Everyday Modernism: Architecture and Society in Singapore

Everyday Modernism: Architecture and Society in Singapore

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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 90 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 overhead 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. 

"A captivating journey through Singapore's modernist heritage buildings and structures, from commercial to residential to civic. The elegant combination of text and the stylish and comprehensive photographic documentation makes this a major contribution to modernist architecture literature." 

- Donald McNeill, Professor of Urbanism, School of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney

"Singapore's "Everyday Modernism" - an all-embracing planned environment stemming from its dynamic post-1959 nation-building drive, and vividly documented in this book - resoundingly refutes the fallacy that the essence of modern architecture lies in iconic individualism rather than consistency and social purpose."

- Miles Glendinning, Professor of Architectural Conservation, University of Edinburgh

"For the quality of a modern living environment the architecture and landscaping of the everyday is far more important than the presence of architectural icons. And if the goal of modernism is to create a better future for all, Singapore truly has much to offer as this informative publication shows."

- Hubert-Jan Henket, Founder and Honorary President of DOCOMOMO International

Jiat-Hwee Chang is associate professor at the Asia Research Institute and 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.