedom of movement. Governments should maintain or convert prisons to museums or hotels.

APR: How would you describe your stay?

GT: This hotel has done a good job converting from a prison – you feel very comfortable and not at all negative. We stayed at the former officers’ quarters, so the space is the biggest. Of course, due to the prison structure, there are narrow corridors and walkways, and low ceilings which may make you feel a bit claustrophobic. But it’s all part of the charm and character of the place. It’s very atmospheric – you feel a sense of history. I would say it’s a worthwhile experience.

APR: How was the treatment or service and the food?

GT: The service and food were good – typical of a five star hotel.

APR: Did you at any time feel like you want to escape?

GT: Who wants to escape? It would be a crime!


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