I didn’t have particularly high hopes for Singapore from an architecture and design perspective so I was pleasantly surprised by a couple of interesting places that I visited during my short time there. It turns out that there is more to Singapore than gleaming office blocks and shopping malls (though there were a lot of those as well).
St Mary Church of the Angels
Worth visiting for: the stunning prayer hall
This beautiful modernist church was definitely worth the long trek out into the wooded slopes of Butik Batok. I found the church’s design to be dramatic yet entirely fit for purpose: the main prayer hall, with its uniform stepped rows of beechwood pews and tripod-like lamps, was a surprisingly intimate space and the light-filled underground columbarium (a room with recesses in the wall in which funeral urns were kept) was stunning yet tranquil in spite of the slightly mawkish Enya-esque music that they insisted playing in the background.
Singapore Design Centre
Worth visiting for: the odd mash-up of architectural styles, the shop
I couldn’t quite work out what was going on with the architecture of this place – the front part of the building appeared to be 1930s-era Art Deco, the back was much older (according to my guidebook, the site was an 1800s former convent) and the interiors were all brand new – but it came together into an impressive whole. The purpose of the building was equally confusing: part art gallery, part Design Council HQ, part creative office block and part retail space. The retail space housed some kind of hip eaterie and Kapok, a very good design and clothing store.
Worth visiting for: the cat in Cat Socrates
I’m not sure why Timeout listed this shopping centre as one of its “must-see” places to visit in Singapore. The building was an unattractive concrete warren of shops; sort of brutalist looking but in a bad way (nondescript and dingy, with a strong resemblance to a multi-storey carpark). The shops all appeared to be art suppliers – great for artists and art students but of limited interest to everyone else – and various tat merchants. There was one store which made the trip worthwhile, however: Cat Socrates, a quirky design and gift store with a friendly ginger resident cat.
Worth visiting for: Scandinavian design items
I don’t know anything about this building but it was architecturally up my street (sixties looking, futuristic) and it housed a nice furniture and accessories store which stocked a variety of European designs and brands, some of which I recognised (Hay, String) and others I didn’t.
Worth visiting for: a haircut, a meal and a t-shirt
I only received an email today letting me know that this brand is going “online only”, which is a shame because the instore shopping experience was so pleasant. This menswear store/hairdresser/restaurant/bar formed a cluster of slightly left-field independent stores in an otherwise bland Singaporean glass and steel shopping centre on Orchard Road.