Singapore, colloquially known as the Lion City, the Garden City or the Red Dot, is the world’s only sovereign island city state. It is a beautiful place to be in, grandiose contemporary designs on one hand, and neat and strategically located colonial style buildings adding to the culturally eclectic mix of the city on the other. Colonial English styles depicting power, wealth and establishment dot the city, also representing the most expensive real estate addresses. It’s the city with the highest average number of US dollar millionaires; every 6th person you meet on the street is!
Singaporeans are mostly bilingual, with English as their common language and a second mother-tongue language. The national pastime in Singapore is eating, and you don’t have to walk long before you come by a deli-cart, at least not in the areas just outside the CBD. Their national symbol is the “Merlion”, a mystique creature which is both mermaid and lion.
The architecture of Singapore displays a range of influences and styles from different places and periods. Traditional architecture in Singapore includes vernacular Malay houses, local hybrid shop houses as well as colonial civic and commercial architecture in proper European font.
Vernacular architecture comprised village (or ‘kampong’) houses built in the Malay tradition. Malay kampong houses were built on stilts and raised above the ground (or water, depending on their location). The house was erected around a skeletal structure of tropical hardwood posts and beams, usually cengai. Medium hardwoods, like meranti, were used as floor boards, roof rafters and door and window frames. The roof itself was made of layers of palm frond thatch, while the walls were either made of woven bamboo strips or meranti planks.
Insert Photo of traditional Malay house
From the 1970s to late 1980s the city was dominated by modern architecture, particularly the brutalist style. This is seen in some of the older commercial skyscrapers, such as the OCBC Centre by I. M. Pei, as well as many buildings built to house government offices and government-linked companies, including the Singapore Land Tower, Temasek Tower, DBS Building, and the CPF Building.
Changing international architectural trends also introduced some architectural styles -particularly the postmodernist style to the rich and wealthy homes of Singapore.
One of the most important and celebrated buildings in Singapore is the Changi Airport, which has led in global awards in multi sectoral platforms. It is one of the important gateways into Singapore, serving one of Asia’s largest fleet of Airbus A380s operated by Singapore airlines.
Singapore is designed with English pre-1940 planning modules of the suburban estate at the periphery and the commercial and business centers at the middle. Just like Nairobi, the CBD is the most active area of the city, bustling with Activity and boasting several world class shopping, gastronomy and entertainment outlets.
The CBD gives way to a modern re-planned mixed zone where both businesses and classy serviced apartments are to be found. On average, Apartment prices in Singapore are the highest in the world, a 2 bedroom in this zone going for a whopping US$ 2,000,000. High end and world class apartments like The Interlace which won the World Architecture awards in 2015 or The Reflections at Keppel Bay are to be found in areas such as the green belt that stretches between Kent Ridge, Telok Blangah Hill and Mount Faber Parks.
After the mixed zone one gets to the government housing zones, where the government has heavily subsidized housing for its people, achieving a near zero slum status. This seemed like an obvious to do item, since apartments on the open market would be out of pricing for the middle class locals. These flats are located in housing estates, which are self-contained satellite towns with schools, supermarkets, clinics, hawker centers, and sports and recreational facilities. These are in areas such as Tiong Bahru in the Bukit Merah area , Woodlands Town , Toa Payoh,Bukit Batoh, and Queenstown.
The most expensive lots in Singapore, some going up as expensive as US$ 2,500,000 per square meter are to be found on Sentosa Island, the luxurious, rich-only beachside destination in Singapore. Everything Starts and ends in Sentosa. It also plays host to an amazing collection of zoo animals at its Sentosa Island Resort and access is via aerial cableway, which offer a sunset dining experience in the evenings.
Sentosa is full of surprises, with international entertainment outlets having their fun parks hosted on it. The best form of contemporary, postmodern and traditional Malaysian Feng shui based; residential architecture is on full display in Sentosa. Here the rich have some of the world’s most expensive modern houses on 1/8 acre or 1/4 acre lots.
Feng shui is a harmonization of the four natural elements in design, and the practice has other Asian connotations which need a whole other article to explain. Most homes here, however, have some form of water flowing all the way from the entrance to the back yard and into the ocean, a harnessing of energy flow in the house, for good luck in life and business.
Marina Bay Area
The Singapore government has invested in other new developments, mainly to attract tourists to Singapore’s booming Casino and gambling markets. Many of these developments can be found in the Marina Bay area, where one objective in its master plan is to create a distinctive image for the waterfronts as international landmarks. The Marina Bay master plan includes Marina Bay Sands, ArtScience Museum, the Helix Bridge, Gardens by the Bay, and in particular, the show piece arts centre Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.
A typical one-day tour of Singapore would see you visit attractions such as Orchard Road (fashion & shopping), Clarke Quay (nightlife extraordinaire), Universal World Studios, Sentosa Island resort, Marina Bay Sands, The Gardens by the Bay, Singapore port, Raffles Place, Mount Faber, Singapore Art Museum, and Boat Quay.
You will also notice that Singapore is among the cleanest cities in the world. Public transportation works, reclamation and re-design of the master plan is a constant process and public participation in the initiation & delivery of major projects is day to day.
The Author, Stephen Lutta, is a graduate architect and travel enthusiast with Africana Travel. firstname.lastname@example.org