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Windows on the Other Side of the World

Above Singapore, a bright reminder

September 11, 2002|RICHARD C. PADDOCK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SINGAPORE — Half a world away from New York City, on top of one of Asia's tallest buildings, a small piece of the World Trade Center lives on.

A restaurant complex called Equinox, designed with help from the same team that created Windows on the World in New York, opened here six weeks after the terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center a year ago.

Equinox, a 70-story elevator ride up, with two restaurants, two bars and four private dining rooms, commands stunning views of Singapore and glimpses of neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia. It is surrounded by the floor-to-ceiling windows that defined the New York restaurant; and like Windows, it is a destination for city dwellers and tourists alike, a place to take in a sweep of twinkling skyline and urban harbor.

The designers didn't set out to re-create Windows on the World. Equinox's owners play down comparisons between the New York and Singapore restaurants, but the original idea was to make Equinox an Asian echo of Windows.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 11, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 ..CF: Y 4 inches; 178 words Type of Material: Correction
Windows on the World photo--The photograph of Windows on the World in today's Food section is incorrectly credited to Associated Press. It was shot by Philip Greenberg.

To some who remember the New York complex, the resemblance is striking.

Len Pickell, president of the James Beard Foundation in New York, said he had "goose bumps the size of marbles" when he walked into Equinox in April.

"Going up the elevator, the doors popped open and there was Windows," he recalled. "I kind of froze there. It was a very eerie feeling--here's another one, so far away from New York."

Michael Ginor, an owner of the Hudson Valley Foie Gras purveyor in New York, said Equinox struck him as a next-generation Windows. "It definitely had similarities," he said. "But it seemed to be more modern than Windows, also more uber-designed and highly interior decorated."

The two restaurants shared the same design consultants--Joseph Baum & Michael Whiteman Co. in New York--and a similar concept. Both were multistory restaurant and bar complexes on top of tall buildings and commanding panoramic views. Both had the same goal of making the food the main attraction. But managers of the Singapore complex see more differences than similarities.

"Some of the same people worked on it, but this is a unique concept in itself," said Richard C. Helfer, chairman and chief executive of Raffles International Hotels & Resorts, which owns Equinox and the Raffles City complex where it's located. "It's a positive thing that part of Windows lives on, but it's not what we set out to do."

From New York, Michael Whiteman agreed: "It was not inspired by Windows but it has a lot in common. I think you could say there is some DNA relationship."

After Sept. 11, Equinox chose not to emphasize the ties between the two establishments. "They downplayed the connection between Windows and this restaurant," said Whiteman, referring to Equinox's owners. "Originally it had been part of the marketing idea," Whiteman said. "When the World Trade Center went down, they made the decision not to make that connection."

Equinox is designed to appeal primarily to Asian tastes. Although it is on top of the 1,200-room Swissotel The Stamford, it aims to cater to a clientele that is 80% Singaporean. "Singapore and New York are as different as cheese and chocolate," said Helfer, a Michigan native who has lived in Singapore for 16 years.

By and large, Singaporeans are more subdued than New Yorkers. Dissent is frowned upon, and Singaporeans keep their opinions to themselves. The city-state's government is so strict, it has banned the import of chewing gum and requires citizens to flush public toilets or face a fine. But Singaporeans are proud of the cleanliness and efficiency of their city.

The Equinox complex fits well in that setting. Visitors first arrive at the Introbar on the ground floor where they can have a drink before taking a 45-second ride to the 70th floor in an express elevator.

Customers can then choose among the showcase Equinox restaurant, the more upscale Jaan restaurant, the intimate City Space bar, or the more hip New Asia Bar & Grill. Before its destruction, the Windows complex included the showcase Windows on the World restaurant; Wild Blue, an upscale intimate restaurant of 60 seats; and the Greatest Bar on Earth, a sprawling room anchored by a showy circular bar.

The Equinox complex extends from the 68th to 72nd stories of the Stamford tower, one of the city's tallest buildings. Windows was on the 106th and 107th floors of the World Trade Center's north tower.

The Equinox decor includes such features as three-story teak and rice-paper lanterns inspired by Ming dynasty designs, Murano crystal from Venice hanging from the ceilings and what the owners call the largest mother-of-pearl wall in the world.

Windows was restrained in comparison, Whiteman said, an L-shaped room with a terraced floor designed to emphasize the view.

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