New exhibition: How a French-Swiss design master influenced Singapore's urban planning

New exhibition: How a French-Swiss design master influenced Singapore's urban planning
PHOTO: Unsplash

A new exhibition and series of talks at Alliance Française de Singapour examines the influence of a French-Swiss design master, at work a century ago, on the city we inhabit today.

Born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret but assuming the moniker Le Corbusier (or ‘the crow-like one’) aged 33 in 1920, this pioneer of modern architecture reshaped our conception of the city — and very literally created the blueprint for the way many of us now live.

Le Corbusier believed chaotic, crumbling cities of old should be knocked down and replaced with orderly, rigorously planned metropolises.

These should be centred around a central business district filled with glass and steel skyscrapers, occupied by corporate offices and the homes of the wealthy. Radiating outwards would be smaller highrises, set amidst ample greenery, with all the amenities residents might need within easy reach.

In structures such as the famed Unité d’ Habitation project, La Cité Radieuse in Marseilles, France — a groundbreaking, incredibly innovative highrise housing development completed in 1952 — Le Corbusier built self-contained communities in the sky.

With rooftop recreation areas (much like we see perched above a certain icon of Singaporean architecture today), his goal was to create a “vertical garden city.”

Does all that sound just vaguely familiar?

From now until the end of October, Alliance Française will host an exhibition of 38 models of seminal Le Corbusier buildings, furniture, and original prints.

At talks held over the course of the month (full schedule here), Le Corbusier’s legacy and the echoes of his work evident in Singapore’s urban planning will be discussed by eminent architects including Rene Tan, Manuel Der Hagopian and Maria Boey, and most notably, Dr. Liu Thai Kher.


Credited as the ‘architect of modern Singapore’, Dr. Lui spent two decades as chief architect and chief executive of the Housing Development Board, guiding the development of 25 new towns and more than half a million apartments.

He also served as Singapore’s chief planner and chief executive of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Dr. Lui subsequently enjoyed a successful career in the private sector, as a director of RSP Architects, before opening his own firm, Morrow Architects + Planners.

The exhibition and talks present not only a wonderful opportunity to learn more about one of architecture’s most influential figures. They also provide a chance to benefit from the wisdom of one of the key figures in shaping contemporary Singapore, as Dr. Lui discusses How to Plan a Sustainable and Liveable City?

Visit the Alliance Française website for more information on ARCHITECTURE: A Day in the Life of Le Corbusier — until Oct 31.

This article was first published in

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