International Plaza

Text by Patricia Chia

Within the guise of a fairly normative-looking exterior is an unexpectedly superlative city room of shops, offices, recreational facilities and apartments. Located in the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District (CBD), International Plaza is one of the nation’s pioneer high-rise mixed-use developments which experimented with the podium and tower block typology.

International Plaza in 2013 (Photo credit: Patricia Chia)

A strata-titled development under 99-year lease, it was the third site sold under the Urban Renewal Department’s Sales of Sites programme in 1969. The fully-air-conditioned seven-storey podium and 43-storey tower block are a volumetric amalgamation of parts of various functions. The seven-storey podium houses 270 shop units and a multi-storey carpark, the first 27 storeys of the tower contain 388 office units, while the top 14 storeys serve apartments of varying sizes and other recreational facilities. Serving such a massive number of users, it is no wonder that the building is serviced by 20 high-speed lifts that interchange service at specific floors, and 4 escalators.

International Plaza under construction

Naturally lit and ventilated courtyard at International Plaza

International Plaza boasts an extremely inventive tower-block configuration of the residential units in the top 14 storeys. The apartments are organised around two naturally ventilated and lit courtyards, one enclosing a swimming pool, and the other a tennis court. Lift shafts puncture through the centre of the tower demarcating the division between the two courtyards. The design may be interpreted as a re-imagination of the traditional courtyard typology, commonly found in older two- to three-storey shophouses that surround the district, into one that suits high-rise living.

Podium retail at International Plaza Singapore

Daylit balconies and corridors of International Plaza Singapore

The experience as one exits the elevator and walks along the common corridor toward his individual unit is almost surreal. Natural light floods downward, and echoes of traffic noise from the outside and other activity on the inside can be heard in a most atmospheric manner. The transformation of the 15-storey courtyard when it rains into the swimming pool and tennis court is also worth witnessing.