TOP 13 ARCHITECTURE HIGHLIGHTS

Emerald Hill Road terrace houses are a stunning example of Singapore's architecture
Emerald Hill Road terrace houses … beautifully restored

By LINDA JAMES | Updated MARCH 25, 2022 | SEE & DO

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Singapore has some impressive architecture – both traditional and contemporary – that reflects a variety of influences and styles from different places and times. While there are many famous architectural examples such as Marina Bay Sands, the ArtScience Museum and Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, I’ve chosen 13 others that reflect the city’s diversity and history. These include the eclectic Peranakan shophouses with their bright colours and intricate tile work, the neo-classical Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall and the more contemporary Supreme Court.

City Gallery

This three-storey visitor centre in Chinatown tells the story of the city’s urban transformation from humble trading port to metropolis. It has a massive architectural model replica of Singapore’s Central Area, complete with light and sound, as well as various audiovisual interactive exhibits such as the 270-degree panoramic show that depicts scenes of daily life.

There are also displays charting Singapore’s conservation efforts as well as plans for the future.

Address: 45 Maxwell Rd
Open: Daily 9am-5pm, closed Sunday
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Tanjong Pagar MRT (EW15), take Exit B, 7 min walk, Telok Ayer MRT (DT18), 10 min walk; buses – 10,143,568,655,80,97E
More information: https://www.ura.gov.sg/Corporate/Singapore-City-Gallery

City Hall

This national monument, in front of the historical Padang and near the Supreme Court building, was gazetted in 1992 and is one of the key historical sites in Singapore. It was built on a solid plinth and has grand stairway that takes visitors from the Corinthian colonnade to the main building.

Italian architect and sculptor Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli was commissioned to supply the gigantic columns and granolithic stone cladding.

The building combines both Neoclassical and Modernist architectural elements in its design. Its symmetrical faux stone façade, colonnade, and entablature conceals a steel structure.

It began life as the Municipal Building in 1929 and was part of Singapore’s seafront Neoclassical façade, reflecting the prowess and might of the British Empire.

During World War II, the Municipal Building sheltered people from the Japanese air raids and became the headquarters of the occupying forces after the fall of Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February, 1942. This was also where the Japanese gathered Allied prisoners-of-war and marched them to the infamous camp in Changi.

Somewhat fittingly, though, it was also here that the Supreme Commander of the Southeast Asian Command Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten accepted the surrender from General Seishiro Itagaki on 12 September, 1945 after which there was a huge victory parade on the Padang in front.

It was renamed City Hall when King George VI granted city status to Singapore in 1951. On 16 September, 1963, prime minister Lee Kuan Yew read the Proclamation of Malaysia from its steps, announcing the end of colonial rule and the formation of the Federation of Malaysia with Singapore as a member state. After Singapore gained independence on 9 August, 1965, the building housed the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Culture, and offices of the Judiciary.

Today, the City Hall and the old Supreme Court house the National Gallery of Singapore.

Address: 1 St Andrews Rd
Open: 24 hours to view exterior
Cost: Free
Getting there: near City Hall MRT (EW13/NS25), 2 min walk, Esplanade MRT (CC3), 6 min walk; buses – 10,106,131,147,162,166,197
More information: https://www.roots.gov.sg/places/places-landing/Places/national-monuments/former-city-hall
Emerald Hill Road house plaque Singapore
Emerald Hill Road … plaque detailing the architectural features of the houses

Emerald Hill Road

This conservation area between Newtown and Orchard Road is lined with colourful houses in the Chinese Baroque style. Once plantation land, members of the wealthy Peranakan community decided to make this their home and built these beautiful houses, which have been meticulously restored and maintained. This is another popular place for Instagram pics.

Open: 24 hours
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Somerset MRT (NS23), 10 min walk, Newton (NS21/DT11), 16 min walk, Dhoby Ghaut (NS24/NE6|CC1), 18 min walk; buses – 106,175,502,65
More information:https://remembersingapore.org/2021/02/26/orchard-emerald-hill-history/
Helix Bridge Singapore
Helix Bridge … can hold up to 16,000 people

Helix Bridge

The Helix is the longest pedestrian bridge in Singapore and overlooks Marina Bay area connecting the Marina Centre with the Bayfront area. It was designed to resemble the double helix structure of the DNA molecule to symbolise “life and continuity, renewal and growth”.

At three storeys high and 280m long, it’s made of special duplex stainless steel so it has high structural strength and can support up to 16,000 people at a time. It’s 8.8m above water so that boats can pass through Marina Bay and Marina Channel.

If you’re planning a visit to City Hall or the Singapore Flyer and the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, walk back across the Helix Bridge to get to Marina Bay Sands and the Art Science Museum. You get a fantastic view of the city skyline from the five viewing pods extending from the bridge. This is also a great thing to do with kids because you get to see alot of the most popular attractions in Singapore.

The bridge is part of an 11.7km promenade route that will eventually link Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, the Esplanade, Marina Barrage and the Singapore Sports Hub.

Open: 24 hours
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Promenade MRT (CC4/DT15), 10 min walk; near Bayfront North Jetty,	5 min walk, Promenade Jetty 7 min walk; buses – 106,77,97,97E
More information: https://www.coxarchitecture.com.au/project/the-helix-bridge/

House of Tan Teng Niah

This colourful house is one of the most popular places in Singapore for Instagrammers! Built in 1900 by a local businessman named Tan Teng Niah, the house was close to Tan’s lolly and rubber factories.

Despite the development that occurred in the area during the 20th century, the house survived and was fully restored in the 1980s and has landmark status from the National Heritage Board.

It now houses retail and other commercial businesses.

