Research Highlights

Modern Architecture in Singapore : A Study of Pioneers, Milieu and Works: The Public Works Department-Singapore in the Inter-War Years (1919-41)

Principal Investigator : Dr Wong Yunn Chii
Contact : 68743408
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Documentation and assessment of the works of PWD-Singapore

Assessment of the historiography of modern Singapore architecture

This is a limited research monograph on the architectural works of PWD-Singapore, one of many colonial state instruments in service of the British Malaya in general and SS-Singapore in particular. As an organization, PWD, from its inception, was charged with an implicit mission to advance colonial interests (political and economic) through its built works and infrastructures.

The underpinning hypothesis of this work is that the production of PWD-Singapore significantly contributed to the creation of modern spaces in colonial Singapore.

It is argued through evidence of the works and programs, that there were various phases in PWD-Singapore's works. PWD-Singapore, from its origins through the inter-war years, and up to 1951 when the organization eclipsed the functionalities of the Singapore Municipality , could be understood through its premier role as the quintessential State instrument – realizing through architecture, the imperial ambitions. In the inter-war years, modernity in its architectural expressions and built program ensued from the expanded ambitions of the empire. But it is a "symbolic" modernity of a particular sort in contrast to the "material" modernity promulgated by the Singapore Municipality .

Significance / Impact

  1. In the nationally telecast of Arts Central-Nippon Paint documentary series, "Building Dreams," PI provided an overview of the tropical discourse on architecture from the colonial period particularly on the development of tropical architectural discourse.
  2. Acknowledgement by Supreme Court Singapore, in the Commemorative issue of the "In Session. Supreme Court Singapore: The Building Her Heritage and Her People." [2002]
  3. National Archives of Singapore – assistance on the Supreme Court Drawings in its holding, connected to the book project above (2)
  4. A first in-depth assessment of the works of Colonial Architecture in Singapore
  5. Conference paper to be presented at Docomomo US 2004 in New York .
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