Although Marina Bay Sands and The Jewel are internationally known as architectural marvels, Singapore is home to a broad range of architecture. Take a stroll through Chinatown, Katong, or Kampong Gelam to see shophouses from various eras. Alternatively, marvel at the iconic black-and-white bungalows that are now cafes, bars, or simply residential properties. The most colonial buildings’ architecture in Singapore ranges from technicolor shophouses to traditional vernacular structures sustaining Singapore’s colonial history.

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Colonial Architecture in Singapore_©Vernon Raineil Cenzon, unsplash.com

Malay Heritage Centre

Architectural Style: Traditional Malay Architecture

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Malay Heritage Centre_©www.gnarfgnarf.com

The former Istana Kampong Gelam, which once was the seat of Malay royalty in Singapore, is one of the best examples of conventional vernacular Malay architecture still observed in Singapore. It was built between 1836 and 1843 and incorporates traditional Malay symbols with the Palladian style, which was prevalent in England in the 18th and 19th centuries. The structure has been meticulously restored and now houses the Malay Heritage Centre, which includes a museum and visitor centre.

House No. 1 At Chek Jawa

Architectural Style: Tudor-Style Architecture

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House No. 1 At Chek Jawa_©res.klook.com

Traces of Singapore’s old colonial history is among the dense forests in the eastern part of Pulau Ubin. House No. 1 was initially a resort abode for British Chief Surveyor Langdon Williams during the colonial period and is now used as a visitor centre for Chek Jawa visitors.

The two-story structure sits on 43,324 square feet of land, with its water tower and jetty. The structure was built in the 1930s and was inspired by traditional Tudor-style homes in England during the first half of the 16th century, with black timber frames with masonry infill walls, steeply pitched clay tile roofing, and a working fireplace in the ground floor sitting room.

Burkill Hall 

Architectural Style: An Anglo-Malayan Plantation-Style House

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Burkill Hall_©edition.cnn.com

The Singapore Botanic Gardens’ historic 1868 Burkill Hall has a rich history, having served as the domicile of the Botanic Gardens’ superintendents and directors for over a century. Here’s something you probably didn’t know: for more than 50 years, the building was misidentified as a black-and-white bungalow. It is, however, the last surviving Anglo-Malayan plantation-style residence in Southeast Asia and possibly the world.

These follow Nigel Taylor, the Gardens’ director, discovering in 2013 that Burkill Hall predates the black-and-white style, which only began in 1898. Burkill Hall was also painted white in photos that date from the late 1800s to 1959.

Koon Seng Road Shophouses 

Architectural Style: Peranakan-Style Shophouses

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Koon Seng Road Shophouses_©www.iproperty.com

The iconic pastel shophouses along Koon Seng Road are a feature of the Joo Chiat and Katong districts. These heritage gems were built in the 1920s and were once home to the Peranakan Chinese. They are preserved for their historical design that incorporates a distinct blend of Chinese and Malay influences, as evidenced by the intricate detailing, motifs, and tiles that adorn each home.

Black And White Houses

Architectural Style: Black-And-White Bungalow

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Black And White Houses_©Galen Crout, unsplash.com

There are 500 black and white residences scattered throughout Singapore in exclusive enclaves such as Dempsey Road, Rochester Park, and Adam Park. They are unique to Malaya and were built by the British Administration’s Public Works Department (PWD) for British expatriates in the early twentieth century and before World War Two as military personnel accommodation.

The design, also known as Tudorbethan Style, integrates tropical and art deco elements with a traditional Victorian-style home. Traditional Malay architecture also has an impact. The black-and-white houses are built on elevated platforms, evoking the practice of building homes on stilts to protect against snakes, tropical insects, and flooding during the rainy season.

Large verandas, overhanging roofs, high ceilings, shutter-style windows, and open-concept layouts are also features of black-and-white bungalows to amplify any breeze that passes through the houses.

Sim Kwong Ho Shophouses

Architectural Style: Chinese Baroque

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Sim Kwong Ho Shophouses_©onthegrid.city

Along Balestier Road, one of the greatest examples of Chinese baroque shophouse architecture can be found. It incorporates swanky embellishments, blending Western elements with traditional Chinese iconography, producing this hybrid architectural style, as a result of the rubber boom in the twentieth century, which brought wealth to merchants in Singapore.

