The Top 10 Architecture Highlights of Singapore

Helix Bridge at night
Helix Bridge at night | © Jeffrey Wong / Flickr

The constant remodelling of Singapore has had one positive impact – the rise of some fascinating modern architectural marvels.

Add to that the mix of traditional edifices which are testament to Singapore’s multicultural and diverse history, and what you have is a city that has managed to make a unique mark for itself among other locations. Here, you’ll see 10 such buildings that testify to this fact.

1. Supreme Court of Singapore


© YL Tan / Flickr

There are two buildings with this appellation and one is the old colonial monument while the new one, constructed in 2005 by world-famous British architectural firm Foster & Partners, is considered a curious marvel with a very sci-fi look owing to the large shiny saucer-like shape on its top. The differences are miles apart, with the severity and terse atmosphere of the former giving way to a more open and soothing vibe with its liberal use of glass and marble which was used to imply transparency in regards to the law. They are both situated side by side so it’s easy to check each of them out.

Bras Basah MRT Station

Bras Basah MRT Station’s steep escalators

Designed by a local architectural firm who won a competition that was already immensely difficult to begin with. The problem was not so much just the design of the station but the location it was placed which was already crowded. The design was then to build it deep, meaning this is one of the rides you will have on the escalator as you lunge downwards. And in order to creatively solve the issue of light in an environmentally-friendly manner, the forecourt of the Singapore Art Museum, with its pool, is used to disperse light through the station.

2. The Helix


Helix Bridge Singapore
© Jeffrey Wong / Flickr

As the name implies, this footbridge is shaped like a double-helix, with the steel and glass elements seamlessly running through the whole structure and forming a very creative shelter from the rain and the scorching midday sun. Designed by Australian architects from Cox Architecture, London-headquartered engineers Arup and Singaporean Architects 61, the structure connects Marina Centre with Marina South and is particularly striking when it lights up at night, where if you look closely, you will see the letters c, g, a and t, all the initials of terms to describe the four fundamental components of DNA.

3. Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay

Botanical Garden

Besides the Supertree Grove, the two monoliths that make up the Cooled Conservatories are probably the most visually arresting bits of Gardens by the Bay. Shaped like the back fossils of a recently discovered dinosaur, they house the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Designed by British architects Wilkinson Eyre and Grant Associates, the main focus was sustainability and environmental control, when considering the tropical heat outdoors, and the curvilinear shape was built around those concepts. This is also why they have no internal columns, which is a marvel in itself when considering the scale of the building, but a lack of columns also means there are no shadows, therefore more sunlight for the various flora and fauna.

4. OCBC Centre


OCBC Center, Singapore
© David Jones / Flickr

It is very easy to miss this for the more shimmery and brightly-emblazoned newer buildings, but this mainstay of the vibrant Downtown Core area deserves some appreciation among its more famous counterparts. Made in the Brutalist style that was very popular post-WWII, this building has been nicknamed the ‘calculator’ with the pragmatic concrete being a base for pixel-like windows, which has lights coming out when the specific office is occupied. I.M. Pei, the Chinese-American who also worked on the Louvre, was involved in its design and despite its simplicity, this building testifies to its strength by being such a timeless classic.

5. Marina Bay Sands

Shopping Mall

© Nicolas Lannuzel / Flickr

Moshe Safdie, a famous modernist designer, was the one who put his signature slender curves and geometrical inspirations on this building and the ArtScience Museum next to it, built in the form of a lotus flower blooming in the direction of the integrated resort. Besides housing a casino, it is also a hotel and on its top is the infamous infinity pool, which offers what is probably the most envious view of the city skyline in Singapore. There is also a SkyDeck, an observation platform accessible to the public.

6. Thian Hock Keng Temple


Thian Hock Keng Temple
© Dr. Norbert Heidenbluth / Flickr

The oldest temple of the Hokkien people in Singapore, this hallowed space was constructed in 1839. Parts of the building, like the tiles, columns and timber, were recycled from ballasts off Chinese junks and ships which adds further significance to the building as the temple is dedicated to Mazu, the Taoist goddess of the sea. This was built to specifically thank her and pray for safe passage in the unruly seas from which a lot of Hokkiens travelled through to come to Singapore. Built in a style common in their ancestral homeland of Fujian, the building was also impressively assembled without the use of a single nail.

7. Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay


Esplanade Theatre | © edwin.11/Flickr
© edwin.11 / Flickr

Sometimes affectionately called the ‘durian’, it might be interesting to know that those porcupine-like prickly scales serve a purpose by acting as a sunshade so that the glass domes don’t magnify the ever-present heat from outside. Esplanade was built to be the premium spot for performing arts with its concert hall, theatre, library and studios. There is also an outdoor performance space while different spots inside the Esplanade have spaces for free performances and acts that the public can see.

8. Pearl Bank Apartments


© Sengkang / WikiCommons

This was considered a cutting-edge design when it was built, due to its unique circular horseshoe shape which was meant to offer a common corridor where residents could interact, while also making sure the view was not interfered with. Architect Tan Cheng Siong may not have known it at the time, but his design has made his building an iconic landmark that has won the affection of plenty of Singaporeans who are fighting to have it conserved in the midst of planner redevelopment and possible demolition.

9. Bishan Public Library


© Someformofhuman / WikiCommons

Famous for its cantilevered rectangular pods that are used by readers as a quiet spot to work and read. These coloured spaces are also found internally, with an attempt to bring the library back to its roots of learning and yet, remain a space of quiet contemplation. The treehouse design with its separate spaces for like-minded individuals to work and discuss, has allowed the library to become an urban space that goes above and beyond what the purpose of a library usually entails while enjoying the filtered, resplendent natural light that comes through the glass facade.

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