7 Surprising Things You Never Knew About The Esplanade, Singapore’s Most Iconic Landmark

17 June 2016
<p>The Esplanade - Theatres By The Bay</p>

The Esplanade - Theatres By The Bay

Ask locals in Singapore about the Esplanade, and chances are, they’ll laugh and reply along the lines of “Oh, the durian?”

Here’s why the Esplanade was designed the way it is, and other facts you never knew about this iconic landmark in Singapore.

1. The cultural capital

The Esplanade was born with the idea of making Singapore the cultural capital of Asia. It was first proposed in 1989, with 12 years in the making before its completion in 2001 and eventual official opening in 2002.

2. The facilities

This arts centre features a 2,000-seat theatre, a 1,600-seat concert hall, some smaller performing arts venues, as well as art installation spaces, a library, and an interesting mix of retail and F&B outlets.


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3. Reception

When the designer, DP Architects of Singapore, unveiled the Esplanade’s proposed look, it illicited a fair amount of controversy for looking peculiar at best, and unattractive at worst. The design was critiqued for its “unadorned glass spikes”, called a “marshmellow blob”, amongst other labels.

4. The design

Despite being lovingly nicknamed as “The Durian” by locals in Singapore (perhaps it’s apt that durians are also known as “the king of fruit”!), the designer, DP Architects of Singapore, certainly didn’t have this in mind when designing the Esplanade.

The dome-shaped structure of the Esplanade was patterned after the Sydney Opera House. The sunshades – or the spikes – make the building look different from different angles.

It’s not all form without function, either – the cladding of the sunshades allows the building to have a transparent façade to give unobstructed views of the outside from the performing centre, while blocking out the glare of sunlight (all too useful in sunny Singapore!).

5. Maintenance

It’s not all done and dusted (literally) now that the project is completed – cleaning this architectural wonder is quite a chore. Each of the iconic spikes is cleaned by hand by trained professionals. It takes approximately two months to complete the job!

6. Esplanade Park

The Esplanade Park, built in 1943, is one of the oldest among Singapore’s heritage parks. Take a stroll along the park to enjoy the panoramic view of the Marina Bay waterfront!


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7. It’s featured on our 5-cent coins

Bet you never paid attention to it!


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By Pinky Chng, June 2016

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