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© Dickson Phua/Flickr
© Dickson Phua/Flickr

A History Of Art Deco In Singapore

Picture of Prianka Ghosh
Updated: 19 September 2016
Art Deco started appearing after World War One when people needed something new and different from the past. Everything was changing especially with technology especially and people wanted to move away from the classical styles of architecture that had been recycled for many years to something vibrant and modern. You can recognize the French-influenced Art Deco style in Singapore based on its streamlined aesthetic; the movement was inspired by aircraft and racing cars so in buildings this became portholes, railings and curved elements.

Art Deco first found a home in Singapore on the Eastern side of the city-state, just because Geylang and Katong were built in the 1930s when this was the fashionable architectural style. Walking through these neighbourhoods, you will see elements of the Art Deco style on shophouses and other buildings. Tiong Bahru, originally built in the 1930s as Singapore’s first public housing project, is another neighbourhood to find buildings that follow the Art Deco Style. Around Singapore, one easily recognizable feature of the style was to have the date of construction in large characters stand out on the front of the building. The architectural style also played an important role in the methodology of construction in Singapore, serving as the introduction of the use of reinforced concrete and other modern technologies.

In Singapore, the Art Deco style has not lost any popularity over time, as demonstrated by Parkview Square and the old Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Parkview Square was built less than two decades ago, in 2002, and is heavily composed of the elements that make up Art Deco architecture. It has become one of Singapore’s most popular buildings, affectionately referred to as the Gotham City Building and stands guard over the hipster-friendly Kampong Glam neighbourhood. When the Singapore government announced that the old Tanjong Pagar Railway Station would be renovated to become the Cantonment MRT station, local residents appealed to authorities on the importance of preserving this Art Deco gem that once connected Singapore by rail to Malaysia, and even as far as London.