Lost Singapore Architecture: Pearl Bank Aparments
Constructed in 1976, the Pearl Bank Apartment complex was a pioneering residential development in Singapore, that was when built the tallest residential structure in Singapore. Designed by Tan Cheng Siong of Archurban Architects & Planners, Pearl Bank served as a precedent for high density dwelling, and paved the way for subsequent high-density urban development in Singapore, where shophouses and walk-up apartments were the norm. The tower was vacated and controversially demolished in 2019, following a collective sale by the residents to the developer Capitaland.
Sited on the top of Pearl’s Hill, in central Singapore, the 38 floor tower consists of a ¾ cylindrical tower enveloping a west-facing interior courtyard and low level podium/car park. This orientation minimized solar heat gain from the tropical afternoon sun, and allowed unobstructed views out towards the central downtown areas.
A key factor influencing the Pearl Bank’s unique horseshoe shape design was its construction efficiency, where unlike a conventional point or slab block, fewer materials were used due to a smaller wall-to-floor ratio. The construction employed a relatively new construction method, utilizing slip-form casting, as opposed to the slower in-situ casting method – the first of its kind for a residential development in Singapore.
The radial shape of the tower formed the key organization of the unit’s layout- with service areas facing the inner courtyard, and living areas facing outwards towards the city. The apartments were large (between 1.3-3.9k sqft) and featured split-level floor layouts, which determined the unusual design of the facades.
The design of Pearl Bank’s common facilities was pioneering for its time, featuring a 28th-floor community area “Sky Park” and amenities including common areas, swimming pools, and clubhouses, were the first of their kind in Singapore. 
As a result of high maintenance costs and lack of funds, the apartments deteriorated over many years – with broken lifts, leaking sewage pipes, and rat infestations common occurrences. Given the looming expiry of the 99-year land lease and these conditions, many residents chose to back the communal sale of the building. Despite attempts and petitions to legally protect and conserve the structure as a key landmark of Singapore’s modernist architectural heritage, its fate was sealed and the site was sold to Capitaland for $728 million SGD .
The grey shroud of death was quickly raised, and the building was demolished one floor at a time, slowly vanishing from the skyline.
The taller, sleeker tower which will stand in its place, One Pearl Bank, is due completion by 2023. With a design echoing its deceased predecessor by Serie Architects + Multiply Architects, the developer’s sales website states it as ‘more eye-catching’ than what came before . However for many in Singapore, the loss of the this iconic building will be greatly mourned by many, to which nothing will replace.