Chee Tong Temple

Text by Eugene Tan

Chee Tong Temple serves as a temple for the Overseas Chinese, catering to their spiritual needs. The temple was viewed through a contemporary lens instead of immediately lifting traditional Chinese design language.

Aerial view of the temple (Photo credit: Eugene Tan)

Because the Chinese believed in an active role in the way fates are determined, the architects were made to consult a medium regarding their design. Through the dialogue process, it was decided that the top of the grand roof would evoke a lotus. This would be made of glass, and allow light to enter the altar area in the day, while reflecting light outside during the night. This is analogous with the notion of religion, time and the environment, while the night illumination is symbolic of the temple’s relationship with the local community.

Facade of Chee Tong Temple

Additionally, the medium did not want the building to feature sharp edges that would threaten its surroundings. Therefore, the architects operated within these parameters, working in their own desire for a pyramidal roof, but articulating it as an eight-sided trigram.

Chee Tong Temple elevation, section, and plan

Throughout the design process, the architects struggled to maintain a balance between the pursuit of aesthetic integrity and the conventional desire for traditional tokens. It was around this time that the designers realised the importance of the urgings lying at the core of human consciousness that constitute religion, concluding that a design based on purely artistic whims would be most faithless.

The iconic Chee Tong Temple roof