Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Second Minister for National Development and Finance, and Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, at the Launch of ‘To Draw an Idea’ Exhibition on 28 November 2023, 10am, the URA Centre Atrium

Ms Catherine Lau, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, NLB
Ms Adele Tan, Acting Deputy Chief Executive Officer & Chief Planner, URA
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen,

1.                A very good morning to everyone. 

2.                It is such a great pleasure to be here at the inaugural exhibition of the Singapore Architecture Collection, ‘To Draw an Idea’.

Strengthening the Singaporean identity through architectural heritage

3.                Earlier in August, I shared that the Singapore Architecture Collection had been set up to deepen our efforts to document, preserve and grow our repository of important architectural and urban design materials. 

a.                The Collection, which focuses on modern and contemporary architecture, not only charts the evolution of our distinctive cityscape, but also that of the architectural practice here in Singapore. 

b.                It serves as a valuable resource reflecting how our architectural heritage has shaped the unique Singaporean identity. 

c.                The theme of the exhibition aptly describes how, a building is born from the drawing of an idea by a creative and visionary mind.

4.                Architects, urban designers and professionals in the built environment industry have and continue to play critical roles in shaping our skyline, manifested in the many iconic and well-loved buildings around us. 

a.                As we continue to grow the Singapore Architecture Collection, I am heartened by the encouraging response from the industry, and would especially like to commend the W Architects team led by Ar. Mok Wei Wei, for their generosity in donating over 500 architectural drawings, sketches, models and artefacts, which I understand were meticulously curated.

b.                Each of these pieces traces the design processes of 19 key projects, accompanied by a behind-the-scenes story of how the firm negotiated various challenges to realise its creative vision.

5.                For example, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. 

a.                An iconic monument in Singapore’s civic district, its refurbishment works in 2014 involved the repurposing of timber backrests of the 1950s chairs into a feature wall hanging above the theatre foyer, demonstrating how old material can be retained to enhance its contemporary design.

6.                The restoration works of the National Museum of Singapore in 2006 expanded the museum by adding a new contemporary wing to the original museum building, showcasing how architects can masterfully blend our architectural heritage with modern interventions.

7.                Even unrealized and unbuilt ideas can inspire us to think about new possibilities. 

a.                The Bu Ye Tian proposal in 1982 led by the playwright and poet, Dr Goh Poh Seng, for instance, raised awareness for early conservation efforts of the shophouses along the Singapore River, reflecting the imagination of our architects in shaping our public realm. 

8.                The materials also offer a glimpse into how the architectural practice has evolved with the use of technology and digital tools. 

a.                An example is the early use of the design tool, SketchUp, during the mid-2000s to experiment with new ways to organise the generous sky terraces and residential spaces in the residential project The Oliv.

b.                This led the way for architects to explore a wider range of design possibilities to create more flexible and adaptable building designs.

c.                Today, architects continue to employ leading tools and technologies to push the frontier on design. 

9.                Architectural drawings do not only serve functional purposes but also offer insights into the architects’ thought processes and their vision for the various iconic projects.

10.                This exhibition chronicles our urban environment’s development over 50 years, from post-independence urban renewal efforts to more recent rejuvenation of areas, distinctively defining our Singapore story. 

11.                This rich archive, maintained by the architectural fraternity, has made these insights possible.

a.                The addition of these materials from William Lim Associates and W Architects to the Singapore Architecture Collection will allow the community to tap on them for future research, education and inspiration in shaping our city’s architecture.

Singapore Architecture Collection – Contributions, research and outreach efforts 

12.                Other firms and architects, such as Tay Kheng Soon, Goh Chong Chia, Chan Sau Yan Sonny and their counterparts from RSP Architects, have also left a lasting legacy on Singapore’s architectural landscape.

a.                Tay Kheng Soon developed the 1989 Kampong Bugis Guide Plan, which mooted early ideas on vertical greening for buildings in Singapore.

b.                Timothy Seow designed Beverly Mai, Singapore’s very first private residential project to incorporate shared facilities commonly found in condominiums today.

c.                A photograph of which, alongside a wide range of materials, are now featured in the Collection, thanks to their generous contributions.

13.                The managing agencies of the collection, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, National Library Board and the National Heritage Board, are working closely with the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA), National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), to build on the resources and make the Collection more accessible to Singaporeans. 

14.                SIA has also launched their second edition of the Genealogy of Architectural Practices, an online genealogy map tracing the roots of Singapore’s architectural practices. 

a.                NUS and SUTD have expressed interest to carry out more detailed research on Singapore’s modern and contemporary architecture. 

b.                These efforts will certainly contribute to enhancing and enriching the collection.

15.                To complement this exhibition, a satellite exhibition will be presented at the National Library, and will rove at other libraries at a later time. 

a.                Dare to Design: Singapore Architecture 1960s-2000s will share insights and stories of some of Singapore’s landmarks and buildings such as the Golden Mile Complex, Singapore Conference Hall and Pinnacle@Duxton. 

16.                Over the next six months, you can also look forward to programmes that will showcase the collection, including talks, workshops, and guided tours.   


17.                Whether it be through creating inclusive spaces for all Singaporeans, or designing attractive spaces for residents to live, work, and play, architecture plays an important role in shaping Singapore's social fabric, economic development, and cultural vibrancy.

18.                I hope this exhibition will inspire architects and others in the built environment industry to consider contributing your valuable materials to the collection. 

19. For the wider public, we can have a deeper appreciation and understanding of our urban environment through richer perspectives. 

a.                Let us continue to celebrate our architects, planners, designers, engineers, and others who help to shape our city’s skyline for today and tomorrow. Thank you.