The presence of Art Deco architecture in Singapore is somewhat elusive to most of us, largely because unlike many other traditional shophouses and buildings, Art Deco is represented by a Streamlined Modern style, almost minimalist perhaps, that may be hard to distinguish from present day architecture.
The Art Deco movement largely came about in the post World War I era, in a decade of hope and excitement between the 1920s and early 1930s, where motorcars, airplanes and even Broadway were changing the way people saw the future of the world.
Many of the Art Deco features in buildings here have a machine-esque aesthetic, constructed and inspired by the many streamlined modern marvels such as airplanes and racing cars. Gone were the traditional motifs and ornamentations, and in its place were symmetrically aligned windows, overlaying balcony arches with railings, and most distinctive of all, a strategically placed plaque that bore the date of the building’s construction topped off with an extended pole in the middle.
Historically, many of us would have stepped into an Art Deco building without actually realising it. From the good old cinemas of Cathay, Rex and Capitol, to landmarks like Clifford Pier and the Fullerton Hotel, Art Deco is also prevalent in the lives of individuals both past and present, through numerous shophouses around the island as well as housing units like the ones in Tiong Bahru.