- Patrick Ball
Supreme Court of Singapore
Famous for such buildings as the City Hall and the HSBC Tower in London, British architectural firm Foster and Partners’ new building for the Supreme Court of Singapore opened in 2005. It sits right beside the old building, mirroring the classical dome of its neighbor with its circular, flying saucer-like ninth level, which houses the Court of Appeal. Clad in translucent marble and making extensive use of glass and open space, the interior of the building is light and airy to reflect the importance of transparency in justice.
Bras Basah MRT Station
Designed by the Singapore-based architectural firm WOHA after they won an international, anonymous competition, Bras Basah Mass Rapid Transit Station’s design is centered around an elegant solution to a difficult problem: how to build an efficient public transit station that is pleasant to use but that doesn’t obscure the colonial-era buildings of Singapore’s Civic District. The answer lies in the station’s huge water-filled skylight, allowing natural light to filter down 35 metres into the depths of the station while, on the surface, appearing as a reflecting pool on the forecourt of the Singapore Art Museum.
Linking Marina Centre with new resort developments in Marina South, the Helix Bridge flows seamlessly into the shoreline on either side of the bay. Its arc shape means it can join at its apex with the vehicular Bayfront Bridge to its west, while keeping pedestrians away from the traffic along the rest of its length. Its most striking feature, however, is its unique, world-first double helix structure, spiraling around the walkway for its entire length with a glass and steel canopy in integrated panels to provide shade from Singapore’s tropical sun. It was created jointly by the architects Cox Group and Architects 61 and the engineers Arup, all of whom were honored at the World Architecture Festival, where the Helix Bridge won the Best Transport Building category in 2010.
Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is the centerpiece of the Singaporean Government’s plan to transform Singapore into a ‘City in a Garden’. It is a 101-hectare park in the centre of the city solely for outdoor recreational activities. Standing out from the Gardens on the shoreline are the two humpbacked Cooled Conservatories, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, which together won the World Building of the Year award in 2012. These two massive, off-kilter greenhouses have no interior columns or supports, making the shallow slope of Flower Dome the largest unsupported glass roof in the world. They are also designed to be highly energy efficient, and the horticultural displays within each conservatory inform visitors about the adverse effects of climate change on the planet’s biodiversity.
The big, brutalist, concrete calculator of the OCBC Centre stands out as something heavy and dense amid much of the translucent modern architecture of Singapore, and amid the rest of its architect IM Pei’s designs. Its curved edges come from the building’s two semi-circular, reinforced, concrete cores, linked by three steel girders to facilitate speedy construction. Solid and functional, the OCBC Centre is a classic of the Seventies brutalism movement.
Marina Bay Sands
Designed by Moshe Safdie, the $8bn Marina Bay Sands casino resort is a huge and highly distinctive addition to Singapore’s skyline; three slanting 55-storey hotel towers topped by the SkyPark, a 340-meter long outdoor terrace featuring nightclubs, restaurants, parks, and the world’s longest infinity pool. The SkyPark also features an observation platform set 67 meters out on the cantilever overhanging the north tower. In addition to the towers and park, the resort features the ArtScience Museum, designed by Safdie in the shape of a lotus flower. Its unique shape channels rainwater into a reflecting pool at the building’s lowest level.
Thian Hock Keng Temple
The Thian Hock Keng Temple is a Hokkien temple constructed in 1839 by Chinese immigrants, and dedicated to Mazu, the Taoist goddess of the sea. Built in the traditional architectural style of southern Chinese temples, and constructed without using any nails, the fabric of the temple itself tells of the immigrants’ crossing from China: much of the stone, timber, columns and tiles had previously served as ballast for Chinese junks, and the mosaics were made from broken pieces of pottery and cutlery.
Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay
Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay is Singapore’s premier performing arts space, consisting of a concert hall and theater as well as a library, outdoor performing spaces, and a shopping mall. The design for the centre caused great controversy when it was first unveiled to the public in 1994 due to two humped, glass domes over the theaters, which prompted concerns that the domes would act as a giant greenhouse to magnify Singapore’s hot and sunny climate. However, when the centre opened in 2002 the problem had been solved by a cladding of scale-like aluminum sunshades, making Esplanade resemble the eyes of a fly or a durian fruit.
Pearl Bank Apartments
When it was built in 1976, the Pearl Bank apartment block was the tallest and highest-density residential building in Singapore, housing 1500 people over its 38 floors. Its architect, the Singaporean Tang Cheng Siong, conceived its unique horseshoe shape to minimize exposure to the sun, but still allow the building’s inhabitants to see the view from the top of Pearl’s Hill. Comprising innovative residential design features such as split-level apartments and integrated amenities including swimming pools and the 28th floor ‘Sky Park’ communal area, Pearl Bank set a precedent that went on to inform many of the high-density housing projects throughout Southeast Asia.
Bishan Community Library
With cantilevered colored glass ‘reading pods’ protruding from its exterior facade, Bishan Community Library provides individual and intimate study spaces while still maintaining an open, naturally lit interior atrium. Similar pods overhang the interior, giving the library a distinctive and striking look inside and out. The Singaporean architectural firm LOOK Architects won a number of awards for its design of the library, including the Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award in 2009.