The Colonnade

Text by Roberto de Alba

With its dual ambitions of prefabrication and visual intricacy, Paul Rudolph's The Colonnade was a bold vision of tropical living, prefiguring many of the high-rise residential projects that would follow in Singapore.

The Colonnade Condominium (Image source: Roberto de Alba / Library of Congress)

Initially intending to design a housing structure as a set of prefabricated units hoisted onto a structural frame, the ideas and visual intricacies of Paul Rudolph's Colonnade Condominiums were developments of the previously designed but unbuilt Graphic Arts Center of Manhattan.

Exploded perspective drawing of apartment units of The Colonnade Singapore

Rudolph referred to these replicable units as the "twentieth-century brick," a means of construction that would seemingly make construction of large scale buildings more feasible. However, as Rudolph came to find upon the time of construction, technical and financial reasons expelled the possibility of the prefabricated units.

Exterior view and typical floor plan of The Colonnade, Singapore

Instead, the Colonnade was built of pour-in-place concrete, which still successfully conveyed the appearance of his initial design goals.

His intentions of designing prefabricated parts were to fuse flexibility of spaces with a standardized structural system and parts. What became very important in the Colonnade Condominiums was the particular attention paid to the climate and environment of Singapore; the abundance of sunlight was crucial in the layouts of spaces in the units.

Interior view from apartment at The Colonnade, Grange Road, Singapore

The climate of Singapore sustains the most beautiful landscapes and greenery, thus the views from the large windows are some of the most beautiful in the world. The locations of bedrooms and more private spaces are shielded from the sun by the glazed windows.

The massive structure's floor plan is divided into four rectangular quadrants, each bound by substantial room for vertical and horizontal circulation. Movement under the tower is encouraged, as the units are lifted off of the ground on a series of columns, which are lined in two closely-spaced rows, hence the name of the condominiums.

Perspective and plan of Paul Rudolph's The Colonnade, Singapore

These columns lift the bases of the four quadrants at different heights; shifting floor planes are a common theme within the works of Paul Rudolph. Each unit is two stories high, with an open living and dining area, a large kitchen, and a balcony.

The first floor features a guest room and bathroom, and the second floor houses two larger bedrooms. The precedent of this layout is Le Corbusier's Pavilion de I'Espirit Nouveau; the staggering of vertical heights and the lofting of bedrooms over the public areas create wonderful views and gathering spaces down below.