A building of 18 floors might not seem impressive compared to the modern behemoths soaring through Singapore’s skyline today, but when the Bank of China was first built in 1953, it towered high above the low-rise buildings of yesteryear.
It remained the highest skyscraper in the Central Business District (CBD) for 20 years after its completion, until its claim to fame was usurped by UOB Plaza Two.
Besides once holding the record for the tallest building in Singapore’s CBD, the $3 million project is also celebrated for being the first building in the country to be centrally air-conditioned, boasting the latest modern amenities of its era.
This monumental development started its extraordinary beginnings along Battery Road, looking out towards the mouth of Singapore River, where it still stands as a historical feat of engineering today.
Architectural firm Palmer and Turner Architects & Engineers Ltd was tasked with the gargantuan task of designing the first-of-its-kind building. The Bank of China was aptly designed in a style meant to reflect the beginning stages of modern Singapore architecture.
This was conveyed through the use of modern reinforced concrete construction and metal frame windows. Nuances of traditional Chinese elements were also deliberately incorporated to pay homage to its Chinese roots, such as the two iconic stone lions flanking its entrance.
The building’s architecture is notable for its metal frame windows and symmetry which reflects a modern outlook at the time. The Chinese aesthetic is further accentuated with simple decorations in the form of oriental trimmings and mouldings on the façade of the building. The building was then finished with plaster to achieve an enduring and timeless elegance.
Fast-forward to the year 2000, when the Bank of China saw the addition of a 37-storey building constructed adjacent to the original structure and linked by a podium. The two buildings serve as prime office spaces for businesses due to it being strategically situated within the CBD area.
The old and new buildings co-exist together, side by side in harmony – a visual representation of how far and fast Singapore has progressed through the years.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of May 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.