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Shophouses are the pre-industrial form of urban units characterised by 19th and early 20th century Southeast Asian towns, cities and commercial centres. Shophouses are one of the most significant building types in Singapore.s architectural heritage, reflecting much of the island.s history and development.

Shophouses are mainly narrow, small-scaled terrace structures that were built to accommodate both work and dwelling back in the early 19th century. Constructed between 1840 and 1960, they consist of two or three storey buildings typically built on contiguous blocks with individual unit sharing party walls.

It is common to find businesses established on the first and second levels of a shophouse while the top floors provide cosy residential living.

Shophouses incorporate many elements designed to minimise the discomfort of the tropical climate. These include;

  • Internal walls which allow light and natural ventilation into the interior without the full heat of the sun.
  • High ceilings for good air circulation.
  • Overlapping roof tiles that cools the heated roof and reduces radiation.


The different types of shophouses in Singapore can be found at the following places:

  • First Generation Shophouse
    Built between 1840 to 1900. Mainly Tuscan and Doric adoptions. Ornamentation is minimal. Most of the shophouses have two windows on the upper story.
    780 North Bridge Road
    7 to 13 Erskine Road

  • 1st Transitional Shophouse Style Built in the early 1900.s.
    Use of modified Corinthian or Composite Order is common here. Most of the shophouses have two windows on the upper story.
    695 to 709 North Bridge Road
    118, Telok Ayer Street
    120, Telok Ayer Street
    122, Telok Ayer Street
    171, Telok Ayer Street
    173, Telok Ayer Street

  • Late Shophouse Style Built between 1900 to 1940. Best known for the use of spectacular ornamentation. Most of the houses have three windows on the upper story. You can get maximum ventilation when all windows are open.

    You can also admire the multi-coloured ceramic tiles, and features like string courses, pendants, dentils, bouquets, festoons, plaques, name and year plates and arabesques. You can also find artistically combined Malay timber fretwork fascia boards and balustrades, glazes ceramic blocks and Chinese panel frescos. Indeed shophouses built during this time reflect the sophistication of the builders.
    44 Kandahar Street
    21 Bukit Pasoh Road
    37 Kerbau Road

  • Art Deco Style
    Built between 1930 to 1960.
    Inspired by classical motifs such as column orders, arches, keystones, pediments with geometric designs.
    18 Kandahar Street
    37 Ann Siang Road
    22 to 34 Bukit Pasoh Road
    3 to 33 Kerbau Road
    48 Serangoon Road
  • To maintain its original architecture and tradition, many of these shophouses have been restored to its traditional concept, detailing its curves and colour.

    Expatriates and even the locals are becoming increasingly interested in shophouses as a form of accommodation, business and even leisure. Marrying the old and the new, conventional shophouses are transformed into funky nightclubs and social joints. Enter a new world where technology and cultural heritage come together to create a whole new energy. Visit Somerset or Mohd Sultan areas in Singapore for a sneak preview of what.s becoming a popular sight and sound of the island.

Written by:
Micheline Doray