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Globalization expressed an ongoing and widespread process which redefines the economic, social and cultural dynamics of contemporary societies. It is an unavoidable process which is driven by a number of factors, all of which interact with and strengthen each other. Among the most important of these is the increasing ease of communication and technological advances which has greatly promoted the influence of culture, arts and ideas across the globe.
Due to globalization, Singapore has moved from a fishing village to what it is today - a flourishing nation and is regarded to be a global business nation which home about 7,000 multi-national companies.
In the last decade of the 20th century, the Global City entered the phase of political, economic and socio-cultural debate. A small island like Singapore, its population cannot be compared to cities like London, Tokyo or Los Angeles, etc all of which with populations in the 10 to 20 million range. However, Singapore plays an important role as a major financial centre, a headquarters for transnational corporations, business service sector and a position as a transportation node.
It is important to realize this connection with the closely joined system of production and markets which compose the global system as it has a significant effect on the architecture and the urban forms of the island of Singapore. It has transformed Singapore creating it into a so-called "social schizophrenia between, on the one hand, regional societies and local institutions, and on the other, the rules and operations of the economic system at the international level" (Friedmann 1995 seminal essay entitled "The World City hypothesis").
"Furthermore", added Friedmann, " in such cities, the traditional structure of social and political control over development, work and distribution have been subverted by the placeless logic of an internationalized economy enacted by means of information flows among powerful actors beyond the sphere of state regulations."
In simple words, Singapore is not able to act independently in the world economic system or, at least, there are a lot of limitations to it. In this contemporary world system, there are "flows of material cultures that encompass everything from architecture to interior design through to clothes and jewellery" (knox 1995). Architecture in Singapore has become a trade that flows in the nation.
2.1. Independence of the island Singapore
It is thus not surprising when one looks at the outline of downtown Singapore to realize the creative efforts of many of the world's so-called renowned architects are prominent. Architectural critic Deyan Sudjik in his book "The 100 Mile city" (Sudjik 1992), expressed that it its almost necessary for aspiring global cities such as Singapore to have towers designed by Helmut Jahn and Richard Meier. This greatly depicts the cosmopolitan culture of a global city.
Singapore has always been restrained by the global economy. The earliest entrepreneurs who arrived on the island after Sir Stamford Raffles claimed the territory for the East India Company in 1819 were a mixture of British and other Europeans, Chinese, Armenians, Arabs and Indians, who settled alongside the natives of Malays. The trade networks they set up stretched from China to India, the Mediterranean, Europe and the New World.
However, despite of that, the transformation of Singapore since the island achieved independence has been remarkable. Singapore is the product of an extraordinary man, Lee Kuan Yew, who in 1959 became the first independent government in Singapore. Since its independence in 1965, it has an outstanding changed from under-developed to developed status in the spent of just 35 years. No other city in the 20th century could possible been through such rapid transformation. To credit it, this was not a disorganized transformation but everything was planned ahead.
In the 1960s, United Nations form the basis of government planning. The aim is to achieve and build up the island's strategic strength as an entrepot. Clearing of slums and urban renewal became the highest priority in Singapore then. The government initiated through law to acquire land and properties for public purposes. Through the HDB (Housing and Development Board), in 1964 the government's Home ownership Scheme, was introduced and successfully created large numbers of reasonable priced housing units.
Not long after, architecture became the visual symbol of Singapore's economic achievements. The earliest symbols were the NTUC Conference Hall (1968), designed by Malaysian Architects Co-Partners; Jurong Town Hall (1970), designed by Architects Team 3; and People's Park Complex (1970), conceptualized by Design Partnership. However, from the mid-1970s, the architecture of the city down town area was dominated by foreign architects. Urban Redevelopment Authority's Land Sales Policy was then introduced as part of a strategy for a major redevelopment at the central area and it was one of the reasons for the inflow of famous names in Singapore. Proposals and schemes were submitted.
Some of the resulting buildings are examples of architecture which compare favorably with the best in the world. One such building is the OCBC Centre, which is the result of the Second Sale of Sites in 1968, designed by I.M Pei and Partners in association with BEP Akitek. John Portman was responsible for the Pavilion Inter-Continental which was later renamed the Regent in 1988. The Marina Square Complex (1984-85) was also designed by Portman which was based on North American models. It was the largest development of its kind in Southeast Asia, with three international hotels; namely the Pan-Pacific, Marina Mandarin and The Oriental.
Utilizing the Portman trademark, the internal atrium was then developed in his Peachtree development in Atlanta, USA. This development was a result of the URA's Seventh Sale of Sites in 1978. Other architecture buildings include the Raffles City (1984-1985) by I.M Pei, in association with Architects 61; OUB Centre (1990) by Kenzo Tange, with SAA Partnership; and Moshe Safdie's Habitat (1984), in association with Regional Development Consortium.
The need to express progress and modernity was reflected in these international symbols of modern corporate architecture. However, the inflow of foreign architects in the role of "design consultants" has its negative impacts too. In the latter half of 1980s, local social values started changing which bought upon the questioning of Western values, with reference to the cultural roots of Singapore which have a sharp contrast in the beginning. Introducing a large scale of international style building into the island of Singapore may have provide a superficial image or an impression of progress and modernity, but it destroys the fragile evolutionary development of localism and identity of Singapore. In the process of improving and changing its status of Singapore, the global city was walking toward a deprived of sites of cultural memory and struggles to recall its own history for the next generation.
