Historical Photos – from ‘Third World’ City of Slums to ‘Global City of Skyscrapers’

Why the development is regarded as an ‘urban laboratory” for the government?

(fig 1. Evolutions on Skylines, 1960 – 1998; Source: Gamer, Robert E. The Politics of Urban Development in Singapore. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972.)

(fig 2. People’s Action Party (PAP) General Elections campaign in 1980; Source: link)

Singapore grew from a ‘Third World’ — ‘city of slums, squats and colonial edifices’ into a ‘First World’ — ‘global city of skyscrapers’. During the transformation, Singapore first became an urban laboratory for urban renewal and highrise density.

In the pictures, rising of new commercial buildings changed the density and skyline of the original urban fabric. For example, in the Golden Shoe development project, all old shophouses were demolished to accommodate the growing demands of commercial and office space. Architects were free to exercise their creativity in designing the buildings but were advised to take cognizance of the character of the area adjacent to their sites as well as vehicular and pedestrian circulation paths. Eventually, a new image — for instance, the combination and integration of new architecture and infrastructure network in the Golden Shoe (explained in another article) — as a regional economic power was broadcasted with the new building type. 

The new skyline became a new form of national pride and parameter of power [1,2,3]. Thus many CBD zones were treated as an urban laboratory for effective economic development and a maximum capacity for commercial activities.


1.  $100 mil OCBC Centre opens today”BUSINESS TIMES, 1 October 1976, 12

2. “The day Mr.Tanrealizedd his grandest dream”The Straits Times, 2 October 1976, 11

3. “Fastest lifts at DBS”The Straits Times, 13 April 1976, 9


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