Before Jewel Changi Airport came into the picture, the airport tower is the most recognisable landmark of Changi Airport – and still remains iconic according to many Singaporeans. It's the first thing you see when approaching the airport and the last view you have of the place as your taxi pulls away. Officially opened in 1981, the iconic tower stands at about 81 metres above sea level and handles as many as about 1,000 aircraft movements a day.
New buildings go up each year but still, the city’s world-famous half-lion, half-fish mascot remains an iconic landmark – and symbol – to Singapore's heritage. More than 8m tall and spouting water into the bay around the clock, this central figure of many postcards and souvenirs was fashioned by a local craftsman, but relocated in 2002 to its current – and more scenic – location. A 70-tonne sculpture that draws tourists all day long, the statue at Merlion Park is one of seven commissioned Merlions around Singapore, which include other statues of different sizes in Mount Faber and Sentosa.
The former three-storey creative space that was home to artists and creative types may be demolished but in its place is a cooler, more interesting building. In a sea of grey buildings in an industrial area, The Mill stands out with its Art Deco style, complete with a gothic tower. And if the design looks a little familiar, that's because one of the towers of The Mill was designed by the same team who worked on the iconic Parkview Square in Bugis. The other tower – also in gothic style – is designed by an established architecture firm in Singapore who have designed landmarks like St Andrew's Cathedral and Goodwood Park Hotel. On the inside, The Mill remains to be a creative hub, counting a bespoke tailor and a couple of interior design firms as tenants.
On the outside, it might just look like a futuristic dome but step inside and you'll see that this majestic dome is home to over 280 dining and retail outlets, the tallest indoor waterfall in the world and even a man-made rainforest. Designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie (who also did Marina Bay Sands), Jewel features a distinctive dome-shaped facade made of glass and steel, making it an iconic landmark in the airport’s landscape.
After three years of redevelopment, the mall formerly known as Funan DigitaLife Mall is starting a new chapter. It is now home to a variety of more than 190 brands clustered around the themes of tech, craft, play, fit, chic and taste. Keeping it modern, industrial chic is the aesthetic of the mall with many vibrant corners and spaces within the mall like the Tree of Life, the Kinetic Wall, a seven-storey green wall and even an urban farm operated by Edible Garden City on the rooftop.
Housing Thai eateries, karaoke lounges, occult shops, mini grocery stores and also residential apartments, Golden Mile Complex also has quite a history. Designed in the Brutalist style that was popular back then, the 16-storey building was hailed an architectural and cultural marvel once. Over the years, and a lot of paint coats later, its future is still uncertain. Still, take the chance to check out this monolith, and then get a plate of pad thai after.
Located beside Chinatown MRT Station, PARKROYAL on Pickering stands out in the CBD skyline of concrete and glass with its layers of greenery. Designed to be built like an office and hotel in a garden, look a little closer and you'll see that the interesting facade is made up of skygardens, reflective pools, and plant walls. Pretty impressive for a high-rise.
The former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings have been refurbished to become the National Gallery. Now in the heart of the civic district, both buildings have been central to several of Singapore's historial milestones. First constructed in the 1920s, it is now the largest visual art gallery in Singapore, and mostly dedicated to local and South-East Asian art from the 19th century to today. Take in the collection of artwork and the historially rich halls and all its grandeur.
Widely and fondly known as 'the Gotham building' by locals, Parkview Square is an Art Deco monolith in a sea of buildings. Designed by Singapore’s DP Architects and James Adams Design of USA, the majestic exterior screams luxury with bronze, granite and glass. Take a walk in the courtyard before entering the building and you'll find yourself acquainted with bronze effigies of Salvador Dalí, Mozart, Isaac Newton, Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Plato, Dante, Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein. The ostentatiousness doesn't end there. Inside, the grandeur of Atlas Bar will be the first thing you notice. The bar is dedicated to gin, and stocks hundreds of rare or limited edition varieties within a three-storey-tall tower that dominates the space.
If you feel hungry staring at this building, we'd totally understand. The Hive at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), also known as the Learning Hub looks strikingly like a dim sum basket. The $45 million eight-storey building was designed by renowned British designer Thomas Heatherwick and a hub for the university's newly adopted "flipped classroom" teaching method - in which students watch lectures online and class time is used to delve deeper into the topic through discussions and debates. Ah, to be a student at NTU.
Once a convent school, CHIJMES has transformed into a hip lifestyle enclave brimming with bars, restaurants and cafés. It’s currently undergoing a revamp – and it’s more than just a cosmetic update. A fleet of new F&B joints are flocking to the old school, including El Mero Mero, Here & There, and Prive.
