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Past Perfect: A tribute to Singapore’s retro architecture

Past Perfect: A tribute to Singapore’s retro architecture

By Aditi Gaitonde Fernandes

We’re feeling nostalgic and need an urgent fix of old-school architecture. Walk with us as we take a little stroll down Brutalism boulevard, retro-futuristic alley and neoclassical lane.


The Colonnade Condo on Grange Road

Can’t go ga-ga about Singapore’s retro structures without a respectable ode to Brutalism architecture. Ask a roomful of people about their most beloved buildings and chances are a few Brutalist ones will make the list. Pearl Bank Apartments (that went en bloc and will return as One Pearl Bank), People’s Park, Golden Mile and of course, The Colonnade. American architect Paul Rudolph’s masterpiece, The Colonnade was built back in 1980. Like carefully stacked bricks, this Brutalist beauty on Grange Road still remains one of the most envied condos in Singapore.

When asked about The Colonnade in an interview with Chicago Architects Oral History Project (1986), Paul Rudolph said, “I should say about Grange Road that this is a building that I have been thinking about for thirty years. It cannot be built in the United States because of the labor involved…..The forming of the concrete is, let’s face it, very elaborate. There’s a great deal going on in this building, for better or for worse. There are many different apartment types and structurally and mechanically it becomes tremendously involved. I was just saying that this was not at all off the top of my head. It’s a marvellous example of a building that I’d really been thinking about in principle for a long, long time.”


Paddle pop homes on Goodman Road

Here we were thinking that only HDB buildings were bright and cheerful! Meet this low-rise on Goodman Road that’s giving us all kinds of #AccidentallyWesAnderson vibes. Why just look at those proud pinks, deep blues, sturdy grills and exposed bricks in sweet, sweet symmetry!

Also on Goodman Road is this pastel green home that looks straight out of a drawing. It’s even got that perfect picket fence!


Domed and curvy structures

Round was all the rage back then. Peer into history, you’ll find several ancient civilisations and indigenous tribes lived in circular homes (see also: nomadic yurt, Arctic igloo, Greek and Roman temples). Curves came back full circle with Streamline Moderne architecture in the 1930s and are often seen in retro-futuristic structures. Happy to report that Singapore has its share of delightful retro-futuristic bungalows. We found this domed home, above, near Bin Tong Park with windows that look like cut-outs.

And this Binjai Park home that’s straight out of a sci-fi movie from the ’80s. We’re half expecting one of those curved niches to take off like a rocket!


Modern-day neoclassical

Architecture in Singapore inspired by the chateaus of France

Fall head over heels in love with Singapore’s neoclassical architecture on our voyeuristic walk-through of mansions that seemed to have travelled through time. It doesn’t get more retro than these distinct home designs embracing classical features like columns, pediments, carved balustrades, wrought-iron balconies and such.


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