Address: 37 Kerbau Rd
Open: 24 hours to see exterior
Cost: Free
Getting there: a minute’s walk from Little India MRT (DT12/NE7) station
More information: https://www.roots.gov.sg/places/places-landing/Places/landmarks/little-india-heritage-trail-serangoon-in-the-1900s/former-house-of-tan-teng-niah
Tan Teng House Singapore
Tan Teng Niah House … built in 1900 and restored in the 1980s

Lorong 24A

What happens when a group of architects get their hands on a row of 1920s shophouses? Lorong 24A in Geylang. These eight conservation shophouses were redesigned by seven local architects, who integrated contemporary design and creative functionality.

The facades of the traditional shophouses have been carefully conserved but once you step through the front door, the interiors have been completely revamped.

Address: Lorong 24A
Open: 24 hours to see exterior
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Aljunied (EW9) MRT, 8 min walk, Dakota (CC8), 13 min walk; buses - 2,21,30,40,51,7,70
More information: https://www.figment.live/the-lorong-24a-shophouse-series/

New Supreme Court

In the Riverside area on the north bank of the Singapore River, the new Supreme Court building reflects the court hierarchy with the civil courts on the lower floors and the criminal courts above. The court of appeal sits above them all – a spaceship-like structure at the top of the building, which is meant to reflect the old courthouse’s dome. It contains a public platform that has a view across the city.

Address: 1 Supreme Ct Ln
Open: Monday to Thursday 8.30am-6pm, Friday 8.30am-5.30pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near City Hall MRT (EW13/NS25), take Exit B, 7 min walk, near Clarke Quay MRT (NE5), 8 min walk; buses – 166,174,75,961
More information: https://www.judiciary.gov.sg/visit-us/supreme-court

Parkview Square

Parkview Square is a neo art deco office building reminiscent of Batman’s Gotham City. As well as office space, it contains Parkview Museum, which hosts international contemporary art exhibitions, and the extremely opulent Atlas Bar featuring a three-storey gin tower.

The open plaza outside contains bronze effigies of famous people such as Sun Yat-sen, Abraham Lincoln, Salvador Dalí, Mozart, Isaac Newton, Picasso, Shakespeare, Plato, Dante and Albert Einstein as well as a Golden Crane sculpture. The building is surrounded by eight very large fibreglass statues of men holding light balls.

Definitely worth a look if you’re near Bugis MRT station or on your way to Kampong Glam.

Address: 600 North Bridge Rd
Open: 24 hours
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Bugis MRT (EW12/DT14), 3 min walk, near Esplanade MRT (CC3), 13 min walk; buses – 100,133,57,61,80
More information: https://parkviewsquare.com/

Old Parliament House

Now known as the Arts House, the Old Parliament House is now a venue for exhibitions and concerts. It is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Singapore having been built in 1827 and housed the Parliament of Singapore from 1965 to 1999 until it moved to a new building next door.

The site is very historic and work in 1989 unearthed stoneware and earthenware dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. It’s river frontage is also meant to be the spot where Sir Stamford Raffles landed in 1819. The building was originally designed as a Neo-Palladian mansion for a Scottish merchant.

Address: 1 Old Parliament Ln
Open: daily 10am-10pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near City Hall MRT (EW13/DT25), 10 min walk; buses - 10,166,174,75,961
More information: https://www.theartshouse.sg/

Peranakan Terrace Houses

The brightly coloured Peranakan Terrace Houses off Joo Chiat Rd, Koon Seng Road and Joo Chiat Place are an excellent example of this eclectic style. They feature pintu pagar (swinging doors), intricate ceramic tiles and detailed wooden carvings.

Address: 287 Joo Chiat Rd
Open: exterior can be viewed 24 hours
Cost: free
Getting there: Near Eunos MRT (EW7), walk about 20 mins; buses – 16,33, walk 3 mins 
More information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joo_Chiat_Road

Petain Road Terraces

These 1930s houses are some of the most beautiful and well-preserved in the city. They are classic examples of the Chinese Baroque style.

Address: Pertain Rd
Open: exterior 24 hours
Cost: free
Getting there: near Farrer Park MRT(NE8), 8 min walk, Bendemeer MRT (DT23) 10 min walk, Lavender MRT (EW11), 12 min walk; buses – 130,131,147,23,64
More information: https://remembersingapore.org/2019/12/29/petain-road-terrace-houses/

Pinnacle@Duxton City

This development features seven 50-storey high towers that are linked at the 26th and 50th levels by skybridges, each of which houses a 500m-long sky garden. The 50th-storey skybridge is open to the public and gives you panoramic views of the city for $S6.

Address: 1G Cantonment Rd
Open: daily 9am-9pm
Cost: $S6 per person
Getting there: near Tanjong Pagar MRT (EW15), Outram MRT (EW16), 10 min walk; buses – 167,196,75,166,197,61 
More information: http://www.pinnacleduxton.com.sg/
Victoria Concert Hall at night Singapore
Victoria Concert Hall … built in 1905 in the neo-classical style

Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall

One of Singapore’s oldest performing arts venues and the city’s second oldest, this concert hall has been beautifully restored to its original neo-classical 1905 structure.

It’s now home to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra but visitors don’t need to see a show to get an insight into this stunning building. You can actually climb the 54m Clock Tower and check out the internal workings of its 5 bells, which have been pealing out the popular Westminster chime since 1905 – and get a spectacular view from the top.

Get in early though, the tours book out very quickly.

Address: 11 Empress Pl #01-02
Open: daily 10am-9pm
Cost: the clock tower climb is $S30 for 18yrs and above
Getting there: near City Hall and Raffles Place MRT stations
More information: www.vtvch.com

Conclusion

These 13 examples of Singapore’s architecture reflect the range of influences and styles in the city. However, they are literally spread across its width and depth. For ideas on how to incorporate these into your holiday, check out my itineraries.

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