6 Singapore Buildings With The Coolest Design Secrets Hidden Right Under Your Nose

Singapore buildings’ design secrets

Think “iconic Singapore buildings” and the sky-high Marina Bay Sands boat or durian-shaped Esplanade come to mind. Our Little Red Dot is actually densely packed with fascinating architecture, whether you’re chilling in the heartlands or hustling in the CBD.

From a Tetris-like tower to an office building which magically looks 2D, here are 6 Singapore buildings with the coolest design secrets alongside architectural info bites from a Spatial Design graduate from Nanyang Polytechnic

Read on till the end to find out more about NYP’s Early Admissions Exercise to see how it can set you down the path of realising your passion.

1. Parkroyal on Pickering – futuristic urban meets nature

It was even one of the filming locations of the Emmy-winning American sci-fi drama series, Westworld.
Image credit: @beautifulhotelandresorts

Beyond the futuristic terraces that seemingly ascend to the heavens and floating “bird cages” that could have Parkroyal on Pickering pass off as an apparition straight out of the far future, this 5-star hotel’s sleek aesthetic houses a 15,000 sqm self-sustaining sky garden with over 50 varieties of flora that survive on recycled water. 

The ingenious design also incorporates the use of natural materials alongside solar cells, rain, sun and motion sensors that score it 10/10 in the water and energy conservation department. 

2. OCBC Centre – Brutalist style, nicknamed “The Calculator”

Image credit: @damien.nuytsroussel, @jrpb_archi

Skyscrapers are predominantly marvels of glass and steel, but OCBC Centre is a throwback to the 1950s with its concrete semi-circular main building and blocky, geometric protruding floors. It’s no wonder that the building quickly earned itself the nickname of “The Calculator”.

PSA: It was the first building in Singapore to be designed by international architects and the tallest skyscraper in Singapore back in the day.

3. The Gateway on Beach Road – 2D optical illusion from certain angles

The Gateway East and West – architecture with the amazing ability to “flatten” into a paper-thin, optical illusion. This style of geometric architecture was a step out of the box from conventional building designs at the time.
Image credit: @study_singapore, Flickr – Nicolas Lannuzel 

These 2 trapezoidal buildings on Beach Road were completed in the early 90s and designed by the “Godfather of modern architecture” I.M. Pei who also designed the iconic pyramid-like entrance to the Louvre. And while simple and pragmatic in design, the building was meant to be both a symbolic and literal “gateway” to Singapore.

Winner of the HP Innovation Design Award, Evelyn Eng, reveals that on top of taking into “consideration the users, environment and heritage“, architects constantly push themselves to challenge the conventional and push boundaries in their process of design.

4. Ayer Rajah Telephone Exchange – resembles Tetris blocks

Image credit: @lan.dongdong

One of Singtel’s telecom facilities, the Ayer Rajah Telephone Exchange all but follows the standard sleek building silhouette. Erected in 1978, the building sports “wings” jutting out from 4 directions. The irregularity in the height of each protrusion lends a quirky vibe, and we can’t help but be reminded of Tetris blocks stacking up on top of one another.

5. The Colonnade – zig-zag condo with “empty spaces” between units

Left to right: exterior of The Colonnade, Interior of one of The Colonnade’s units.
Image credit: @burntwee, Micah Lim Real Estate

The Colonnade challenges all residential building norms with a structure reminiscent of children’s toy blocks. The first thing which sets it apart is the asymmetrical columns in place of ground floor units. 

Thereafter, each floor follows an irregular arrangement pattern where there seem to empty spaces in place of concrete walls. These clever nooks and crannies allow each unit to have extraordinarily high ceilings, as well as sprawling floor-to-ceiling windows.

6. Duo Twin Towers – circular puzzle pieces curving inward

The sleek honeycomb design also hides hexagonal sun shades that reflect both heat and the rays of the sun.
Image credit: Archello, @justdoarchitecture

Unlike other curved towers which are designed to complete the rounded silhouette, the Duo Twin Towers in Bugis celebrate the concept of imperfection with its cut-outs and protrusions along an otherwise neat and seamless circular frame to enhance natural ventilation within the compound and conserve energy.

Discovering the wonders of architecture through Spatial Design

Living in the concrete jungle that is Singapore, architectural wonders are everywhere we look. If you’re well-enamoured by out-of-the-box silhouettes or towering skyscrapers touching the sky and dream of designing an architectural marvel of your own one day, then you’ll first need a solid background in spatial design.

For the uninitiated, spatial design “explores relationships between people, objects and spaces”, providing newfound insights into the planning and creation of architecture, interiors, environments, landscapes, events and more.

Image credit: Evelyn Eng

Someone very familiar with appreciating beauty in our surroundings is budding architect, Evelyn Eng, a 20-year-old graduate of Nanyang Polytechnic’s (NYP) Spatial Design course (since merged with Industrial Design and renamed to Diploma in Experiential Product & Interior Design)

Her interest in spatial design was sparked by an NYP lecturer who introduced the diploma course when she was still in secondary school. That led her to applying for the course through the Early Admissions Exercise, and the rest is history. 

Today, Evelyn’s a straight 4.0 GPA graduate with numerous design accolades to her name – such as the HP Innovation Design Award and Gold Medal for Diploma in Spatial Design. She had also earned a spot on the Director’s List for all 6 semesters of polytechnic, and has since clinched a spot in the NUS Architecture faculty.

Image credit: Evelyn Eng

The duration of the course equipped her with invaluable knowledge on portfolio building, as well as software proficiency which served her well throughout her internship at Edmund Ng Architects. 

Kickstart your child’s dream career with NYP’s Early Admissions Exercise

Evelyn is one of many young minds who recognised her aspirations, and delved headfirst into making her dreams of becoming an architect a reality. The Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) allows graduating O-Level and ITE students to apply for their dream courses ahead of their final exams. 

Image credit: NYP

Mugging for finals is a nerve-wracking affair, so imagine the difference it would make knowing that a spot has already been secured in the next phase of your child’s education journey. NYP has a myriad of courses for every nature of passion, curiosity and hunger to learn there is. 

Your child will stand a competitive edge as they lock down the course of their choice ahead of time, leading to a rewarding polytechnic experience and bright career prospects in the future.

Find out more about NYP’s EAE here

This post was brought to you by Nanyang Polytechnic.
Cover image adapted from: @study_singapore, @beautifulhotelandresorts,

Renae Cheng

I love food, dance, writing, and writing about food and dance.

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