Singapore’s Cultural Nerve
Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
1 Esplanade Dr, Singapore 038981

Fondly referred to as “The Durian”, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay was a major civic project that DPA undertook in partnership with Michael Wilford & Partners (London) till 1995 and saw it to completion thereafter.  The key to its design success laid in delivering a localised design solution for a global platform.

Contemporary but Asian without resorting to ethnic archetypes, this enduring landmark is everything its original design brief envisioned it to be: iconic, all-representing and timeless. This is best exemplified by the architecture’s most prominent feature – its façade.  The two rounded envelopes over the primary performance venues provide the dominating legible form.

These lightweight, curved space-frames fitted with triangular glass and a system of champagne-coloured sunshades that offer an optimised trade-off between solar shading and outward panoramic views.  The result provides filtered natural light and a dramatic transformation of shadow and texture throughout the day; at night, the form glow back onto the city as lanterns by the bay.

Today, The Esplanade embodies the civic heart of downtown, an element that projects the creative energy of the performing arts in Singapore. As a major civic centre, the project explores the continuity of public and performance space. And as a space that renders local traditions visible, it is a nexus for the regional and the international.

The Esplanade is in the civic district surrounded by wonderful views. To counter the strong equatorial sun yet allow these views, triangular sunshades were the most promising of the options considered. This, together with the base structural geometry of a mesh folding over the dome, evolved into the final design.

Design team

DP Architects in collaboration with Michael Wilford & Partners, UK