Bukit Timah Shopping Centre

Text by Patricia Chia

Located along Upper Bukit Timah Road, adjacent to Beauty World Centre and Bukit Timah Plaza, this playfully pink shopping centre is one of Singapore’s first fully air-conditioned shopping complexes. Its experimental formal tectonics and spatial planning mark a significant contribution to the nation’s development of the highrise mixed-use typology.

Scale model of Bukit Timah Shopping Centre (Photo credit: Chee Soon Wah Chartered Architects)

Designed by architect Mr Chee Soon Wah – a member of the team that designed the People’s Park Complex, the 22-storey development consists of a seven-storey podium (completed 1978) and a 14-storey tower block (completed 1981). The podium used to house a Chinese emporium supermarket, the Gala cinema and a carpark, while the tower used to house residential units including a penthouse on the top floor. Over time, the strata-titled development has undergone some programmatic changes. The podium currently houses small businesses such as maid agencies and construction companies, while the cinema has been converted into an auditorium owned by a church. The tower now consists of office spaces and the penthouse space has been bought over by the church.

Exterior of Bukit Timah Shopping Centre

Atrium of Bukit Timah Shopping Centre

The shopping centre is an eclectic sequence of idiosyncratic moments. Although only repainted this colour in 2005, its bold use of pink, blue and yellow to articulate and differentiate volumes makes the building an identifiable urban object even from a distance. Similar to that found in People's Park Complex, the podium atrium is a complex three-dimensional void, resultant from the non-repeated unique floor plates. The circulation, though rather confusing to navigate through, consists of staircases and escalators that choreograph a pleasant labyrinthine experience through the shopping centre. An eccentric mix of outdoor elements such as aluminium roofing and park benches may also be found inside.

Colour and tectonic of Bukit Timah Shopping Centre

Jln Anak Bukit elevation of Bukit Timah Shopping Centre

Due to construction of the Beauty World MRT station opposite the shopping centre, the surrounding traffic condition is considerably chaotic at the moment and businesses in the vicinity have seen a decline. The hope is that once the station is completed in 2015, Bukit Timah Shopping Centre will get a new lease of life.

Cantilevered stairs at Bukit Timah Shopping Centre

Bukit Timah Shopping Centre from Jln Anak Bukit