Love it or hate it, Brutalist architecture may not be for everyone but we’re preparing to see yet another iconic building get demolished

The view of the CBD from Pearl Bank Apartments. Spot the ocean!
The view of the CBD from Pearl Bank Apartments. Spot the ocean! © Hubab Hood


If you bring up the names of Singapore’s Famous Five, a term given to buildings that pioneered the start of modern architecture here, it would invoke a flood of memories for many. Pearl Bank Apartments in Outram Road, Golden Mile Complex in Beach Road, Futura in Leonie Hill Road, Beverly Mai in Tomlinson Road and The Habitat in Ardmore Park were all deemed iconic some decades ago. Today, out of this five only two remain: Golden Mile Complex and the soon-to-be demolished Pearl Bank Apartments.

Built in 1976, at 113 metres tall, Pearl Bank Apartments is immediately recognisable in the skyline of Outram. Sitting atop of Pearl’s Hill, the Brutalist-style building was the tallest residential building in Singapore at the time. Originally unpainted, the concrete was bare and visible to all, true to the style of brutalist architecture of béton brut (literally, raw concrete).

For some, the utilitarian concrete structures of brutalist architecture are nothing more than outdated eyesores but Pearl Bank’s  peculiar horseshoe shape is what makes it so iconic. Designed by architect Tan Cheng Siong, Pearl Bank served as a beacon of contemporary residential design and acted as precedent to the subsequent high-density urban development in Singapore and throughout Southeast Asia.