Why the development in Chinatown is significant

GOVERNMENT'S FIRST LAND SALES SITE LAUNCHED EXCLUSIVELY FOR RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT

Pearl Bank Apartments is a 99-year leasehold development built on an 82,376 sq ft triangular site atop Pearl's Hill, near the Central Business District. Located at 1, Pearl Bank, this was the Government's first land sales site launched exclusively for residential development in 1969.


IT WAS AMONG THE PIONEERS OF HIGH-RISE, HIGH-DENSITY LIVING IN SINGAPORE

When Pearl Bank Apartments was completed in 1976, the 37-storey development became the tallest residential building in Singapore at the time, at 113m tall.

With 280 units, it had the highest density of apartments for a private residential development. There are eight penthouses and 272 split-level units that are either two-, three-or four-bedroom apartments, with eight units to a floor. In addition, it was also one of the first condominium buildings here to offer communal amenities such as swimming pools and clubhouses. The development includes eight commercial units. Its gross plot ratio is 7.4479.


PLENTY OF THOUGHT WENT INTO ITS UNIQUE HORSESHOE DESIGN

The building was designed by local architect Tan Cheng Siong of Archurban Architects Planners. While he was tasked to fit the maximum number of apartments within the site, he also ensured that its unique horseshoe design fulfilled a purpose.

The block's horseshoe opening faces west, shading the building from the afternoon sun.

In an interview with The Straits Times in 2012, Mr Tan said he was influenced by French architect Le Corbusier, a pioneer of modern architecture. The bold design was a statement of nationhood, he added. "This was the new Singapore. We wanted to show that it has what it takes to survive," he said.


IT OFFERS GREAT CITY VIEWS

Great thought went into the layout. The living rooms and bedrooms are at the front, giving unobstructed city views. On the 37th floor, one gets a bird's eye view of the southern part of Singapore, with a view of the sea on a clear day.

Utilities and service areas are situated at the rear, overlooking a courtyard.


IT WAS FIRST PUT UP FOR SALE EN BLOC A DECADE AGO

Pearl Bank Apartments was first put up for collective sale in 2007, and again in 2008 and 2011. This rallied a small group of residents to save the landmark building, led by American architect Ed Poole. He hired a lawyer and started a website pearlbankapartments.com to raise awareness of its architectural importance.

In a 2014 Straits Times report, Mr Poole, who lives in a penthouse unit, said: "Pearl Bank is irreplaceable. There is no way you can find another apartment like Pearl Bank in Singapore."


PLANS TO GAZETTE PEARL BANK FOR CONSERVATION FAILED

In 2015, the owners sought a conservation order for the building and at the same time applied to increase its gross floor area. They hoped to sell this extra development quantum to a developer, who could build a second apartment block on top of their five-storey carpark. With the proceeds, the owners would retrofit the existing building.

However, plans to gazette it for conservation did not materialise as the liaison committee failed to obtain the required 100 per cent approval from the owners.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2018, with the headline 'Why the development in Chinatown is significant'. Print Edition | Subscribe