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Former Asia Insurance Building

History
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ABOUT

Once known in the 1950s as the tallest building in Southeast Asia, this 18-storey building, located at the corner of Collyer Quay and Finlayson Green, is an architectural gem.

THE HISTORY

It used to house the headquarters of the Asia Insurance Company, one of the pioneer insurance companies established locally. Completed in 1955, the Asia Insurance Building was one of the earliest skyscrapers in Singapore. It marks a significant phase of modern office developments and symbolizes Singapore’s growth as an important financial centre. It was officially opened by Sir Robert Brown, the governor of Singapore then.

The building was designed by local architect Mr Ng Keng Siang, who was one of the prominent early overseas graduates (from the Bartlett School of Architecture in London). He returned to Singapore when the influence of the Modern Movement was beginning to take root. During his illustrious career, he was one of the first Singaporean architects to become a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and also served as the President of the Society of Malayan Architects. Interestingly, for many years, Mr Ng had his office at the top floors of the former Asia Insurance Building after it was completed.

THE BUILDING

This building demonstrated a paradigm shift in the Singapore architectural field by successfully marrying the tenets of the Modern movement with indigenous adaptations. At the same time, it also showed local architects’ competence in producing good design and undertaking large construction projects.

Bold and innovative in both design and construction method, the building employed the latest advances in technology and materials at that time. This Art Deco styled skyscraper, clad in luxurious beige travertine, is topped by a three-tiered scalloped stainless steel crown that creates a visual peak and adds a touch of grandeur to the building. The crown was intended to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

At the base of the building, the use of rare black Nero Portoro Italian marble for fluted columns makes the overall ensemble appear to 'float' above the ground. A double-height five-foot way of the same black marble wraps around the perimeter of the building, expressing the double-volume lobby.

Internally, the building also features a brass mail chute where mail could be dropped at a high point and collected at a central depository, as well as a mosaic staircase with timber railing.

THE LEGACY

For many years, the Asia Insurance Building was a familiar sight in Singapore’s CBD and at its waterfront. Today, views of this building can still be seen from the bay area, adding a layer of history in the development and growth of our Financial District.

In 2009, this 1950s heritage icon was conferred the URA Architectural Heritage Award for the sensitive restoration works carried out in transformed it into a flagship premier serviced residence by the Ascott Group, who bought over the building.

Gazetted on 18 April 2007 for conservation

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