Architecture & Building Design

You might be surprised to find that the initial architectural designs of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay were nowhere as eye-catching as what we see today.

From a flower-shaped layout that represented a lantern in a park, to what was described as "concrete blobs", the centre's architectural design was from the very start, an issue that invited comments and criticism.

The final design by DP Architects and Michael Wilford & Partners eventually put Esplanade on the map. Its eye-catching spiky twin-domes became an iconic addition to Marina Bay. This was firmly cemented in 2013, when the centre came to be featured on Singapore's five-cent coins.

The real beauty of Esplanade however, is within its domes. Just like Esplanade's uniquely cladded exterior, its interior and performance spaces were also designed in consultation with three advisory groups comprising 74 members, developers, a retail company and government bodies, as well as a panel of seven Asian arts experts! This ensured that Esplanade would be able to accommodate the demands of Asian arts performances, particularly those of the traditional arts.

Esplanade's stunning Concert Hall is the master work of the late respected acoustician Russell Johnson of Artec Consultants Inc. Johnson's cutting-edge approach to acoustics resulted in our Concert Hall possessing one of the best acoustics among concert halls around the world. With innovative and refined acoustic features, this world-class performing venue can also be adjusted to suit a wide range of Asian and Western arts performances across genres.

A Thorny Issue

To say that Esplanade's architectural design was a hotly debated issue among Singaporeans when the centre first opened is an understatement.

Esplanade might have been elegantly named right from the start but the now-iconic and endearing spiky landmark received many other monikers. These include "Marshmallows", "Papayas", "Soursops", etc.—that displayed a characteristic Singaporean love for food. Eventually one nickname emerged as most popular. No prizes for guessing which!

The arts centre became unofficially known as "durian", the notorious Southeast Asian "king of fruits".

Get inside the "durian" and explore the centre's backstage and front-of-house by taking one of our guided tours!