in Final Project, Process, Research

Singapore Architecture

The information below are extracted directly from ‘Singapore Architecture’ by Robert Powell. Only relevant information will be written and it will be paraphrased and be included in my final report.

Book: Singapore Architecture

Author: Robert Powell

Publisher: Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd in 2004

Purpose of this book: This book explains the history the different buildings that I will be researching on mainly, Golden Mile Complex, Pearl Bank Apartments, People’s Park Complex. These buildings will be up for en bloc and I want to find out the background on these buildings.

History of Singapore urban planning

Singapore became an independent nation in 1965. Lee kuan Yew was the first elected Prime Minister of the city-state, and imposed a unique style of paternalistic socialism. The Government’s Home Ownership Scheme was introduced, and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) set about a massive housing programme which transformed the country with the establishment of new towns. Today almost 90 percent of the Singapore population lives in high-rise public housing designed by the HDB. 

In the ten years after independence, the embryonic Singapore architectural profession was beginning to make headway and a strong portfolio of experimental architecture was emerging, driven by the enthusiasm of a small number of dedicated young architects.

The first cohort of architectural students from the Singapore Polytechnic School of Architecture graduated in 1964. They too were inspired by the idealism, and the radical mood of the time.

Golden Mile Complex

Image from The Straits Times; Gavin Foo (

Woh Hup Complex, built in 1974, later renamed as Golden Mile Complex, in Beach Road. This building was influenced by the Brutalist style of Peter and Alison Smithson, the interlocking geometries in the work of Alfred Neumann and by Fumihiko Maki’s work on Collective Form. The lower floors contain offices and a retail mall. The design was intended to set the urban pattern for the development of Beach Road by employing an extruded section that would stretch along the East Coast facing the sea, serviced from the rear with a Mass Rapid Transit line and a continuous pedestrian spine. The design was influenced by the Linear City concepts of Le Corbusier and Soria y Mata. The Golden Mile Complex preceded by several years avant-garde stepped-section buildings which were built in the UK and Europe.

Pearl Bank Apartments

Image from

Pearl Bank Apartments, built in 1976, is a 37-story tower, experimental project done by Archynamics Architects/Archurban Architects Planners, headed by designer, Tan Cheng Siong. At the time it was the tallest residential block in Singapore and had the largest number of apartments contained in a single block. The structural concept utilized 10 radiating shear walls as party walls. Designed for a total occupancy of 1500 persons, it also had the higest density of any private modern residential block (1,853 persons/ha). The apartments varied from one to four bedrooms and there were right penthouses. The 28th floor was allocated for community use.

People’s Park Complex

Image from

Built from 1970 to 1973 and designed by Design Architect, the People’s Park Complex is a huge mixed-use of its type in the Southeast Asia, challenging the idea of single-use zoning; the focus was two multi-story interlocking atriums.


The information below are extracted directly from ‘Singapore 1:1 – City’ by Dr. Wong Yunn Chii. Only relevant information will be written and it will be paraphrased and be included in my final report.

Book: Singapore 1:1 – City

Author: Dr. Wong Yunn Chii

Publisher: Urban Redevelopment Authority in November 2007

Purpose of this book: This book explains the history the different buildings that I will be researching on mainly, Golden Mile Complex, Pearl Bank Apartments, People’s Park Complex. These buildings will be up for en bloc and I want to find out the background on these buildings.

Architecture, as both a cultural artifice and a concept, is fundamentally a product of a city. Singapore architecture, in the first decade of the nation (1965-1975), could arguably be the architecture of its city, and as such, our beginnings as a nation can be understood through out urban architecture.

Essay: Value of Architecture by Tai Lee Siang, President of Singapore Institute of Architects

Role of Architecture

It is such lack of creativity, understanding and knowledge that plague the appreciation of architecture and its role in society. One may ask, is there architecture beyond icons and landmarks? Today, commercial capitalism has taken over the role of producing modern landmarks. Yet, the disparity between great icons and the rest continues to exist in many cities. Architecture may still remain meaningless and irrelevant to most people.

It is commonly agreed today that Singapore is a beautiful city. However, this beauty seems to be associated more with the physical transformation in the last 30 years. This inevitably inculcates an attitude that only the “newest” part of the city is beautiful and the rest is not. This will also lead to a tendency to reject the old and embrace the new even as we step into the future.

Not satisfied with just mimicking the old tropical architecture of colonial past and inspired by the new confidence and optimism of the nation, these early practitioners sought to transfer the architecture landscape by addressing urban, social and architectural issues. The result is a whole series of architecture that is sometimes ‘utopian’. The great examples are the Golden Mile Complex, Pearl’s Hill Apartments and People’s Park Complex. These buildings are often not beautiful by today’s aesthetics standards but they were giants in their times. More importantly, these buildings are life documentary of a generation architects’ struggle to cope with economic constraints and the desire to make useful contributions to a budding nation. 

We always have a beautiful city even from day one. Though we suffered from un-coordinated growth and the world wars, we bounce back with an even more beautiful city. Our city, like its occupants, celebrates life and death. It grew, deteriorated, died and regenerates itself. This is the law of nature. En-bloc redevelopment is part and parcel of this urban phenomenon. Taken in the right spirit, en-bloc redevelopment is positive demonstration of the desire for change for the better.

Such rapid urban renewal is a reflection of a people not satisfied with their origins and is always seeking opportunities for growth and changes. People in these societies can never easily come to terms with their past but always yearning for the future. However, a successful mature city is one that started with good urban and social foundations, mature through ages and totally secured in its own destiny. People must learn to treasure their history and heritage. Changes for future must be moderated with a view to saving our past and strengthening our identity.

