Exploring history and culture: A journey through the iconic South Beach

Exploring history and culture: A journey through the iconic South Beach Exploring history and culture: A journey through the iconic South Beach

Singapore, 18 May 2024 - The annual Singapore HeritageFest returned for a 21st edition with over 120 programmes dedicated to celebrating Singapore’s rich built heritage, and the stories behind the nation’s buildings, sites, and structures.

“Unveiling South Beach Singapore: From Military Might to Modern Marvel” was one of the programmes introduced in the first week of Singapore HeritageFest 2024. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Total Defence Day, the tour highlights South Beach’s transformation from a military stronghold to a vibrant modern hub.

Germaine Nam, an intern at City Developments Limited (CDL), shares her experience of the tour:

“The session started with an insightful sharing about innovative sustainable features of South Beach, which included access to the Sky Garden located at level 11 of South Beach Tower (the office block). We were treated to a panoramic bird’s eye view of the vicinity, while the guide delved into more details about the development’s iconic canopy feature.

The 280m long canopy that embraces the development not only provides shade but acts as a natural filter for sunlight and solar glare. This helps to induce natural wind breeze into the building, ensuring year-round comfort!

South Beach’s most striking feature is its signature microclimatic wave-like canopy which spans across the whole development and provides a high level of atmospheric comfort throughout the day.

Today, South Beach Quarter is an impressive two-storey building that is home to commercial spaces. Unlike the Grand Ballroom, South Beach Quarter has undergone at least two rounds of extensive renovations and modification.

Featuring an iconic tripled arched entrance and timber louvred windows, the asymmetrical façade is unique to South Beach Quarter. The facade was due to the merger of two buildings made into one by reconstructing the central archway to unify them.

As we made our way to the next destination, I got to appreciate a variety of artworks on display around the building. A piece that particularly caught my eye was the 80” Icosahedron by Anthony James.

The mesmerising interplay of lights and satisfying geometric patterns bouncing off the mirrors within will surely make anyone pause for a second look. Located at the entrance of JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach, it’s hard to miss if you are in the area!

After a brief sharing about the artworks, we made our way to the NCO club where we concluded the tour with a Pandan Sling Mocktail!

In addition, the downward-angled points of the canopy help to facilitate the collection of rainwater; recycled and reused to water plants around the building. Attached to the canopy are solar panels that harvest solar energy, sufficient to power operations for at least five hours each day – a seamless fusion of sustainability and remarkable innovation.

After learning about the development’s sustainable design features and taking in the mesmerising cityscape from the Sky Garden, we continued to explore the meticulously preserved historical architecture.

Singapore’s steadfast commitment to national security and defence today adds a layer of fascination to the discovery of South Beach’s military past. Exploring the historic structure that once played pivotal roles in safeguarding the budding nation has unveiled a rich tapestry of dedication and resilience.

The history of the former Drill Hall, now known and widely recognised as the swanky Grand Ballroom; left the deepest impression on me. With most of its original architectural integrity retained, it is the best-preserved amongst the architectures still standing at South Beach today. With minimal external modification, the authenticity of the building elevated the experience of uncovering the rich history and stories of those who once fought to protect our nation. The conscientious preservation of this architecture allows visitors to step back in time to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for Singapore’s heritage.

Once echoing with the commands of sergeants and the hurried footsteps of soldiers, this storied building now comes alive with joyous celebrations and gatherings.

The former Drill Hall was once home to the headquarters of the Singapore Volunteer Corps (SVC) and the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force (SSVF). In 1854, the Hokkien-Teochew Riot took place, which initiated the formation of the SVC to maintain law and order. The SSVF was formed with the aim to assist the Royal Air Force in defending Singapore then.

Prominent figures who once served in the SVC and SSVF include Singapore’s First Deputy Prime Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee, and Singapore’s First Chief Minister Mr David Marshall.

Another historical architecture that we explored was the former Block 1, now known as South Beach Quarter, stands as the oldest amongst the four conserved architecture. Back in the day, this building served as an armoury for weapon storage.

Sweet yet invigorating, the Pandan Sling Mocktail is one of the signature drinks at JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach; crafted with a delightful twist on beloved local flavours. The pandan leaves are freshly sourced and harvested from their outdoor garden, brimming with a variety of herbs and ingredients.

All in all, the tour was insightful and educational, which provided a rich learning experience. Despite its concise one-hour duration, it was thoroughly engaging. The experience was enhanced by older participants who shared their first-hand accounts of the era, making the tour even more memorable. The diversity of participants, from seasoned seniors to young history enthusiasts, as well as the enthusiasm of the tour guide, added to the tour’s vibrancy.

Beyond the wonderful stories and learning opportunities, the tour also served as a timely reminder of the sacrifices made by past generations to shape Singapore into the thriving city it is today.”

South Beach Heritage Tour
Click to view the highlights of the heritage tour.

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