Describing Haw Par Villa as a structure unrivalled in eccentricity and imagination, engineer Quek Seng Soon, 62, calls it “the quirkiest tourist spot you will ever find in Southeast Asia,” giving it a firm spot in his top picks of definitive Singapore structures.
3. Lau Pa Sat
These days, it is dwarfed by the towering skyscrapers that pepper the Central Business District, but for more than 175 years, the “old market” of Singapore has held its own. Lau Pa Sat, known as the Telok Ayer Market until 1991, was first established in 1825, when it served as the country’s first humble wet market.
Its distinctive octagonal design was conceptualised and added to the space by Irish architect George Drumgoole Coleman in 1836. This unique shape has endured despite several reconstructions. Remnants of the exquisite Victorian-era craftsmanship can still be seen in its archways, eaves and the intricate filigree patterns incorporated into the design.
In 1973, the market was converted into a hawker centre and was gazetted a national monument. In 1986, it was reconstructed once more and took the shape of the bustling food court it is today that draws both tourists and locals. “It is a market that has grown up with Singapore and will always have a special place in our hearts,” says Chong Chun Keong, 38, an interior designer. The flavourful mix of old and new tastes also says something about the country, says Eileen Chan, 24, a marketing professional. In her view, “It is a good representation of Singapore as a melting pot.”
Pinnacle@Duxton is possibly one of Singapore’s most distinctive public housing projects and has redefined the city’s skyline. Located where Tanjong Pagar’s first two HDB blocks once stood, the towering 50-storey flats house 1,848 flats across seven blocks. The architectural design of Pinnacle@Duxton is Modernist and addresses pragmatic public housing concerns of security, ease of maintenance and cost- effectiveness.
The development’s blocks are connected by two skybridges and boast two of the world’s longest sky gardens. These span 500m each and sit on the 26th and 50th floors, offering panoramic views of Singapore. Nareen Ramchand, a 35-year-old restaurant manager, is one of those fortunate enough to secure a unit at this much sought-after housing project. Her gym routines have been replaced by twice-weekly jogs around the Sky Park. Despite having grown up in the eastern part of the island, she now cannot imagine living anywhere else.
“What is great about being here is that you’re so central and the neighbourhood offers a nice mix of both old-world charm and modern comforts. So it is really unique,” she said.
Pinnacle@Duxton has captivated global attention, with numerous international and local awards to its name, including the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat Award, World Architecture Festival Award and the Steel Design Award in 2010, as well as the SIA Architecture Design Award in 2011. Architect Jonathan Poh describes it best: “It is the definitive apex of public housing achievements in Singapore,” he says.
5. Civilian War Memorial
Singapore’s Civilian War Memorial along Beach Road was built in 1967 in memory of the civilians massacred during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore from 1942 to 1945. Remains of victims found in other parts of Singapore, including Siglap, Bukit Timah and Changi, were gathered and buried under the memorial.
The “chopsticks”, as some refer to it, was designed by the late Leong Swee Lim from Swan & Maclaren Architects. It consists of four identical pillars each about 61m high. Each represents the members of Singapore’s Chinese, Malay, Indian and minority communities who lost lives during the Occupation. Up to 50,000 people are estimated to have been killed.