Rapid urbanisation continues to pose a threat over the fate of good buildings erected in the last 30 odd years. If left unchecked, there will be little that one can do to keep the identity of young cities like ours. Singapore’s situation is not unique and there are worst examples where even older heritage buildings are not spared the demolition ball. The question is: Can Singapore stand out to be an example of successful integration of the old and new without compromising other social and political agenda?

The question is: Can Singapore stand out to be an example of successful integration of the old and new without compromising other social and political agenda?

The society must collectively agree that we don’t need to demolish everything that is old – “a kind of architecture euthanasia“. We must agree collectively to find solutions to met the various demands such as commercial needs without losing the heritage.

Pearl Banks Apartment

The distinctive 38-story shorse-shaped private apartment block at Outram incorporates a multitude of design strategies that gives it a characteristics expression and offers a unique living experience. 

Completed in 1976, it was then the tallest residential building in Singapore, and one with the highest density for a private residential development. The 272-unit apartment block comprises three types of split-level units – two bedroom (130 sq meters), three-bedroom (176.5 sq metres) and four-bedroom (213.7 sq metres) dwellings, with eight units to each floor – and an additional eight penthouses. A shopping area on the first story and a four-story carpark complete the development. 

The effect of the split level approach in spatial planning is organically expressed as facet of the building. Each unit is further zoned into ‘public’ and ‘private’ areas to offer maximum exclusivity and views to the occupants. The utilities and service areas are located at the ‘rear’ of the apartments, overlooking the central courtyard, to avoid any obstruction of view. The opening in the circular structure faces west and minimises direct penetration of heat and light from the afternoon sun into the building. Meanwhile, the silts in the circular slab allow for effective ventilation into the internal courtyard.

The structure comprises ten radiating sheer walls, which also serve as party walls between the units. These elements, along with the additional structural columns and lift cores, follow the radial form of the building and ensure a tidy facade.

Pearl Bank Apartments is one of the pioneers of luxury, high-rise, high-density living in Singapore, setting the standards in subsequent condominiums for the provision of communal amenities, such as common areas, swimming pools, clubhouses, etc.

People’s Park Complex

People’s Park Complex can lay claim to being a significant Asian modernist structure. As the nation’s earliest prototype of an instant city, it was designed to revitalise one of the most populated and traditional enclaves in post-enclaves in post-independent Singapore. 

People’s Park Complex was the highest bid in an early Government Land Sales programme. Completed in 1973, it occupied 1.0 hectare in the heart of Chinatown and was the largest shopping complex in the shopping cum commercial belt running along Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road. 

People’s Park Complex was envisioned as “a new nucleus within the whole fabric of the city core”. Its success can be attributed to several factors. Being a “people’s shopping centre”, the complex is strategically located one of the most populous areas in the city. The high amount of human traffic ensures a continuous stream of potential customers at all times The animated retail spaces convey a bazaar-like atmosphere that vividly recalls the “People’s Park” moniker. This bustling quality is clearest on the first-story, where a large number of “turn-over shops” and kiosks encourage intimate browsing along the pedestrian concourse. The large internal atrium, the first of its kind in Singapore, also transforms People’s Park Complex into a popular “city room”. The complex layering of space created by the tiered floor planes and dramatic staircases leading upwards from the first story is a favourite area for people who want to watch and be seen. All these features have re-established the patterns of movement around the site to effectively invigorate the building.

The residential block above the podium represents a new type of urban community. A development of the Corbusian ideal, its 25 levels have been nicknamed “streets in the air”. They offer convenient spots for social interaction and intermingling. The roof-level common area contained shared facilities, like a creche and open-air play space, to enliven the spirit of communal living. 

The original exterior finish of People’s Park Complex was exposed raw concrete, in keeping with the ‘Brutalist” architectural style. This design language is also manifested in the strong articulation of the tower and podium, and the circular portholes topping off the residential tower.

As an urban prototype, People’s Park Complex provides an important reference for subsequent shopping centers in Singapore. Its “under-one-roof shopping” model also showcases how huge retail-residential spaces can be managed and influenced the design of many shopping centres throughout the region. 

Golden Mile Complex

The 16-story Golden Mile Complex provides offices, shopping, entertainment services and apartment living within its podium and stepped terrace structure. Golden Mile Complex is an early manifestation of integrating multiple operations into one mixed-use complex. 

Golden Mile Complex is an exemplary type of “megastructure” describe by architectural historian, Reyner Banham. It is one of the few that have been actually realised in the world. It successfully propagates high-density usage and diversity under a broad range of ideas advanced by the Japanese Metabolist movement. This ‘vertical city’ stands in contrast to homogenised cities where functional zoning restrains all signs of the latter’s vitality. 

Conceived as a prototypical environment of life and lights, the Golden Mile Complex catalysed urban development along Beach Road when first built. Such a “city corridor” was envisaged as a new high-intensity Asian urbanism aligning with the linear city model originally proposed by Le Corbusier and Soria y Mata.

The narrowness of this sloping slab form enhances natural ventilation and shades a lofty communal concourse above the podium along Beach Road. Staggered atria for offices and shops allow natural light into the heart of the building. Two-story maisonnette penthouses crown off the building, and all apartments have balconies and full view of the city’s waterfront. the stepped terrace design also reduces the impact of noise from the road traffic. 

Golden Mile Complex is clearly a pioneer of its time – in adopting a mixed-use typology, it serves as a precedent for ambitiously attempting to create within a complex, elements that would support the idea of a revitalised city.