It is not a hyperbole to state very simply that no architectural firm in Singapore better sums up the aspirations, indeed history, of a nation than DP Architects. The briefest scan of the city-state’s skyline reveals the intriguing silhouettes of buildings – created by the 1,300-staff studio since it was founded in 1967 by Koh Seow Chuan – that have both stood the test of time, and influenced a generation of architects and designers in tropical typology and a new form of Asian-based aesthetics.
It seems somewhat appropriate, too, that DP Architects is launching on 12 August during Singapore’s National Day week, ‘A Common Line | One Global Studio’, an overdue retrospective of its work over the past five decades.
And there is plenty to admire here. Ng San Son, DP’s senior associate director and curator of the exhibition, has been judicious in cherry-picking from around 3,000 projects in 70 countries just what to put on show at the URA Centre.
View of the Marina Bay. Courtesy of DP Architects
Commendably, Ng narrows the lens on both blockbusters and classics located closer to home. Front and centre are archival pieces that have never been publicly seen, such as architectural drawings and supersized models of some of the firm’s most ambitious statements including the Golden Mile Complex and the incomparable 1973 People’s Park Complex – Asia’s first fully realised mixed-use development and a bona fide paradigm-changer in a land-scarce country like Singapore – to more recent behemoths like Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, the Singapore Sports Hub and the SEA Aquarium alongside regional work such as the Dubai Mall.
Anchored by a wall-sized illustration of DP Architects’ work by the Singapore-based illustrator Lee Xin Li, the exhibition is a neat time capsule of not just the firm’s history and oeuvre, but also of Singapore’s parallel spurt from fledgling state (it only became a nation in August 1965) to muscular, First World powerhouse.
In Singapore Revealed, a special supplement in the upcoming October issue of Wallpaper*, we feature one of DP Architects’ ground-breaking works for a community centre.