The iconic red and white Central Fire Station, completed in 1908 has a watchtower and living quarters for firemen. Best thing? The building is still in use as a fire station. If you're hoping to tour the place, remember to have a kid along with you. On Saturday mornings kids get to ride on an engine and take pictures with the Red Rhinos (a smaller version of the fire truck) and the firemen. The Civil Defence Heritage Gallery next door (open Tue-Sun, 10am-5pm), is also a mini fire-fighting museum housing old trucks and equipment, plus interactive games and activities on the second level.
Love it or hate it, The Interlace is a mind-boggling, if not fascinating sight in the Alexandra neighbourhood. Resembling Jenga blocks, the condominium features 31 six-storey blocks irregularly stacked on each other. The spaces between each block are then used for the condo amenities like lush roof gardens, swimming pools, tennis courts and courtyards.
Perhaps the most charming form of iconic architecture on the list are the heritage shophouses in Singapore. Beautifully restored, you'll still find them around the island. From the residential shophouse homes at Katong and Joo Chiat to the ones that line Amoy and Telok Ayer Street, shophouses are a glimpse of how buildings were made in the past. With Peranakan tiles, French windows and Malay timber fretwork, our heritage shophouses are an eclectic mix of Chinese, Malay and European influences.
From Supertrees to a tropical highland in a glass dome, Gardens by the Bay is an architecture wonder in itself (sans Marina Bay Sands). The park sprawling across 101 hectares of land deserves recognition on its own for how it is meticulously planned, from its man-made lake to the massive Meadows by the Bay where some festivals have been held. There's also the indoor Flower Dome and Cloud Forest – both futuristic and lush greenhouses perfect for a stroll.
Formerly named MICA, as it houses the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, this neo-classical building was renamed as the Old Hill Street Police Station in 2012, after MICA became the Ministry of Communication and Information. It also houses the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. Before all this, the building used to be one of the finest police barracks in the world, vacating the premises only in 1980. Now, its main courtyard, previously used as a police parade ground, has been transformed into an air-conditioned atrium for art activities. Called The ARTrium, it usually houses large scale visual art exhibitions and performing arts events and you can't miss the rainbow coloured, double-leafed louvred windows on this building!
Designed by Daniel Libeskind who also created the masterplan of the World Trade Center Memorial, Reflections @ Keppel Bay is a futuristic glass masterpiece sitting pretty in by the bay. The luxury waterfront residential complex also has the best panoramic views of Mount Faber and Sentosa.
While it might not be as swanky as some of the buildings on the list, our own HDB flats are a testament to the ever-changing landscape of Singapore. From the simple pastel-coloured vintage blocks to modern HDB developments like the Pinnacle@Duxton and SkyTerrace@Dawson, our HDB blocks are definitely architectural icons.
A trip to Chinatown is not complete without a visit to People's Park Complex. Hailed as a masterpiece of 1970s experimental architecture, the mustard yellow building we know now took cues from the Brutalist architectural style popular at that time – and was actually finished in raw concrete before it went through several colourful rebirths. The bustling building is now a mixed-use building where you can find street snacks, jewellery stores, electronic goods and other knick knacks. The rooftop carpark is also the perfect place for that impromptu photo shoot.
Besides blowout brunch buffets and being a stately five-star hotel, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore isn't always known as building of luxury. Built as a fort in 1829, the building later also became home to the country’s General Post Office in 1928. While the neo-classical façade remains, the heritage building holds 400 hotel rooms, a spa, infinity pool and 24-hour fitness centre.
Even on an intense hike, you can also appreciate great architecture. The wave-shaped 36-metre pedestrian bridge connecting Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park is the best place for you to take a breather from the walking and climbing and take in the views from the bridge.
Few buildings have created such a stir as this one. Opened in 2002, the eye-catching bayfront complex has been dubbed ‘the durians’ by locals because of its resemblance to the spiky tropical fruit. Built at a cost of $600 million, the Esplanade is Singapore’s premier performing arts centre and often draws comparisons with the Sydney Opera House. Its crown jewels are the 1,600-seat Concert Hall and the 2,000-seat Theatre. There is also a black box Theatre Studio (seating 220) and a Recital Studio (245).
With more than 2,500 rooms and suites, Marina Bay Sands claims to be the biggest hotel in Singapore. We believe them. The rooms offer views of the South China Sea or Marina Bay and the Singapore skyline, but let’s be honest: the Moshe Safdie-designed SkyPark is the real crowd puller. Sitting prettily atop the three hotel towers 200 metres high, hotel guests and outsiders (who part with $20 for the privilege) can enjoy unfettered views from the Observation Deck. The best views are to be had from the infinity pool, the largest of its kind. Swimming is for hotel guests only but outsiders can watch smug guests swim while munching on $6 hot dogs, which is almost as fun. Sort of.