A critical retrospective of the Malayan Architects Co-Partnership's (1960-1967) oeuvre is overdue. In an era when architecture was an expedient instrument to project national identity, the firm's work - self-assured and fluent in the modernist language of pilotis, parasols, free-standing walls, and servant cores - influenced a generation of local practitioners in both Singapore and Malaysia.
Modelled on Walter Gropius' TAC (The Architects Collaborative) and the Architects Co-Partnership in the UK, the firm designed a body of work across Malaya (present-day West Malaysia and Singapore) and was started by foreign-trained architects William Lim, Lim Chong Keat and Chen Voon Fee in 1960. William Lim studied at the AA in London which exposed him to Team X functionalists like John Killick, James Stirling, Peter & Allison Smithson. His subsequent year at Harvard enabled interaction with other late modernists like Sert and Maki. Lim Chong Keat studied at Manchester University and at the MIT and was influenced by architects Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, who directed the AA Tropical Studio.
Veteran architect Tay Kheng Soon writes an illuminating account of his time as an employee of the firm in the 1960s, including personal rivalries. British architectural historian Mark Crinson also writes a convincing narrative of the firm's magnum opus - the Singapore Conference Hall - against a backdrop of nationalism. The MACs work is self-assured in the language of modernism - their oeuvre demonstrate careful references to modern masters like Corbusier, Kahn, Mies, Candela.
Below are some images of their work. RL
Singapore Conference Hall / Trade Union House
(image source: Singapore National Day Commerative pamphlet 1966)
Singapore Conference Hall / Trade Union House perspective
Singapore Conference Hall / Trade Union House elevations
Singapore Conference Hall / Trade Union House plans
MSA (Malaysia-Singapore Airlines) Building, Shenton Way
MSA (Malaysia-Singapore Airlines) Building under construction.