Everyday Modernism: Architecture and Society in Singapore

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Jiat-Hwee Chang and Justin Zhuang, photographs by Darren Soh

Everyday Modernism is the first comprehensive documentation of Singapore’s modern built environment. Through a lens of social and architectural histories, the book uncovers the many untold stories of the Southeast Asian city-state’s modernization, from the rise of heroic skyscrapers, such as the Pearl Bank Apartments, to the spread of utilitarian typologies like the multi-storey car park. It investigates how modernism, through both form and function, radically transformed Singapore and made its inhabitants into modern citizens. The most intensive period of such change happened in the 1960s and 1970s under the rise of a developmental state seeking to safeguard its new-found independence. However, the book also looks both earlier and later, from between the 1930s to the 1980s, to cover a wider range of histories, building types and also architectural styles, expanding from the International Style and Brutalism and into Art Deco and even a touch of Postmodernism. 

The book’s 33 essays are richly illustrated with some 200 archival images and drawings as well as more than 100 contemporary photos by architectural photographer Darren Soh. It covers the beginnings of Singapore's modern landscape, including its first condominium, columbarium, flatted factory, and pedestrian overheard bridge, amongst others. But the book is also interested in endings, investigating how modern buildings have changed over time, and been adapted for new uses or even threatened with redevelopment today. By examining the evolution of the once exceptional into the typical and by learning how abstract spaces become lived places, the book traces how modernism has become part of everyday life in Singapore. 

Jiat-Hwee Chang is associate professor at the Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore.

Justin Zhuang is a writer and researcher, and co-founder of Singapore-based writing studio In Plain Words.

Darren Soh is an award-winning photographer.

Publication Year: 2022
376pp || 275 x 175 mm
200 duotone and 96 4C images
ISBN: 978-981-325-187-8

Sponsored and supported by the The National Heritage Board