Lost Singapore Architecture: Pearl Bank Apartments

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.

Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography

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.

Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography

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.[2]

Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography

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.

Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography

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. [3]

Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography

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 [4].

Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography

The grey shroud of death was quickly raised, and the building was demolished one floor at a time, slowly vanishing from the skyline.

Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography
Pearl Bank Apartments, Singapore Architecture Photography

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 [6]. However for many in Singapore, the loss of the this iconic building will be greatly mourned by many, to which nothing will replace.


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