Through a lens of social and architectural histories, the book uncovers the many untold stories of the Southeast Asian city-state’s modernization, from the rise of heroic skyscrapers, such as the Pearl Bank Apartments, to the spread of utilitarian typologies like the multi-storey car park. It investigates how modernism, through both form and function, radically transformed Singapore and made its inhabitants into modern citizens. The most intensive period of such change happened in the 1960s and 1970s under the rise of a developmental state seeking to safeguard its new-found independence. However, the book also looks both earlier and later, from between the 1930s to the 1980s, to cover a wider range of histories, building types and also architectural styles, expanding from the International Style and Brutalism and into Art Deco and even a touch of Postmodernism.
➜ Read more about this book I co-authored with Chang Jiat-Hwee and Darren Soh
Despite being touted as an “explosive book”, Socialism That Works… The Singapore Way has a surprisingly idyllic-looking cover. Featuring an aerial photograph of a tree-lined lagoon and greenery that stretches into the horizon, the book could be mistaken for a tourism brochure. Instead, this picture of East Coast Park fronts a 268-page publication that refutes “the many half-truths perpetrated by hostile parties” about Singapore, including the government’s detention of communists without trial and its controls on trade unions and the press.
Over 10 chapters, the country’s top politicians and trade unionists refuted the allegations and made a case for how successful Singapore had become under the rule of the People’s Action Party (PAP). East Coast Park was just one picturesque outcome. As Singapore’s newest and largest public recreational centre when Socialism That Works was released in 1976, the park showcase how the PAP had literally reshaped the island for modern play.
 ‘Socialism That Works… the Singapore Way’, The Business Times, 1 February 1977.
➜ Read the full story in The Singapore Architect #15 (May-August 2019)