The character “Sim Kwong Ho” are inscribed on the roof facade, along with European-glazed floral tiles which adorn the pastel-coloured walls. Extensive festoons overhang the upper windows, framed by moulded pilasters & capitals with floral wreaths.

Baba House

Architectural Style: 20th-Century Conservation Shophouse

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Baba House_©hericoll.com

On 157 Neil Road, this conservation townhouse is one of Singapore’s most iconic remaining Peranakan residential properties. It was the ancestral home of a Straits Chinese family and was built around 1895.

It is now a heritage house with the mission of educating people about Straits Chinese culture, rather than a traditional museum. It was repaired and reopened in 2007 as the home of Singapore’s 108-year-old Peranakan Association by the National University of Singapore’s Centre for the Arts.

Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Architectural Style: Neo-Renaissance Architecture

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Raffles Hotel, Singapore_©bady abbas, unsplash.com

Raffles Hotel Singapore, one of Singapore’s world-class hotels, is a prime example of colonial architecture.

Singapore rose exponentially as a prominent port via trade with India, Australia, and China during the period of British rule that lasted from the early nineteenth century to WWII. During this period, the British government constructed several civic and government buildings in Singapore in the neo-classical style. The buildings were enormous yet elegant, and they seemed to symbolize the colonists’ power and aspirations. The Raffles Hotel is a classic piece of architecture that reflects a beautiful restoration of a colonial-era design.

National Gallery Singapore

Architectural Style: Neo-Classical Architecture 

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National Gallery Singapore_©Syarafina Yusof, unsplash.com

The National Gallery Singapore opened in November 2015, intending to become Southeast Asia’s art hub. The museum collects precious pieces of art from Singapore and its neighbouring countries.

A closer look at the interior reveals that it combines two national monuments – the former Supreme Court building and City Hall – within a veil-like facade.It is Singapore’s largest visual arts venue and museum, with a combined floor area of 64,000 square metres (690,000 sq ft). The development of the National Gallery Singapore has cost approximately $532 million. 

National Design Centre

Architectural Style: Neo-Classical Architecture

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National Design Centre_©www.visitsingapore.com

The National Design Centre (NDC) opened in 2014 in Bras Basah, an area teeming with art students. The former Saint Anthony’s Convent, which dates back more than a century, has been restored and renovated into a modern structure.

The White Rabbit

Architectural Style: Neo-Classical Architecture

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The White Rabbit_©www.asia-bars.com

The White Rabbit is a restaurant located within a renovated 1930s chapel, with a beautiful interior offering the atmosphere of a trip back in time.

The White Rabbit is surrounded by nature and situated in the popular restaurant district of Dempsey Hill, where many British army barracks from the nineteenth century have been renovated and reused. To deal with the hot and humid climate, the structures have high ceilings and numerous windows and doorways. The buildings’ design offers guests openness and a cool breeze, generating a naturally pleasant atmosphere for city dwellers.

283 Joo Chiat Road_©Markus Leo, unsplash.com

What differentiates Singapore from the rest of Southeast Asia is that it retains a strong colonial charm. Indeed, the colonial is ubiquitous in Singapore, not only in regards to the way of life but also in the architecture of the city.

References:

  1. Contributors to Wikimedia projects, (2005). Architecture of Singapore – Wikipedia [online]. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [Viewed 26 November 2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_of_Singapore
  2. Nurjuwita, D., (2021). The most beautiful traditional architecture in Singapore [online]. Time Out Singapore. [Viewed 26 November 2022]. Available from: https://www.timeout.com/singapore/things-to-do/the-most-beautiful-traditional-architecture-in-singapore
  3.  Colonial Contemporary Singapore [online], (no date). Dream Of A City. [Viewed 26 November 2022]. Available from: https://dreamofacity.com/2013/05/24/colonial-contemporary-singapore/
  4. CNN, F. B., (2020). 10 famous buildings in Singapore [online]. CNN. [Viewed 26 November 2022]. Available from: https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/famous-buildings-singapore/index.html
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Ranmeet is an aspiring architect who perceives creation to be a powerful skill, "a fascinating possibility evolving from people's uniqueness and perceptions." She firmly believes that she can strive to draw parallels between her imagination and the real world by coming up with her distinctive designs.

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