Designing Our Local Landscape

Rene Tan shares his observations about the architectural landscape in Singapore and what defines ‘Singapore Style’.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The architectural landscape in Singapore is actually very good, especially for a country with a small size and population. It has a disproportionately large amount of good architecture. I think this is mainly because architects in Singapore are very aware of what is happening globally and locally. The proliferation of information has helped architects learn from one another.

A good indication as to the health of Singapore’s architectural landscape is how well represented we are in magazines, both local and international, in print and on digital platforms. The fact that Singapore hosted the World Architecture Festival over four years is a good reflection that the world knows how exciting Singapore is, both as a city, as well as for its great architecture.


Firms such as RT+Q, among others, have benefited from a steady opportunity to do architecture. Singapore is always reinventing itself. There are not many buildings, large or small, that are more than 30 to 40 years old.

Residential architecture, in particular, is an important staple for architects in Singapore, because the population is always trying to upgrade itself. This provides ample scope for architects to act and to build, compared to many other countries.


Being a small country, Singapore architects are very aware of what one another is doing and that is a very good thing for the profession. We learn from our peers and the work that they are doing.

When that happens, there tends to be similarities in ideologies and in the built architecture. This is one reason why Singapore has garnered a positive image for having a consistent approach to architecture. Of course, there are also other practical considerations, such as weather, that makes the architecture in Singapore similar in spirit, though not identical in execution. So, yes, there is definitely a trend in Singapore architecture, but there is sufficient diversity without being homogeneous.


Broadly, this can be defined as a contemporary approach to modern architecture that uses current building materials that are sustainable and that can withstand the demands of weather, while addressing practical requirements.

It is not a distinctly defined style, but I do believe that there is a clear spirit. I prefer the use of the word “spirit” because I think it reflects a more rigorous methodology in the pursuit of architecture.

On another level, one can speak of a “Singapore Style” based on its clean lines. This is an important catchphrase that is easily understandable and accessible to non-architects and the public, who can hence identify with what architects in Singapore are doing.

About Rene

One of Singapore’s most prolific architects, Rene Tan was named Designer of the Year at the President’s Design Award in 2016.