Recently, I met a friend for lunch along Shenton Way, a major thoroughfare inside Singapore’s Central Business District. It was named in 1951 after Governor Sir Shenton Thomas.
Shenton Way, facing north.
At first, Shenton Way was a coastal road with few landmarks, and the largest structure in the area was the iconic octagonal Telok Ayer Market, known today as Lau Pa Sat. The area in 1956:
In the 1970s, the stretch between Boon Tat Street and Maxwell Road became the freshly-independent city-state’s newest commerce belt.
From a 1972 New Nation article:
In Shenton Way where there is now a building spree, five towering commercial complexes are being built at a total cost of about $100 million.
There are the $45 million 50-storey Development Bank of Singapore building, the $23 million 36-storey United Industrial Corporation building, the $15 million 26-storey Robina House, the $12 million 24-storey Shenton House and the $10 million 18-storey Shing (Kwan) House.
These multi-storey office-shopping complexes are scheduled for completion within the next two years.
In all, six high-rise buildings came up on either side of the aforementioned stretch of Shenton Way:
1. Robina House, 26 storeys, completed 1971.
2. Shenton House, 24 storeys, completed 1973.
3. UIC Building, 36 storeys, completed 1973.
4. Shing Kwan House, 18 storeys, completed 1973.
5. ICB Building, 10 storeys, completed 1974.
6. DBS Building, 50 storeys, completed 1975.
A second 36-storey tower, Tower 2, was completed next to the original tower in 1994.
Shenton Way in the 1970s with its six skyscrapers, Robina House on the left.
The new skyline of Shenton Way in 1976.
In the Central Business District, where buildings are mostly owned, purchased, and sold by private organisations for commercial reasons, urban renewal happens at breakneck speed. Barely 50 years into Shenton Way’s life as a commerce belt, five of the six buildings above have either been torn down and redeveloped, or renamed and revamped.
1. Robina House - demolished 2007.
Replaced by One Shenton Way (comprising Tower 1 at 50 storeys, and Tower 2 at 42 storeys), completed 2011 (below).
2. Shenton House - still stands to this day.
3. UIC Building - demolished 2013.
Replaced by V on Shenton (comprising a 54-storey residential tower and a 23-storey office tower), completed 2017.
UIC Building in 2009.
V on Shenton.
4. Shing Kwan House - demolished 1997.
Replaced by SGX Centre (two 30-storey towers), completed 2000 and 2001.
5. ICB Building - demolished 1997.
Replaced by SGX Centre.
6. DBS Building - renamed and revamped as OUE Downtown in 2010. It has a shopping mall named Downtown Gallery.
The 21st-century Shenton Way.
Today, Shenton House stands out with its 1970s Brutalist architecture amidst newer glass and steel facades. I fear for its future. With just 47 years to run on its 99-year lease, it may go the way of many commercial buildings in Singapore - sale and demolition.