Cover Photo: Courtesy of Farm (The Great Madras)

Go off the beaten track; Singapore's built architectural heritage comprises more than just shophouses and colonial-style structures, with the Golden Mile Complex as one such notable structure. We round up five modern buildings that photographers and design lovers ought to visit

Additional reporting by Cheryl Lai-Lim

While Singapore might be well-known for its striking city skyline peppered with cutting-edge high-rise towers and its historic shophouses, these structures show insights into Singapore's earlier decades as a young nation and are the embodiment of the city-state's built heritage. While notable modern landmarks such as Golden Mile Complex are already well-known, these buildings nonetheless will offer another perspective to the country's urban development over the years.

Whether you're a history buff or a design enthusiast, these sites are sure to make you see Singapore's architectural history in a different light. 

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1. Dakota Crescent

Also known as the Old Airport Road Estate, this early example of public housing built in 1959 has been partially conserved, with its central blocks to be retained even as the rest of the estate is redeveloped. Innovative construction materials such as steel tubing and hollow cement blocks adapted from industrial use were employed to keep costs down. Decorative concrete screens give the estate a distinctively 1960s appearance.

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2. Pandan Valley

Designed by Tan Cheng Siong and Archynamics Architects and completed in 1978, this was one of Singapore’s very first condominium projects. The terraced structure gives many apartments large amounts of outdoor space, and the whole development embraces the local topography. Without conservation status, Docomomo considers it threatened by redevelopment.

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3. The Great Madras

The adaptive reuse of modern buildings is still in its infancy in Singapore, but this is one example of how even small projects can make an impact. Built in the 1940s with curved overhangs and distinctive brick balconies, this former public housing block was restored and converted by local studio Farm into The Great Madras hotel in 2018, earning it a URA Architectural Heritage Award.

4. Tan Boon Liat Building

One of the last reminders of the Singapore River’s industrial heritage, this 15-storey building was completed in 1976 and designed by Chok and Associates. External corridors connect the building’s units, giving it a distinctive functionalist appearance. Many of the current tenants are furniture stores, turning it into a destination for interior design aficionados.

5. Jurong Town Hall

Designed by a team of local architects led by Lim Chong Keat, this 1974 building is considered one of Singapore’s best examples of brutalism, which is why it was conserved in 2005 and subsequently renovated. The building’s cantilevered upper storeys and angled facade give it the appearance of a concrete gemstone.

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