07 November 2019

The Yangon Excelsior

“Just before I left Bangkok in 2016, I was spending a lot of time in Yangon, Myanmar, saving a property that might otherwise have become rubble. The Yangon Excelsior, a colonial building situated on a downtown site dating back to the 1870s, is one of many properties built between 1824-1948 when Burma was under British rule. In fact it’s widely believed that Myanmar’s former capital has the highest concentration of colonial buildings on the continent.  During Colonial times, it was owned by the British Steel Brothers. Over 4 inspiring years, I led the design team in reviving the old Post Office building, and creating The Yangon Excelsior – a 70 key boutique hotel inspired by its poetic past.”

“The streets of Downtown Yangon are lined by 100’s of colourful colonial-era buildings. These grand, crumbling buildings with ornately fenestrated, moss-dabbed, pastel façades are either empty and in despair or brimming with life, with locals enjoying their leafy balcony views and looking down at the street below lined with vendors in ankle-brushing skirts selling brass statues beneath their ground floor arches, and older gentlemen dragging heavy typewriters to the street from their dark corridors, tapping away on wobbly tables before rain blasts send them hurriedly back inside. Life is different here. Good different. Time moves at its own pace and if it wasn’t for the motorbikes and cars you could be fooled into thinking you’d stepped back into the Burma of 1824.”

“Renovating The Excelsior, on Sun Pat Street, was a process of discovery. The original steel works throughout the building had been covered up by layers upon layers during various renovations over the years. By the time our contractors arrived on site for the creation of the Yangon Excelsior, parts of the old renovations had already started to fall away, and throughout construction, we were uncovering old structures we didn’t even know existed. In celebration of times and trades past, we did not remove any of these structures – instead, we let them shine.  I will never forget my first visit to site in 2014. I was blown away by the beauty of natural light casting shadows on the old crumbling parquetry flooring from the original lift shaft shooting through the centre of the property, and the layering of so many renovations past peeling away to reveal a glimpse of old Yangon. With every corner turned, was insight into another persons life long ago in Burma.

Many of my core values surround the importance of collaborations and team work. My success at The Yangon Excelsior was amplified by the incredible Heritage Team, Architects, Project Management, Graphic Design Team, owner and operations teams I was fortunate to work beside and who have been gracious enough to keep me involved since I have moved to Australia, and of course, the incredibly talented designers working beside me in Bangkok who I continue to work with today, as part of DBQ.”

“Since the ribbon cutting of the Yangon Excelsior in 2018, we have been nominated for several prestigious awards. For me, the most satisfying is being listed by Conde Naste Traveller Peoples choice awards as one of the top 20 best hotels in Asia. Hospitality design is centred around the people who return to the property time and time again. To be nominated by the people is the biggest honour there is. Last Friday we were awarded the Myanmar National Real Estate Award for Best Restoration Heritage Building, and two weeks aga, a Blue Plaque from the Yangon Heritage Trust. We have been shortlisted by Property Guru for the Best Interior Hotel Design 2019 and Philippe and the incredible operations team have also been nominated for the Myanmar Responsible Tourism Award. ”

– Hayley Mitchell. Principal Director, Design BY QU

“Working with Hayley during this fantastic project and journey has been a real pleasure and very inspirational. To bring our grand vision to fruition, It took more than 2.5 years to restore and accomplish what was formerly the headquarters of the Steel Brothers company, and what is today a 5*boutique hotel in the heart of Yangon Heritage downtown. Hayley fully understood that we wanted to be part of, and to take part in, the conservation of heritage buildings for Yangon itself, and also for the benefit of future generations – keeping the spirit of the heritage building and bringing at the same time a touch of modernity and comfort. Feedback from our guests today is unanimous; The best urban design ever in the whole region. A perfect mix between colonial and modern elements. It is exquisite.”

– Philippe Arnaud, General Manager, The Yangon Excelsior


“I worked with Hayley on the Yangon Excelsior project starting in 2015. She was the Design Director for the hotel and I was managing the project for Archetype group. The design is very original, respecting the british colonial style of the building and, at the same time, very contemporary. The collaboration with Hayley was fantastic, she understood the clients requirements and the architecturally complex constraints, she has created an interior design concept so interesting and original. Her advice was always professional and heard by all. I worked with Hayley during 30 months to build the hotel with local and international contractors having all a great satisfaction to participate to this beautiful project. The result is amazing.”


– Denis Martin, Project Manager

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