Drawing – Architecture as a Brand for Economic Development

How government boosted economic growth in terms of architectures in golden shoe development?

This article mainly focuses on the Golden Shoe Redevelopment project with the background of DBS Building and OCBC Building to find out architecture’s influence on city image.


(fig 1. Singapore Planning Department’s envision on Golden Shoe Redevelopment; Source: Singapore Planning Department, Annual Report 1964, Singapore Government, 1964)

(fig 2. Section of DBS Building; Source: Powell, Robert, and Patrick. Bingham-Hall. Singapore Architecture. Singapore: Periplus Editions (HK), 2004.)

(fig 3. Section of OCBC Drawing; Source: Powell, Robert, and Patrick. Bingham-Hall. Singapore Architecture. Singapore: Periplus Editions (HK), 2004. )

Background of Economic Development

Upon autonomy from Malaysia in 1965, Singapore confronted a little household market, large amounts of unemployment and destitution. For instance, 70 percent of Singapore’s family units lived in gravely stuffed conditions, and 33% of its kin hunched down in ghettos on the city borders. Also, unemployment arrived at the midpoint of 14 percent, GDP per capita was US$516, and half of the populace was uneducated. [1]

To solve above-mentioned problems, the government first aimed to set up CBD zoning and to have urban renewal plans (featured in another article). To fasten the economic development to build more offices, the Government uses its major resources and bargaining power – Sales of Government Land (starting from 1967 – released by tender for a 99-year lease) (featured in another article). The sale of sites encouraged cooperation between the public and the private sectors, making redevelopment easier to take place and attract global investors [2].

Use Architecture to boost Economic Deveopment

With the pursuit of economic efficiency and the making of global city, Singapore’s Planning Department envisioned a brand new modern image on the harbor front. It formed a socio-technical matrix with skyscrapers, folding the ideologies of economic development and civic relationships into an urban development programme staged for economic power and modernity display [3]. In the envisioned drawing (fig 1.), there has no automobiles nor people, no shophouses nor slums, but only the rising skyscrapers which contrasted with the nearby low-rises and landscape and new public ground appeared as an elevated podium.

This drawing highlights the importance of high-rises and a new civic relationship surround them. For example, in reality, the DBS building (as envisioned in the drawing) became a new landmark along the Shenton Way. Its podium extended out to occupy lands and to increase its capacity for public programs (eg. as a playground, shopping mall). This reinforced the idea of how Singapore envisioned a new national image displayed with the ability and resources to build a strong economic power [4].

With this invitation from the government to build high-rises, private sectors would also try to brand their own building as another iconic towers’ [4]. For example, OCBC building, as one of the first buildings in Singapore to involve foreign architects (designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei), used a new construction method to make construction faster and increase the capacity of office space (featured in another article). This sparked off the demand for more innovative towers, better designs, and more competitive tenders in the region [5]. 

It eventually became mainstream in the 70s and 80s to construct higher buildings by testing innovative technological construction method and hire international architectural firms to brand the global city [6].


  1. Robert E. Gamer, “The Politics of Urban Development in Singapore.” Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972, 5.
  2. Chua and Gretchen Liu, The Golden Shoe: Building Singapore’s Financial District (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1989), 16.
  3. Jiat-Hwee Chang and Tim Winter, “Thermal Modernity and Architecture,” The Journal of Architecture 20, no. 1 (2015): , doi:10.1080/13602365.2015.1010095.
  4. Chua and Gretchen Liu, The Golden Shoe: Building Singapores Financial District (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1989), 159.
  5. Chua , The Golden Shoe: Building Singapores Financial District, 174.
  6. Contemporary Singapore Architecture (Singapore: Singapore Institute of Architects, 1998), 5.

2 Comments on “Drawing – Architecture as a Brand for Economic Development

  1. You made a good introduction and interpretation of the historical, social and political context of Singapore along the timeline before and after she gained independence. Directions of policies and governance as well as establishment of national identity at the time were well integrated into and reflected by the analysis of urban planning ideologies, demolition work, architectural competition entry as well as central construction projects in the CBD zone. However, I am curious the economic conditions at that time and how revenue or financial aid (if existed) supported the big deconstruction and construction projects.

    • Thanks for your comment. I have added a background to explain the economic conditions at that time (where a detailed explanation can be found in another article). The sale of government land helps the government to make enough revenue for future urban renewal project, however, I can’t find the exact revenue earned by the government at that time. I hope that you are happy with the above answer.

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