Singapore's moment: Critical regionalism, its colonial roots and profound aftermath

Mark Crinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Kenneth Frampton's version of the theory of critical regionalism turns on a dialectics between 'universal civilisation' and 'national culture' while relegating the political circumstances of his chosen architecture merely to a form of negation. Yet Frampton's source for this opposition, Paul Ricoeur, was writing directly about the cultural problems faced by anti-colonial liberation movements. This article returns critical regionalism to the immediately post-colonial moment of Singapore in the early 1960s. It explores the Singapore Conference Hall and Trade Union House (Malayan Architects Co-Partnership, 1962-1965) as an exemplary building of that period. Between colonialism and the rapid modernisation that would be unleashed on Singapore in the later 1960s, the building balanced particular forms of the regional with the universal forms of rationalism that modernism had come to represent. Bound up with this balance was another delicate negotiation. The building was the product and embodiment of the brief alliance between organised labour and the government of Lee Kuan Yew's People's Action Party. The article suggests that a better understanding of the building within these circumstances not only helps to give political, and specifically post-colonial, resonance to theories of critical regionalism, it also provides a counter-balance to Rem Koolhaas's dismissal of this period in Singapore's urban development. ©2008 The Journal of Architecture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-605
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Architecture
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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