MICA Building

Singapore, Singapore | C.1934

Photo Credit: Kevin Siyuan

Eccentrically painted shutters and doors? Count us in. Taking a step back makes it easier to see the rainbow of colors stretching across this national monument.  Once used as housing for Singaporean police forces and utilized as a jail, the building has gotten a bright multi-colored makeover and now serves for senses rather than serving up sentences. 

Constructed in 1934, it was the largest government building in Singapore and because it dwarfed the other buildings in its surroundings, it was considered the country’s tallest skyscraper.  It’s original application was for the police force, housing a jail until it was converted to housing for police officers–hoping to entice new recruits with brand-new accommodations.

Designed by Frank Dorrington Ward, an extensive waiting list of policemen hoped to make use of the building’s amenities. The residence featured a lift that could take residents to the second floor where a canteen offered free curry and tea, as well as a barbershop with fresh cuts. If that weren’t enticing enough, 927 large windows and an open courtyard ensured each resident received ample natural light and air.

Despite these impressive accommodations, the last policemen moved out by 1981. The building was converted into office space until 1997, when an $82 million restoration project was launched to put two government municipalities in the building. Debates ensued as to how the building would transform to meet the new tenants’ needs, while many past residents worried about preserving the building’s classic charm.

Fortunately for all involved, much of the original station’s traditional infrastructure was kept intact. The open courtyard was converted into an exhibition space, and new glass, steel, and granite have been carefully built around the existing structure to retain its familiar features with multi-colored paint included. Unfortunately, complimentary curry is no longer served to its guests. 

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