7 Architecture Highlights of Singapore

Singapore is no stranger to awe-inspiring and amazing architectural feats that have continuously wowed the world and received accolades. 

The buildings and structures in this city-state showcase an enchanting mix of modern, British and Asian influences following its reputation of being a melting pot of different cultures. More importantly, it’s drive towards becoming a ‘City in a Garden’ is growing ever more evident with more and more biophilic, green and sustainable designs. 

“We expect further changes in the way architects will approach design – a refocus on sustainability and further emphasis on providing more green spaces to positively influence peoples’ mental health,” says Chin Hang Ping of ADDP Architects in an interview to Mansion Global

Over the years, Singapore built quite a collection of showstoppers – whether it be all-new structures or restorations and preservations of buildings that tell of its history. The city’s constant remodeling gave rise to several architectural marvels that delight anyone who sees it. 

In its stunning modern skyscrapers, you will witness ingenious designs, shapes and concepts that will make you stop and stare. On the other hand, in its conservation efforts, you will be transported back in time with majestic masterpieces that are cleverly maintained with the help of mind-boggling creativity and innovation.  

Therefore, whether you are an architect by profession or simply an admirer of interesting and beautiful buildings, there are many sights to behold in Singapore. 

“Singapore has its fair share of iconic buildings, especially (those built) in the ’90s and 2000s, that have contributed to a skyline that is distinctive from other Asian cities,” said Chong Keng Hua, associate professor of architecture and sustainable design at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, in an interview to CNN Style.

In this article, we shall give you a list of the ones which you can immediately link back to Singapore.

1. Marina Bay Sands

Photo Source: Unsplash | Callous Gee

When Marina Bay Sands opened in 2010, it forever transformed the country’s skyline, making it one of the most iconic and immediately recognizable in the world. In almost all photos that are captioned with the words ‘…Singapore skyline…’, the three curved towers of Marina Bay Sands are included in the frame. 

This notable architectural structure with its signature curved towers cantilevered by a sky garden and bar was created by famous architect and modernist designer, Moshe Safdie. He shared that the design was inspired by a house of cards – the expressive curves of the towers are like slightly bending cards. 

Photo Source: Flickr | Original version of William Cho

Besides housing a hotel, casino, mall, the building boasts the largest rooftop infinity pool that gives the most envious, unrivalled views of the glittering Singapore cityscape. 

2. Jewel at Changi Airport

Photo source: Unsplash | Albert Vincent Wu

Nine years after Marina Bay Sands, renowned architect Moshe Safdie is at it again. In 2019, Jewel at Changi Airport opened its doors to the public and redefined what an airport can look like – from the inside and out. 

After its opening, it immediately became a favorite for locals and tourists with its wide array of lifestyle and dining options, top-notch airport services, and ingenious architectural design. And, rightly so, it became another iconic structure that equates to Singapore and the long-standing best airport in the world – Changi Airport. 

Photo Source: Flickr | Original version of Choo Yut Shing

A huge nod to its exterior that takes the shape of a dramatic doughnut with a glass and steel facade. But its interior is next level. Fully following green and biophilic principles, enclosed inside the dome is the Rain Vortex and Forest Valley – the tallest indoor waterfall in the world and a 5-storey man-made rainforest housing hundreds of plant species, walking trails, mist gardens and animal topiaries. 

If that is not enough, this majestic sight is made more breathtaking with light shows and mist to create that surreal experience of actually being in a natural rainforest. There is also a skytrain that cuts through the complex to provide passengers transferring through terminals a closer, more stunning view of the Rain Vortex. 

High performance architectural glass panels are used to increase natural light, energy efficiency, minimize heat while also providing insulation to the noise from aircrafts above. 

3. Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Photo Source: Pixabay | ID 7928723

The captivating grandeur and unique exterior of the Esplanade continue to sparkle in the night sky and be a conversation piece despite being almost 20 years old. When it opened in 2002, the signature spiky facade became an immediate attraction and gave it its informal name – “The Durian.” The twin structures and triangular aluminum sunshades of the Esplanade bear a striking resemblance to two halves of a durian. 

Photo Source: Pexels | Soulful Pizza

“It was initially conceived as two glass shells without shading, which drew much criticism for its insensitivity to the tropical climate, as it would create a greenhouse effect,” Chong Keng Hua shared. 

This famous building is a world-class performing center that hosts thousands of performances yearly – there’s theater, music and music performances along with art exhibitions. There is also a wide array of restaurants and shops to visit if you’re not going there for a show. 

