The demand for unique venues is nothing new, but recently it’s become a must-have with social media feeds hungry for anything new and exclusive—particularly anything not usually open to the public.
In CWT Meeting & Events' 2019 Future Trends Report, Tiina Muukari, global supplier management, Nordic Zone, CWT Meetings & Events, says: “Where venues are concerned, the more exclusive the better—either in the sense an attendee would not have the money to go there themselves, or they would not even have access to that venue. Customers are tired of conventional hotel rooms.”
And while this is pushing many traditional venues to reinvent their product offerings, cities too are realising the benefits of opening up once closely guarded spaces.
The 2018 Unique Venues Guide by the Kyoto Convention & Visitors Bureau features 41 incredible locations with 12 new additions—including Toji Temple, the list’s third UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Toji Temple is the only original remnant from the era when Kyoto was the ancient Heian capital. It was constructed at the city entrance alongside Rashomon Gate and Saiji (West) Temple, which burned down twice and was never rebuilt; and served as the official state temple when Kyoto became the capital of Japan.
It offers a truly memorable experience for events, with private areas opened including a garden for receptions of 150 guests, and a Japanese-style room seating 100.
Also of note is Minami-za Theatre, which reopened in November 2018 following a three-year program of anti-earthquake reinforcements. The 1,078-seat theatre is Japan’s oldest and is located in Shijo Kawaramachi where kabuki originated. Its gabled roof, traditional façade and red and gold interior warmly conjure its Edo-period beginnings––and
the 400 years of performances since.
We recommend using the Bureau as a liaison when considering these venues.
The term ‘heritage venue’ is no longer limited to picturesque temples and dynastic mansions. Former industrial sites like warehouses, factories and dockyards offer the perfect blank canvas, scale, ‘exclusivity’ and heavy goods vehicle access planners love.
Seoul’s lauded urban regeneration projects now include the Oil Tank Culture Park in Mapo-gu district, where planners have their choice of six large-scale former oil tanks and a huge green outdoor space ––the equivalent of 22 soccer pitches. The former grade-1 security facility had extremely limited public access until reopening last year as a popular site for festivals, markets and exhibitions.
The tanks vary in composition, some offer performance spaces or glass-ceilinged exhibition halls, while others offer conference rooms or stay true to their original form. Bookings can be made through Seoul Convention Bureau.
For football fans or groups who like to get active, the Park is a seven-minute walk from the World Cup Stadium Station. A walking trail winds up the slopes of Mt. Maebongsan, leading to a 93.9 metre-tall observation deck overlooking the World Cup Stadium and neighbourhoods.
Once earmarked for demolition, Hong Kong’s heritage buildings are now being repurposed with many original features being preserved. Enter The Mills, a sprawling former textile factory in Tsuen Wan that was once a hub for the territory’s fledgling apparel industry. Extensive work was done before its relaunch in December, but it is discreet or functional. While a new glass walkway connects the buildings to allow for year-round events, the main interiors have not been repainted and many original items remain such as the sand buckets that once held off the great enemy of textiles––fire.
The Mills offers several spaces for events including hands-on workshops, exhibitions and roof garden wellness. The three main pillars are Fabrica, a contemporary workspace and startup incubator for up to 131 people; CHAT, which hosts workshops and events; and The Shop Floor, a retail space with hands-on activities from tenants such as Koko coffee roasters, Tei Mou Koon desserts, Commune furniture and café, and upcycled fabrics retailer, Made in Sample.
There is also The Annex for 200 people, The Hall for up to 400, and The Park for outdoor events of up to 450. The main audiovisual equipment for events such as projectors, speakers, wireless mics, lighting and iPad control systems is on site, but planners are welcome to bring their own.
Down south, savvy Singapore planners are turning to the Singapore Land Authority’s new hashtag #SLAsecretspaces, which reveals an array of gorgeous heritage venues for events. Venues opened up include Old Changi Hospital, Dutch-gabled houses at Watten Estate Road, Sembawang Naval Base housing, and colonial-era 5 Kadayanallur Street, which contains Singapore’s oldest lift. Among the most impressive is Adam Park, a State Property and quiet 1920s estate featuring a cluster of stunning Black and White houses.
Adam Park was the scene of some of the last battles fought in the lead up to the Fall of Singapore in February 1942, and a POW camp for several months afterward. Five of the houses are more (though not fully) available, including no. 11, at which the POWs established a chapel.