Little India Singapore
The commission to design the Indian Heritage Center was awarded to Robert Greg Shand Architects after winning an architectural design competition (in collaboration with Urbnarc), led by the Singapore National Heritage Board. The brief called for a contemporary building, that the Singapore Indian Community could identify with. The Indian community is a richly very diverse mix of cultures and religions, and therefore we wanted to keep traditional architectural elements (that could be seen as being biased to any one segment of the population), to a minimum. The contemporary motif that we created for the building is based on the traditional Indian step well, the ‘baoli’, and this motif is the catalyst from which all design decisions are generated. Whilst using very few traditional Indian architectural elements, we intentionally designed the structure and chose the materials to be raw and utilitarian in nature, a distinctive quality of traditional Indian architecture.
The symbiotic counter balance to this, (in Indian terms referred to as Purusha/Prakriti – Ying/Yang), are the Gallery artefacts, façade mural, and sculptures that will be housed in the façade and on the tribune staircase in the lobby which provide the colourful adornment, creating identity, one which can be changed over time. The only permanent articulation of traditional architecture is the hand carved entrance portal and 6m high carved timber doors. Entry is a very significant element in traditional Indian Architecture, and in the IHC we wanted this to be of a grand urban scale, and hand carved from stone and timber by artisans in India. As the only element in the façade with any adornment/texture, the Entry Portal becomes the most visible element giving the building an identity at street level.