2.2. Responding to the evolution of localism and identity
The Singapore government was quick and practical to handle this issue when it was raised. In 1991, at the Singapore Institute of Architects annual dinner, the then Minster of state for National Development Dr Lee Boon Yang said. "Singapore will be better off by judiciously tapping the experience, expertise and creativity of selected internationally recognized architects." However, there is a downside to this. Buildings design by foreign architects tends not to adequately consider the climate and the culture of Singapore. Most of them are temperate models which are then transferred over to Asia without substantial reassessment causing it to be inappropriate for the tropical climate. One very good example is the staff housing at the National University of Singapore. However, foreign design consultants are not the only one responsible in this because many local practitioners had failed to adequately consider the climate as a generator of form too.
It was argued that given the rising regional consciousness in the mid-1980s, attitudes were changing. There is a grow in confidence and innovative ability in the generation of Singapore architects since independence which stand poised to asset a regional identity in architecture. However, at the dawn of the third millennium, the influence of foreign design consultants on the largest projects in Singapore is considerably even greater than in 1986. Some examples are the Camden Medical Centre designed by Pritzker Prize winner Richard Meier, completed in 1999; the Singapore's Expo by Philip Cox a Australian design consultant. The conceptual designer for the Esplanade: Theatres on the bay by Michael Wilford.
2.3. Products of Singapore Architects
The fact of the characteristic of global cities, there is nevertheless a strong local consciousness evident in the work of a number of Singapore architects. The most evident in this are works by Akitek Tenggara, William Lim Associates and Tangguanbee Architects. The most important project by William Lim Associates in the 1980s were Unit 8 (1983) and Tampines North Community Centre (1989). William describes his work as "contemporary vernacular and a celebration of pluralism". This is best illustrated by Marine Parade Community Centre (2000) through the interesting details of the building.
Marine Parade Community Centre is design to response to the tropical climate in Singapore with the different layers of the façade by a variety of sun-shading devices and a different way of interpreting the traditional 5 foot way. The major spaces are naturally ventilated with numerous shaded outdoor spaces. The tight site constraints were creatively solved by the partially shaded basketball court on the rooftop. The roof form can be read as a symbol of the leaves of a palm tree which floats above the rooftop of the basketball court. At the other level, the form of the building can be interpreted as a "dragon" with the crest and mural artwork as they eye of the dragon. The horizontal louvers in the library block give an impression of the tail fins of the auspicious animal. All of these clearly show a Chinese cultured influence as dragon is a symbol for the Chinese of power and royalty.
Akitek Tenggara make use of modern technology on most of his works which emphasis on "line, edge, mesh and shades" rather than "plane, volume, solid and void" in terms of design language. The evident of these can be seen from his work on the architecture Parkway builders Centre (1985) and Chee Tong Temple (1986) to ITE Bishan (1993) and Kandang Kerbau Hospital (1997).
A small city like Singapore has very limited land area and when the land area cannot be increased any more, there is a need to optimise its use. Walking out of the city center, sights of high-rise, high density public housing can be seen everywhere. More than 80% of Singapore population lives in apartment blocks designed by the housing and Development Board (HDB). The earliest designs of HDB housing were kept simple and its main purpose is to facilitate speedy construction to house the increase population in Singapore. However, the wants to have a better living standard have changed and the younger generations is now more demanding. The basic housing provision that satisfied the older generation is no longer sufficient. In respond to his, the HDB came out with programme to upgrade the HDB housing. Natural features, different architecture forms, communication central areas and parks are incorporated to enhance the character of each new town. Integrating private sector into the public housing apartments with facilities was built to cater to different categories of income group in Singapore. Taking for example the development of the concept waterfront town in the north of Singapore, Punggol 21 which have a mixed of public and private housing development.
2.4. Recent Developments
The integrated resort and resort world sentosa are the recent developments in Singapore which has drawn not only the locals but the global attention. Marina Bay Sands is an integrated resort fronting Marina Bay in Singapore which is developed by Las Vegas Sands. The magnificent architecture holds the world's most expensive standalone casino at $8 billion with the resort features of 55 storey hotel tower with convention exhibition centre, shopping mall, Art & Science museum, Theatres, restaurants and two amazing pavilions.
Another new attraction is the Resort World Sentosa. The project was designed by Michael Graves & Associates. This is Singapore's first, large scale, multi-recreational luxury park project completed. The resort includes Universal Singapore Theme Park, six hotels, a casino, marine life park, an underground ball room with the capacity to hold approximate 7,300-person, restaurants and high-end shops. The aim of the project is to attract both the locals and the foreign crowd which includes the gamblers to the casino as well as families to the theme parks.
At the same time, a toy museum development is on its to impact Singaporeans giving them a different perspective of how a museum is like. Addressing to the issues of the local museum in Singapore and the attractions of only the tourist, the vintage toy museum is located in Sentosa around Merlion plaza. Making used of the colonial building which preserve the vintage and culture of the building, the interior is creatively designed with the twist to offset the norm.