Latitude/Longitude: 1.28317, 103.84
Built in 1976, the 38-storey high Pearl Bank Apartments is known today as a modernist housing icon in Singapore, as much as it is known for leading the heroic fight against collective or en bloc sales, which had become a popular way for owners in ageing housing estates to make a quick windfall during the property boom. Perched high atop Pearl’s Hill in the Outram Park area, the Pearl Bank tower was once the tallest residential tower in Singapore, its unusual horseshoe form offering panoramic views of downtown Singapore.
Spatially, the 272-unit tower consists of 3 types of split-level apartments as well as penthouse units, which are stacked and interlocked à la Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation. Utility rooms and service areas open into the circular courtyard, which faces west, while living areas and bedrooms occupy the outer rim of the tower, in an arrangement that maximises light, air and views. The split level configuration is expressed on the outer facade as a matrix of L-shaped, Z-shaped and strip windows, while the inner facade consists of strip windows, open air corridors, exterior stairs and lift cores. Communal areas at the lower levels include the 4-storey car park and shops on the ground level, and a 28th storey “sky park”.
Originally finished with grey Shanghai plaster on the outer facade, the building was painted for the first time in 2008, highlighting the structural shear walls, the sky park and the roof in a hideous shade of bright orange. Like the garish green and orange People’s Park Complex nearby, such insensitive and ill-advised ”makeovers” are lamentable, serving only to undermine the dignities of the few remaining modernist icons left in the city.
⇒ Architecture Guide to SINGAPORE