The strategic location of the country, diversity of population, eventful history and intermingling cultures and ethnicities have contributed to a range of styles and structures, lending stark juxtapositions of contrasting architecture. Go through our curated list of the most significant buildings that are a must-visit in this iconic city, and get those ‘gram-worthy shots!
Precolonial StyleBefore modern Singapore was ‘discovered’ by the British, the mainly Malay inhabitants of the fishing villages built houses within ‘kampongs’ (villages) with hardwood beams, palm front ceilings, bamboo walls, and stilts. While no authentic houses from this period remain, the sites of these villages are available at Punggol Waterway Park’s heritage walkway where paintings and recreations of these bamboo houses are up for display.
Location: Punggol Waterway Park, Punggol
Colonial PeriodAfter Sir Stamford Raffles landed in the Lion City in 1822, he laid the foundation for modern Singapore and brought British rule to the region. During this time, prominent European styles of architecture emerged and made up the skyline of this British colony.
The National Gallery of Singapore houses the former Supreme Court of Singapore and the former City Hall. Situated in Downtown Core in Singapore's Civic District, the gallery is a cultural space which displays contemporary and modern pieces of art. The buildings too are a marvel as they were the last colonial structures to be built in the country in the 1920s and 30s. Today, they stand as national monuments and are visited by many to witness the historic architecture of Singapore.
Location: 1 St Andrew's Rd, Singapore
Formerly a convent school, CHIJMES is one of the most iconic colonial buildings in Singapore, now housing chic boutiques, bustling bars, and charming cafés. The towering spire and Gothic arches are reminiscent of Roman influences, while the stained glass windows add a touch of colour to the façade.
Location: Victoria Street, City Hall, Civic District
Old Hill Street Police Station
An iconic landmark famed for its multi-hued louvred windows against the stark blue sky, the Old Hill Street Police Station is home to the ARTrium, a postmodern art gallery. Formerly a police barrack, today this building hosts art events.
Location: 140 Hill Street, Singapore 179369
Heritage Shophouses is a quintessential example of a canvas portraying the multicultural influences of the architecture of Singapore over the years. The archetypal shophouse is a two or three-floored building with shops on the ground floor and living accommodations above. Over the years, shophouses have been built with very distinct architectural styles. In the early 1900s, shophouses had relatively restrained ornamentation. By the 1940s, it was striking and eclectic with decorative wall tiles and vibrant windows. Today, a majority of shophouses have strict conservation rules, but many have been converted into temples, boutiques, and coffee shops, albeit with modern decorations that suit their intended audience.
Location: Duxton Hill, Amoy Street, Keong Saik Road – Chinatown, Bussorah Road – Kampong Glam
The Brutalist style of architecture of Singapore comes to life at the OCBC Building, nicknamed ‘The Calculator’ for its small pixel-like windows and concrete framework. This skyscraper is a sight to behold at night!
Location: Grange Road, Downtown area
Parkview Square Building
An example of the Art Deco movement in Singapore, this building is popularly called the Gotham Tower – DC fans are bound to enjoy the granite, bronze, and glass façade of this imposing tower. Walk through a garden with bronze statues of Dali, Newton, Mozart, Picasso, and Einstein, or sip a drink from ATLAS, the rooftop bar, and take in the breathtaking views!
Location: North Bridge Road, Downtown Core
When the British colony was established, Sir Raffles allocated land to different ethnic groups in the country to build places of worship. This was seen as a measure to foster cultural and religious unity in Singapore. These shrines are mostly East-influenced.
Thian Hock Keng Temple is the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore and is dedicated to the Goddess of Sea, Mazu. The temple is built on the lines of the Fujian style of architecture, a Southern Chinese style. The temple was constructed without using concrete or nails but using stones, tiles, broken pieces of pottery, and timber. It is filled with sculptures of dragons and the local deities. Today, it is revered by the locals and considered an important part of their nation.
Location: Telok Ayer St, 158, Singapore
Built in 1287 and modified in 1862, this Hindu temple to the goddess Mariamman is an exemplary example of the South-Indian Dravidian style of architecture in Singapore, with its tall ‘Gopuram’ (tower) and brightly painted sculptures that retell Hindu mythology and folklore.
Location: South Bridge Road, Chinatown
Constructed in 1858 by the Tamil Muslim community, this mosque is a mix of Arabic, South Indian, and European styles of architecture. The Tuscan columns, Chinese glazed tiles, Neo-classical prayer rooms, and Baroque-style windows contribute to the eclectic style of the mosque.
Location: South Bridge Road, Chinatown
The country’s largest cathedral, this towering place of worship was built in 1856 with Neo-Gothic influences, redefining architecture in Singapore. This Cathedral boasts of gorgeous stained glass windows, the famed Canterbury Stone from England, a Coventry Cross made from the ruins of the fourteenth-century Coventry Cathedral, and plaster imported from erstwhile Madras in South India.
Location: St Andrew’s Road, Central Area
Post-war and Contemporary
After World War II, two main styles of architecture were adopted in Singapore – the modern international skyscraper style of the late twentieth century that focuses on rectangular structures and generic glass façades, and the more recent critical regionalist style that draws inspiration from the local ecology and dynamic landscape of the region. The shift from the former to the latter is evident in the new fluid postmodern structures that dot the country– they integrate green spaces and natural lighting in innovative ways, enabling Singapore to be a ‘City in a Garden.’
