Charting our journey from our humble beginnings to where we are today.

How Esplanade came to be
Black and white image of performers from Theatreworks.

The idea of a national arts centre for Singapore was conceived.

Image of the Marina Bay area before Esplanade was built.

First design brief was formulated with input from the arts community.

Image of Minister for Information and the Arts George Yeo and Robert Lau looking at the building design prototype of Esplanade.

The Advisory Council on Culture and the Arts, chaired by then Second Deputy Prime Minister Ong Teng Cheong, released its report, which included a recommendation for the creation of a "world-class performing arts centre". A steering committee was set up and chaired by Mr Ong and when he was elected as President in 1993, then Minister for Information and the Arts George Yeo took over as Chairman.

Image of winning design proposal for Esplanade.

The first public exhibition of the architectural plans was held, titled "Taking Shape". The arts centre was named Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.


Image of guests at Esplanade’s groundbreaking ceremony.

The Esplanade project was redesigned in phases: Phase 1 comprised the Theatre, Concert Hall, studios, rehearsal and commercial spaces. Medium-sized theatres were to be built in Phase 2.

Image of guests on the construction site where Esplanade was to be built.

Construction of the superstructure began.

Image of aerial view of Esplanade’s twin domes.

Esplanade opened officially on 12 October, followed by a three-week-long Opening Festival. By the end of the festival on 3 November, Esplanade received more than a million visitors to the centre who enjoyed arts experiences offered through 73 ticketed and 600 free events, featuring 1,300 artists from 22 countries.

A week after the Opening Festival, the arts centre launched its first regular annual festival Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of ArtsPesta Raya – Malay Festival of Arts and Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts were launched in the months that followed, ensuring that there was something for all arts audiences from Singapore's three main cultures.

Image of then CEO Benson Puah giving a speech with guests at ISPA.

Esplanade hosted the International Society of the Performing Arts (ISPA) Congress, held for the first time in Asia.


The Association of Asia Pacific Performing Arts Centres (AAPPAC) Secretariat moved from Sydney Opera House in Australia to Esplanade. This was the first time the Secretariat was hosted in Asia.


Recognition of Esplanade as a Continuing Education and Training (CET) Centre by Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) for training workers in the technical theatre industry.

Image of children having fun at an immersive arts experience at Esplanade’s Octoburst in 2019.

Esplanade formed a dedicated education unit in the Programming department to look into better meeting the needs of young audiences.


Esplanade commemorated its 10th anniversary with a year-long calendar of performances and programmes themed Celebrating Life – The best of the Human Spirit through the Arts. The anniversary weekend in October was dedicated to celebrating Singapore arts and artists.

Recognising the efforts of the many arts pioneers who laid the foundations of the arts in Singapore, Esplanade also launched the TributeSG initiative, an online repository documenting their lives.


Formation of a dedicated Community Engagement unit in the Programming department to deepen Esplanade’s engagement with voluntary welfare organisations and youth.

Image of Esplanade’s Forecourt Garden in the evening.

The completion of a physical renewal and refreshment exercise. This included a full redevelopment of our Forecourt into the thriving Forecourt Garden with a lively ecosystem; the creation of PIP’s PLAYbox, a dedicated children’s activity area at Level 4, as well as Annexe Studio, a new venue converted from a dance club into a raw and flexible two-storey space suitable for informal performances, artist residencies and development programmes, rehearsals, workshops and masterclasses.


Esplanade announced its plans to build a new 550-seat theatre along its waterfront, to support its next stage of development.

In October, Esplanade launched #mydurian—a year-long celebration for its 15th anniversary—comprising programmes and activities that bring together people and stories that have helped shape the iconic arts centre fondly dubbed the durian. #mydurian when you tag @esplanadesg!

Image of CEOs of Singtel and Esplanade with the 10 million dollar donation cheque.

In June, Singtel donated S$10 million towards the development of Esplanade’s new waterfront theatre, the largest single donation that the arts centre has received since it opened in 2002.

Esplanade hosted its first-ever fundraising Gala dinner which took place on the Theatre stage. Guests were treated to performances by Singapore artists and a dining experience by Conrad Centennial Singapore. More than $840,000 was raised that evening for the new waterfront theatre.

Esplanade was awarded the BCA Green Mark Platinum Award for reducing its energy consumption by 25%.

Image of the Esplanade Offstage website.

The launch of Esplanade Offstage, an online all-access insider’s guide and repository of illuminating stories, videos and podcasts about the arts and culture in Singapore and Asia.


Esplanade went dark for the first time in our history as part of a nationwide shutdown of all attractions and most physical workplaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The arts centre took to digital platforms to keep the arts alive, releasing concert highlights from our archives by diverse Singapore and Asian artists on the newly launched Esplanade Offstage, and programming regular livestreamed performances that were released on Esplanade’s social channels.

Image of seniors in the audience watching a performance at Esplanade.

Esplanade is the first dementia-friendly arts venue in Singapore and the first such venues to become a Dementia Go-To Point. We also introduced ticket concessions for persons with disabilities (PWDs) on all Esplanade Presents programmes that offer concessions.


In celebration of Esplanade's 20th, we present PopLore a year-long exploration of Singapore’s popular music from the 1960s to the present and beyond. In addition to a series of live concerts featuring a roster of luminaries such as Dick Lee, Jeremy Monteiro, Najip Ali, Charlie Lim, Shabir and The Freshman as well as the stars of tomorrow, PopLore also comprises podcasts, videos and an exhibition at Esplanade on the various cultural forces, producers and venues which shaped the scene.

The Singtel Waterfront Theatre, Esplanade’s newest 550-seat venue, will be completed in 2022. To mark the opening of the Singtel Waterfront Theatre, Esplanade will feature a series of commissioned works by Singapore and regional artists from Oct – Dec 2022 which will showcase the possibilities for collaborative exchanges between artists in the region.

The Next Stage

More about the new multi-format, 550-seat Singtel Waterfront Theatre along our busy waterfront that will support our next generation of artists and audiences.


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