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Memories of the Art Deco style in Singapore

Written by Ecommerce Op


Posted on October 05 2020

What is Art Deco?

The style first started in the beginning of the 20th century just before World War I. It became known as “Art Deco” during the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts) held in Paris in 1925. The movement followed the approach of Art Nouveau which focused on giving artistic touches to functional objects. However, the essence of Art Deco diverged from its predecessor in an attempt to embrace the influence of the industrial revolution. The aim was to create machine-made objects resulting in more symmetrical and streamlined designs that were more aesthetically pleasing to everyone. The movement was heavily influenced by notorious art styles of that period. The geometric forms were inspired by Cubism and the industrial aspect took its roots from Constructivism and Futurism. It also is characterised by an arrangement of striking geometrical patterns with luxurious contrasting colours expressing the lavishness of the 1920’s. Art Deco conveys a sense of timeless modernity reminding us of a glamorous era marked by technological progress.


Singapore's heritage

Before fading away in the early 40’s, the movement spread all over the world and particularly Asia. Local and European architects designed a fair share of Art Deco buildings notably in China, India and Indonesia. Thankfully, the movement didn’t spare Singapore. A few beautiful neighbourhoods and buildings still bare the Art Deco influence and are a delight to visit. Here is our selection:


Tiong Bahru


Besides being one of Singapore’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, Tiong Bahru is really compelling owing to the old housing estates that makes this area so unique. They were built in the 1930’s, adopting a Streamline Moderne design which is a style of Art Deco. Inspired by aerodynamics, it emerged in the U.S. in an effort to express transportation and movement. Wandering around Tiong Bahru will revive memories of past time that truly captures the soul of Singaporean life.


Cathay Building


Designed by British architect Frank W. Brewer, the Cathay Building was built in 1939 to accommodate a 1,300-seat cinema. Although the building was demolished in the 2000’s, the front facade was conserved. It remains one of Singapore’s nicest buildings. The Art Deco style can be easily recognisable by clean the geometrical shapes and the strong industrial looks complemented by the use of concrete.


Capitol Theatre


One of Asia’s outstanding theatre in 1930’s, the Capitol welcomed the most notorious movies stars of that time. Charlie Chaplin, Ava Gardner and many more, all came to the Capitol when promoting their films in Singapore. This old theatre stays true to Art Deco style with its magnificent neon lighting and simple white architecture.


Keong Saik Road


Anciently an infamous red-light district, Keong Saik Road has been completely transformed since the 1960’s. The area is full of amazing restaurants and bars. It is also home to a few Art Deco shophouses that makes this neighbourhood an unmissable landmark in Singapore   


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