Home-grown firm DP Architects celebrates fifty years of architecture

The exhibition team members include (standing, from far left) Jazelle Ang, Jess Low, Chua Yi Xi, Tan Yee Lin, Wong Tsz Ho, Low Si Ni, (sitting from far left) Seetoh Khan Pang, Ng San Son, Diane Yeo and Melcas Lim.
The exhibition team members include (standing, from far left) Jazelle Ang, Jess Low, Chua Yi Xi, Tan Yee Lin, Wong Tsz Ho, Low Si Ni, (sitting from far left) Seetoh Khan Pang, Ng San Son, Diane Yeo and Melcas Lim.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
A section of a scale model of the Singapore Sports Hub at the exhibition, A Common Line | One Global Studio.
A section of a scale model of the Singapore Sports Hub at the exhibition, A Common Line | One Global Studio. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
A scale model of Golden Mile Complex is among the exhibits.
A scale model of Golden Mile Complex is among the exhibits.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Home-grown firm DP Architects celebrates its journey with a seven-week exhibition

Singaporeans may not be familiar with the name DP Architects, but most would know the architecture firm's buildings instantly.

For 50 years, the home-grown firm has put its name to some of Singapore's most iconic buildings, including People's Park Complex in Chinatown, the first mixed-use building here that put residences above retail spaces; and Golden Mile Complex in Beach Road, another mixed-use development with office units, shops and 72 apartments.

Other buildings in the DP back catalogue downtown include Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, its spiky domes fondly nicknamed "durians" for its resemblance to the thorny fruit; Suntec City and Millenia Walk.

It is also behind more than 20 projects and redevelopments on the Orchard Road shopping belt, including Wisma Atria, The Centrepoint and Mandarin Gallery.

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As part of its golden anniversary celebrations, DP Architects has put on a seven-week exhibition that looks back at its biggest milestones in Singapore and overseas.

Titled A Common Line | One Global Studio, it was launched yesterday by Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong at the URA Centre in Maxwell Road.

  • VIEW IT /A COMMON LINE | ONE GLOBAL STUDIO

  • WHERE: The URA Centre, 45 Maxwell Road

    WHEN: Till Sept 29, 9am to 5pm (Mondays to Saturdays); the exhibition is closed on Sundays

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: There will be a 30-minute architect-guided tour at 11am on selected Saturdays. Go to bit.ly/2woSCU7 to register

Ms Angelene Chan, 53, chief executive officer of DP Architects and its subsidiaries, says: "We find ourselves taking stock of our journey so far as we put together this exhibition.

"We would not have been able to achieve this milestone without our people and partners, including clients, consultants, contractors and government authorities."

The exhibition, which was more than a year in the making, is a visual treat for architecture fans.

A team that involved staff from the firm dug into its vault to unearth old microfilm that captured blueprints and drawings of projects from the early years.

More than 2,000 architectural drawings were reproduced for the exhibition.

Architects also constructed 37 new models - some of these are much larger than typical architectural building models - that show the practice's design methodology across different types of buildings.

On show are models such as The Dubai Mall, a massive project in the Gulf state that welcomed 92 million tourist visits in 2015; and the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre in Shenton Way, which opened three months ago.

Local artist Lee Xin Li also designed a 3.6m-tall illustration called Building Blocks. The single print features a collection of the firm's projects in a cityscape setting.

A 6m-long display, modelled after a drafting table, is also on show. The interactive piece showcases Orchard Road and Marina Bay, two urbanscapes the firm has played a big role in transforming.

The exhibition is a thorough retrospective of an architecture firm that started with just 15 people in 1967.

Back then, it was known as Design Partnership and helmed by Singaporean architecture pioneers William Lim, Koh Seow Chuan and Tay Kheng Soon. It was renamed DP Architects in 1975.

Over the years, the firm faced many highs when it clinched mega projects. But it also battled low points, such as the economic recession in the 1980s and unsuccessful project bids.

Today, DP Architects is the 10th largest architecture firm in the world, according to the World Architecture 100 2017 rankings - British architecture online publication Building Design's annual ranking of the world's largest architecture firms. It has 1,300 staff in 17 offices around the globe.

Besides the exhibition, DP Architects will also hold a design conference in October that brings together thought leaders such as Pritzker Prize-winner Fumihiko Maki.

A book that chronicles the firm's history will go on sale at bookstores here later this year.

Going forward, Ms Chan says that "spreading the DP and Singapore brand globally" will be a major focus for the firm as it also looks to go deeper into areas such as retail, healthcare, infrastructure and hospitality.

Looking back at what made DP Architects successful, she says: "The spirit of collaboration is our core value, and putting people at the heart of our designs and our practice is the reason DP has been able to prevail in times of crisis and continue to grow from strength to strength."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline 'Fifty years of architecture'. Print Edition | Subscribe