Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

A new cultural nerve for Singapore

You know you have done right by a city with an architectural landmark when its people are able to resonate with it on a very local level while successfully relating its cultural context on a global platform.  Fondly referred to as “The Durian”, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay was a major civic project that we undertook in partnership with Michael Wilford & Partners (London) till 1995 and saw it to completion thereafter.  The key to our design success?  We focused on 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. 

1 Esplanade Dr, Singapore 038981
Category Civic & Cultural
Year 2002
Size 111,000sqm
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.
The interior of 2000-seat theatre. The space is programmed with side-and-rear stages with a fly tower above the main stage; and is designed to accommodate traditional drams, large musicals and heavily amplified musical performances.
The outdoor amphitheatre hosts a diverse range of performances and has a magnificent view of Marina Bay and the city skyline.
The triangulated sunshading system filters natural light for interior spaces and generates a dramatic transformation of shadow and texture throughout the day.

The need for a civic centre anchoring the arts was first explored in 1989 under the government-established Advisory Council. 

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.  As a venue for art and culture, it identifies the civic core of a city.  And as a space that renders local traditions visible, it is a nexus for the regional and the international.

In collaboration with Michael Wilford and Partners, UK.

Specialist Services

Integrated services provided for this project.


2009 Singapore Structural Steel Society Certificate of Commendation for Distinguished Use of Structural Steel for its Creativity, Value and Innovation
Outdoor Theatre at The Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay
2006 President’s Design Award Design of the Year
Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
2005 Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
Marble Architectural Awards - Internazionale Marmi e Macchine Carrara SPA The Special Mention in the Section II (Interior Design)

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