4. Gardens by the Bay

Photo Source: Pixabay | EngHock

Another architectural feat that is uniquely Singapore is Gardens by the Bay, with its Supertrees that stand nearly 50 meters tall and monolith conservatories that look like fossils of dinosaurs. Standing on a site totaling 101 hectares, this enormous tropical garden is the perfect fusion of nature and technology. 

A unique leisure destination beloved by locals and tourists, this architectural artistry was designed by British firms, WilkinsonEyre and Grant Associates. With the intent of looking to the future and conserving nature’s wonders, Gardens by the Bay is a stunning example of biophilic and sustainable architecture worthy of its many accolades

Photo Source: Unsplash | Fabio

With world-class environmental control measures, this serves as a sanctuary for nature lovers and horticulturalists, especially the conservatories – Cloud Forest and Flower Dome – that feature different climates. 

Even more ingenious is that these domed greenhouses have no internal support for its large glass roof and colossal size. This intelligent infrastructure keeps the country’s tropical and humid climate in mind and leads to lower environmental footprint and more natural sunlight that allow endangered plants, not seen in Singapore, to flourish and thrive. 

Photo Source: Unsplash | Tobi Law

This old-school colonial classic is a superb model of the city state’s brilliant conservation and preservation efforts where the splendours of old are perfectly intact using creative innovation. Like many others, it’s a vision of the future showcasing the fusion of architectural and design, creativity and technology.

Sitting in two of the most prominent historical structures of Singapore – the Supreme Court and City Hall, this premier art museum houses artifacts showing the nation’s significant historical events – like the chamber where the Japanese surrendered to the British ending World War II. As one of the largest museums in the region, there is an impressive collection of Southeast Asian art. 

Photo Source: Unsplash | Matt Briney

The renovation was spearheaded by Studio Milou and CPG Consultants. The old structures were mostly preserved and became part of the ‘displayed art’ for visitors to understand more of the country’s history. On top of that, technological innovations like the aluminum veil introduce more natural light, rooftop reflecting pools reduce heat levels and bridges connect leveled pathways blend the old and new that is simple, yet elegant. 

6. Peranakan Shophouses

Photo Source: Flickr | Original version of Tatyana Kildisheva

Hundreds of years ago, Chinese, Indian and European immigrants came to the region and married indigeniuos people from the Malay archipelago, giving birth to the Peranakans – a local Indonesian/Malay term meaning ‘local born’. An eclectic cultural mix that is unique to the region.

Peranakan shophouses are a local architecture that is synonymous to Singapore. These charming and colorful two and three-storey narrow buildings are steeped in culture and heritage, some dating back to the 1800s. These endearing structures are dotted around the island but most notably in the Joo Chiat and Katong areas where many settled in the early 20th century. 

Photo Source: Flickr | Original version of Choo Yut Shing

Consequently, this quaint, attractive architectural style is an enchanting mix of Chinese, Malay, and European elements. Some of these shophouses are still maintained as residences and given an interior face lift while many others have been converted to restaurants, offices, even hotels. So you can get the full experience by staying in one filled with Peranakan decor.  

All shophouses are very Instagrammable when taken in a row or individually. When you look at the intricate designs and details, you’ll be able to point out the signature ceramic Peranakan floral tiles and pastel colors. In the recent decades, Singapore’s conservation efforts towards these structures are continually enforced to make sure this heritage lives on. 

7. Sri Mariamman Temple

File:Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore, 2014 (01).JPG

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons | Original version as seen in Wikimedia Commons

Opened in 1827 in Chinatown, the Sri Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. Following the South Indian Dravidian style of architecture, mostly used for temples in that region, the temple shows its iconic features with pyramid-shaped towers constructed with sandstone or granite. It was initially created as a wood and thatch hut and later converted into its present form in the 1860s. 

Believed to be able to cure diseases, the goddess Mariamman is the favorite deity to whom the temple was built for. With its history and striking architecture, many locals and tourists flock to this famous temple to catch a glimpse of its colors, designs and understand its religious significance. The most outstanding feature is the ‘gopuram’ (or entrance gate), an intricately carved tower where countless deities and mythological beasts sit. 

Photo Source: Pixabay | photosforyou

The display of color against a clear blue sky will be impossible to miss for anyone walking by. Captivating and attractive, the Sri Mariamman Temple is a famous landmark, a national monument and is a symbol of Singapore being a cultural melting pot. 

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