One of the responsibilities of civic appointees, architects and urban developers is to retain and maintain iconic buildings. Over time built environments deteriorate and fade into obscurity, meaning we subsequently loose valuable lessons and insights into the building techniques used in their construction as well as the importance and relevance of considered urban development.
Image by Jonathan Lim
One such building currently hanging precariously by the thread held by its owners and potential future buyer is the Pearl Bank Apartment tower in downtown Singapore. Currently being readied for potential sale, one of the somewhat murky areas of current discussions is whether or not the appointed marketing agents, Colliers International, will include a conservation clause alongside the buildings $728mil reserve price. The sale of this once proud residential high-rise is as unique as its design was when planing began in 1974 – Pearl Bank Tower will only go on the market if ALL of the units owners agree to do so.
When completed in 1976, Pearl Bank Apartments was the tallest building in Singapore and challenged Asia’s existing typology for high density living. With 288 split-level, residential units housing a maximum of 1500 occupants over 38 floors, Pearl Bank Tower was a major influence on future urban development in Singapore and other major cities throughout Asia.
When the project was conceived, by pioneering Singaporean architect Tan Cheng Siong, its inverted horseshoe design was considered an architectural and engineering feat. Acting as a natural filter for light and sound, this footprint – completely unique at the time – was a revolutionary step in the architectural approach to multi-residential urban development.
Image from Poole Associates + Andrew Rowat for Wallpaper* UK
Image by Calvin Low. Courtesy of Straits Times.
Although Pearl Bank Towers are now in desperate need of facelift – despite rudimentary amendments to refresh its facade in 2008 – there is something poetic in the still majestic sweep of the buildings looming curves and the lingering impression of its once luxury status. Anchored in a pocket of the sprawling Singaporean metropolis, the Tower has comfortably settled into a domesticity familiar to its occupants, evoking a ‘lived-in’ and distinctly humble manner.
Image by Ashley Vidinopoulos
Today, when you walk past Pearl Bank Apartments, foliage spills from apartment balconies, a recent refresh to the paintwork on the buildings’ facade has injected life back into the exterior of the tower which itself looms above a jungle of well established lush trees. The bustle of city life ebbs and flows around and within its walls and this iconic building seems to be rooted to the very fabric of Singapore’s built environment. Even with its somewhat down-but-not-out essence, there is a distinct proudness about Pearl Bank Apartments reflecting the role its design and construction has played in the influence on high-density urban construction throughout greater Asia.
Words by Tiffany Vidinopoulos