Jewel Changi Airport
Inside the best-rated airport in the world, Jewel Changi is a haven of green spaces that embraces the Critical Regionalism movement of architecture in Singapore, with the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, an artificial rainforest, award-winning modern sculptures, a glass dome opening up to the sky, and many more hidden wonders.
Location: Changi Airport, Airport Boulevard
Helix Bridge connecting Marina Centre with Marina South is a pedestrian bridge that floats over the Singapore River and runs along the Benjamin Sheares Bridge. It is a walkway which was opened in 2010. The bridge resembles a DNA and even has words c, g, a, and t on it which stand for the four bases of DNA. The arc-shaped bridge is fitted with glass and steel canopy which provides shade to the pedestrians from Singapore's heat. It is truly a marvel in the current situation of architecture of Singapore, a one of a kind structure that displays the brilliance and variety of the architecture in Singapore.
Location: Downtown Core
Gardens by the Bay has been a part of Singapore’s national plan to convert its “Garden City” into a “City of Gardens.” Comprising of three waterfront gardens across 250 acres of reclaimed land, Gardens by the Bay has won tons of awards for its design and beauty. Bay South, the largest of the three gardens, consists of eighteen majestic "Supertrees" reaching up to 50 meters high, acting as a vertical garden and home to thousands of plants from around the world. Bay East has many intrinsically designed leaf-shaped gardens with multifarious landscape design, character, and theme. The bay provides a vast waterfront green space for visitors to enjoy at their leisure, a peaceful spot to relax with stunning views of the city skyline. Bay Central is a garden that serves as a link between the other two, with a 3km promenade boasting astonishing views of the city.
Location: 18 Marina Gardens Dr, Singapore 018953
National Museum of Singapore is the oldest museum in the city, dating back to 1849. Since its construction, the museum has undergone redevelopments like the restoration of windows, dome, coating to prevent oxidation, etc. The museum is a relic of the architecture of Singapore and displays the history of the country through zoological and archaeological artefacts. It was built along the lines of Neo-Palladian and Renaissance style of architecture, characterised by very symmetrical outer appearance and use of pediments above large windows. The most distinct feature is the structure's rotunda with a dome with coloured glass panels and fish scale tiles which make the building stand apart.
Location: 3 Stamford Rd, Singapore
The Esplanade is a performing arts theatre consisting of a concert hall and a theatre which opened its doors in 2002. It is situated in Downtown Core near the Singapore River.
It is spread across an area of 6000 square meters and resembles a durian, the Southeast Asian "king of fruits". The eye-catching spiky exterior and the equally enthralling interior is an example of the modern style of architecture in Singapore. This is a hub for entertainment and hosts a variety of shows all around the year.
Location: 1 Esplanade Dr, Singapore
Marina Bay Sands is a luxurious resort which houses a casino, shopping complex, theatres, a museum, the world's most extended infinity pool and restaurants. Being an icon of Singapore, even the architecture of the place exudes luxury. The complex is spread across an area of 20 hectares and was designed by a Canadian architect Moshe Safdie who said that the inspiration behind it was a deck of cards. It was also built along the lines of Chinese Feng Shui. The main attraction of the hotel is the SkyPark which is a three-acre long park on top of the three towers.
Location: 10 Bayfront Ave, Singapore
Singapore Flyer is another iconic structure exhibiting the prowess of the architecture of Singapore. It is a giant Ferris wheel which was designed as an observational wheel and was opened to the public in 2008, being the world's tallest Ferris wheel at that time. The wheel has 28 air-conditioned capsules and being 165 metres tall; it offers a magnificent view of the city. The capsules protrude out of the wheel's rim to provide an unobstructed view and even has provisions for the differently-abled.
Location: 30 Raffles Ave, Singapore
The lotus-shaped marvel of architecture in Singapore houses 21 huge gallery spaces and specialises in international touring exhibitions which cover popular artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Leonardo Da Vinci. To dodge monotony, the ArtScience Museum keeps people engaged with various themes which explore scientific subjects such as Cosmology, Marine Biology and Palaeontology as well as the art, culture and sustainability of the current scenario like Harry Potter and the Marvel Universe. Here, technology fuses with culture, and art mingles with science in a way that is so extraordinary that it will leave you speechless.
Location: 6 Bayfront Ave, Singapore
The extraordinary feature that makes the splendid Henderson Waves Bridge stand out are its seven undulating curved ribs which form an artistic wave-like structure and seem to flow above and below the deck in the form of alternative crests and troughs. These decks, which weave through the steel curves, are made of the indigenous yellow balau timber, and not only do they enhance the appearance of the bridge but also double as shelters with seats made of timber within them. height of thirty-six metres above the Henderson Road, the Henderson Waves Bridge is a gentle reminder that even though our lives have been made easier with the advent of two-wheelers and four-wheelers, nothing beats the immense peace that one receives after taking a walk along the streets illuminated with city lights.
Location: Henderson Rd, Singapore
The architecture of Singapore, like its people, is diverse and has structures from every era. From precolonial huts to postmodern, futuristic structures, the country dazzles with its diversity and unique styles. What building are you most excited to see? Comment below and let us know!
~This article is written by Akshita Rawat and Nivedha Narayanaswamy~