The legacy and cultural heritage of the Lion City
Large-scale projects like the Plaza Singapura shopping centre can make you feel slightly dizzy. Confronted with the sheer scale of the real-estate development (a staggering 122,155 square metres), you glance from one photo to another, from one space to the next, searching for a point of reference that will enable you to comprehend what you are seeing. An invaluable source of historical information, the website of the National Heritage Board of Singapore provides a series of archive photos spanning the period from the early twentieth century through to the present day. In the following descriptions, we take a closer look at a few of these images.
Photo 1: Orchard Road, where Plaza Singapura was first built in 1974 by BEP Akitek Pte Ltd. The photograph was taken on a typically sunny day and shows a road lined with tall trees. The photo is in black and white, and like all vintage photos is slightly out of focus. In the distance we see carts and human figures on foot. But rather than being flanked by vegetation, the road itself appears to be entering a wild, untamed forest.
Photo 2: 1977. The photo immortalises the façade of what was then the largest shopping centre in Southeast Asia. Compared to the redevelopment and expansion project carried out in 2012, it’s almost unrecognisable. The photo is one of a series of images documenting how this space was used by the inhabitants of Singapore, a kind of reportage into the lifestyle of the times. Gazing at these photos, the sensation of dizziness passes and we are able to enter a world that is distant but recognisable, contextualised by the presence of people. People with different customs and lifestyles but sharing in the now universal experience of large shopping centres.
Photo 3: Façade of the newly renovated shopping centre in 2012. A few months earlier, the owners, CapitalMall Trust, decided to invest 150 million Singapore dollars in a project to redevelop Plaza Singapura over a period of 21 months. The façade consists of 170 metres of undulating panels that connect the windows horizontally, illuminated in the evening to maintain their distinctive white colour. They appear to represent the waves of the nearby sea or the flow of people visiting the shopping centre’s nine floors (two underground and seven above-ground) as they move fluidly between shops, restaurants and transit areas. The same wave concept is reprised in the interior lighting design, like trails of tentacles that embrace the entire complex and counterbalance the 10,000 sq.m of sand- and white-coloured floor tiles from the Urban collection by Ceramiche Piemme. The ceilings and floors accentuate the impression of an unbounded, undefined wave-like space, the combination of the contemporary materials chosen for the redevelopment project in 2015 and a structure that had already been in existence for 45 years. The 2015 restyling project involved not just the surfaces but above all the lighting system, service areas, lifts and nursing rooms.
Photo 4: Aerial view of the complex at night. The illuminated wave-like structures look like a trail of stars, giving the three large buildings a sense of weightlessness. They almost look like a lion’s mane blown by the wind. Fittingly, Singapura («Lion City» in Sanskrit) was the original name given to Singapore by the Srivijayan prince Sang Nila Utama. After sailing from the island of Sumatra, the prince ran into a fierce storm and landed on the beaches of Singapore. As he set foot on the island, he saw a lion standing on the beach as though to welcome him. Believing the animal to be a good omen, he decided to build a new city here and called it Singapura.
The name of this vast modern project recalls the origins of the city, which since 1299 has had a varied and fascinating history, attracting people from all over the world and developing a powerful economy built on trade. It celebrates the city’s age-old historical heritage while leaving a rich legacy for the future.
Ceramiche Piemme, Urban
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): <0,5%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): >35 N/mm
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): 9
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant