BRUTALIST SINGAPORE

Remko Tanis • 29 January 2019

For all its reputation of being a spic and span clean city, Singapore still has some hidden treasures where things just feel a bit smudgier than in those dozens of shiny malls, glistering skyscrapers and luxurious condo complexes.

Singapore skyline. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

In a shiny mall, no matter which one, without having been before you know to expect an H&M around the corner from that GAP; to see a Starbucks next to a Yu Kan Kaya Toast, next to a Soup Spoon, next to a second Starbucks.

In the grittier places, you can safely bet to run into a KTV karaoke joint or two, a gambling den, hole in the wall restaurants and those bars where you can’t look in from outside, their windows taped off with promotions for Jack Daniel’s or Tiger beer.

Private Club in Pearls Centre, Singapore. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

Less predictable nonetheless.

One of those gritty places in Singapore was the Pearls Centre. Until 3,5 years ago, it housed the Yangtze, the last erotic cinema in the city state. And the Golden Mile complex on Beach Road, a major departing hub for long distance buses into Malaysia and all the other stuff like KTV, nightclubs and a film arthouse.

Closed acupuncture shop in Pearls Centre, Singapore. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

Many of these grittier places are older and up for either demolition or renovation. According to the New York Times this week, the Golden Mile complex -a monument to Brutalist architecture- will have its future decided shortly. Architecture fans want it to get monumental status as typical construction from the 1960s and 70s. For others, they’d be happy to see the concrete eyesore vanish and be replaced by another shiny mirror-glassed tower.

Would be a shame if Singapore really lost all its grittiness.

Here’s some of Singapore’s architecture that’s not part of the famous Marina Bay skyline (so not the hotel with a boat on its roof). , Mostly not that gritty - it’s still Singapore. Some of it brutal, maybe even brutalist. None of it standard mirrored glass slabs.