Singapore, one of the Asia’s most vibrant cities, is home to some of the world’s best modern architecture. This, at least in part, is due to the government of Singapore actively promoting the construction of high quality modern buildings.
As the population of Singapore is drawn from many ethnic origins, and the island has been ruled by a succession of foreign powers, the country has struggled to find its identity since gaining independence in 1965. First the city’s banks and then the government have actively aimed to develop high-quality landmark buildings with the aim of not only defining a sense of national identity, but also to boosting business and tourism. For this reason the city is full of high quality architecture.
Singapore’s Modern Architecture: Skyscrapers
In the late seventies and eighties Singapore’s businesses and hotels drew attention to themselves by constructing high-quality skyscrapers. The city became synonymous with the high-rise as buildings by some of the world’s leading architects, including Pritzker Prize winners, I.M. Pei and Kenzo Tange, rose in the city. In 1986 Singapore was the focus of the world’s attention, as the 280-meter Overseas Union Bank Centre became the tallest building outside of North America. This building would start a trend as Asian cities constructed higher and higher buildings.
First Kuala Lumpur (Petronas Towers), then Taipei (Taipei 101) and most recently Dubai (Burj Dubai) have all constructed visually interesting “world’s tallest”, skyscrapers that have focused the world’s attention on the host city. However, Singapore’s could not follow this route due to a height restriction imposed by the downtown’s proximity to the airport.
Singapore’s Modern Architecture: Municipal Buildings
Denied the chance to increase it’s exposure through the construction of the “world’s tallest building”, Singapore has tried to find other ways to distinguish itself and increase people’s awareness of the city through its architecture. City officials knew this could be achieved by creating an iconic landmark building, an Eiffel Tower or a Sydney Opera House, which would become synonymous with the city’s prosperity.
Since the beginning of the millennium three extremely high quality municipal buildings designed by internationally famous architects have been constructed in the city. First Michael Wilford and DP Architects’ Esplanade Theatre in 2002, followed by T.R. Hamzah & Yeang’s National Library of Singapore in 2005, and most recently Stirling Prize winner Norman Foster’s Supreme Law Court of Singapore in 2006. All three are examples of excellent modern architecture that Singapore can be proud of.
These buildings, and the recently completed Singapore Flyer, (which like the London Eye has become a major attraction) have drawn business and tourists to the city, however, although each building is a striking and successful addition to the city none has become the iconic symbol of Singapore.