work thoughts being

Change Alley Mall

To be a contributor and a part of built history holds a powerful responsibility that is not often appreciated. Change Alley, an alley sandwiched between two buildings in Singapore’s CBD, has its history dating back to November 1890. The area was envisioned in Raffles’ Town Plan of 1822 to be transformed from an unoccupied swampy land into the new business centre of Singapore. Over the subsequent ninety years, Change Alley became quite the destination - a bustling meeting place for European buyers and Asian brokers and dealers, trading spices, produce, and metals; and later, day-to-day goods such as watches, souvenirs, children’s toys etc. Its eventual demise came about in the 1980s as the number of customers and visitors dwindled due to factors such as a decline in sea travel, withdrawal of foreign troops from Singapore, and competition with new, air-conditioned shopping centres. 

Change Alley made its return in 1993 as a three-storey high retail thoroughfare, now sandwiched between two newer office blocks. Its retail concept, spatial quality and aesthetics, and tenancy, eventually fell out-of-date, at risk of history repeating itself as nearby, newer shopping centres attracted the savvy crowds of the CBD. We were commissioned in late 2018 to revamp Change Alley and bring it up to contemporary retail and design standards and to fulfil its potential, and to attract higher foot traffic - for people not to see it just as a thoroughfare, but revive it as a destination once more.

The design concept came about through studying the site context - including adjacent architecture and nearby retail aesthetic. The design of Change Alley strove to distance itself from the glass-and-concrete facades of the surrounding office towers and retail podia, and instead to have for itself a distinct face and brand that pay homage to its origins and historical identity. It was a calculated risk that our proposed design has a distinct aesthetic that does not conform to the typical retail design that maximises shop fronts with glazing. Another risk was that the design, and much of the detailing reference our often-debated colonial past, an undeniable fact that is acknowledged with austerity through a deliberate choice of material and colour palette.

Change Alley opened its doors to the public at a challenging time - in the midst of a global pandemic, with much of the workers in the CBD working from home. As Singapore cautiously reopens and we return to the workplace, Change Alley has seen a marked increase in footfall as we see it once again is on its path to becoming the vibrant, trading and retail thoroughfare that it once was. More than just a thoroughfare, we envision that our small contribution to Singapore’s CBD represents a contribution to the liveliness of our young city.

Project Year | Completed 2020

Location | Singapore

Photographer | Edward Hendricks

To be a contributor and a part of built history holds a powerful responsibility that is not often appreciated. Change Alley, an alley sandwiched between two buildings in Singapore’s CBD, has its history dating back to November 1890. The area was envisioned in Raffles’ Town Plan of 1822 to be transformed from an unoccupied swampy land into the new business centre of Singapore. Over the subsequent ninety years, Change Alley became quite the destination - a bustling meeting place for European buyers and Asian brokers and dealers, trading spices, produce, and metals; and later, day-to-day goods such as watches, souvenirs, children’s toys etc. Its eventual demise came about in the 1980s as the number of customers and visitors dwindled due to factors such as a decline in sea travel, withdrawal of foreign troops from Singapore, and competition with new, air-conditioned shopping centres. 

Change Alley made its return in 1993 as a three-storey high retail thoroughfare, now sandwiched between two newer office blocks. Its retail concept, spatial quality and aesthetics, and tenancy, eventually fell out-of-date, at risk of history repeating itself as nearby, newer shopping centres attracted the savvy crowds of the CBD. We were commissioned in late 2018 to revamp Change Alley and bring it up to contemporary retail and design standards and to fulfil its potential, and to attract higher foot traffic - for people not to see it just as a thoroughfare, but revive it as a destination once more.

The design concept came about through studying the site context - including adjacent architecture and nearby retail aesthetic. The design of Change Alley strove to distance itself from the glass-and-concrete facades of the surrounding office towers and retail podia, and instead to have for itself a distinct face and brand that pay homage to its origins and historical identity. It was a calculated risk that our proposed design has a distinct aesthetic that does not conform to the typical retail design that maximises shop fronts with glazing. Another risk was that the design, and much of the detailing reference our often-debated colonial past, an undeniable fact that is acknowledged with austerity through a deliberate choice of material and colour palette.

Change Alley opened its doors to the public at a challenging time - in the midst of a global pandemic, with much of the workers in the CBD working from home. As Singapore cautiously reopens and we return to the workplace, Change Alley has seen a marked increase in footfall as we see it once again is on its path to becoming the vibrant, trading and retail thoroughfare that it once was. More than just a thoroughfare, we envision that our small contribution to Singapore’s CBD represents a contribution to the liveliness of our young city.